I just returned from my third visit to Togo…
oh wait sorry, let me back up a second and fill you in on what made this third visit part of my itinerary. Many of you may remember my unexpected stop to Togo last September, when I was unable to get a visa to Ghana. At that time, I was just thankful to be back in West Africa and not to be in jail. I wasn’t thinking that God had a greater purpose but I should have known. During that time I ended up seeing some old friends, making great new ones, and getting my first taste of what CHE was all about. The very last day while in Togo I still hadn’t met back up with one of my Mercy ships friends, Pastor James. But thankfully God worked things out and my last few hours in Togo I was able to see him and his family. I was one of the many crew on board that was touched by Pastor James and his church in the fishing village. While meeting with Pastor James and his wife, I told them about the CHE program and how I thought that this would be a great program for his church and the whole village. Then once in Ghana I connected the CHE trainer Daniel with Pastor James and left the details up to God.
Over the months while I was away from Togo, Daniel and Pastor James connected. Daniel held a CHE training with Pastor James and some of the members of his church. They set up a school screening in the village to bring awareness to the parents but also to the whole community, of the many health issues. Once the results are in we then present them to the chiefs of the village and to the community. Now even before screening the kids we all knew that the results would be bad due to the horrible living conditions. To give you a vague picture of what I mean, imagine a beach community located next to the fishing port. All of these families live in palm branch houses with very crowded living conditions. Their main occupation is fishermen and fish smokers. To understand fish smoking I had to see if for myself to understand. Picture a HUGE fireplace with a roof whose main purpose is to create smoke to cook hundreds of fish. BUT due to the close living quarters and shabby housing, this smokehouse is located 5 feet in front of your bedroom door. So each and every person in that village, even if they had never had a single drag from a cigarette, their lungs look as if they’ve been smoking for 20+ years. Physically I knew this village needed help BIG time due to fish smoking but also sanitation issues, health ignorance, and limited farming which equals bad nutrition. But on top of that I also knew spiritually they most of them don’t know Christ as their Savior and so most everyone in the village, including the chiefs, practice voodoo with pride. To prove, once again, how much the devil hates what CHE is doing, the day before our school screening a man traveled to the village to sacrifice two cows to the gods. Sorry devil but the battle has already been won…
So as I traveled back to Togo I was filled with joy and excitement anticipating what the Lord would do during this time. The day of the school screening went so well. We arrived at the church around 8am and left by 1p. We were able to screen 56 children and the results were just as I thought. 91% anemia, 70% signs of malnutrition, 54% had worms, 25% had respiratory problems, 30% had obvious hygiene problems, and 16% had skin diseases. 28% of the children were underweight based on their age and weight and 3% were Severely Underweight. Even though these results are pretty depressing that is what makes this CHE program so exciting. This is the first organization I’ve been involved with that focuses on development and not relief. So basically instead of just doing what needs to be done FOR them that may only last a short time, we instead teach them how to do it themselves and therefore make lasting impact. Please pray with me that this program would be like seeds being planted on good soil amongst this community and that it would not fall on rocks or amongst thorns and be choked out.
Now going to Togo I thought my main reason was to do this screening but God had so much more in store for me. I knew the screening was only one day but I had decided to take a whole week in order to be able to see friends, patients, and also spend time with Pastor James, his family, and the church. Well Gods timing was perfect because I was able to see and do everything that I had wanted PLUS more. I won’t go into each one of my days but one of my prayers has been that God would stretch me and use me each day. Well I felt like ‘Stretch Armstrong’ as Pastor James totally placed me outside of my comfort zone each day and made me really see what it was like to be led by the Spirit. Eeekkk!!
On top of the stretching that went on, I also was blessed by being able to stay with Pastor and his family. If any of you have ever stayed with a family for a week you know that you REALLY get to see what they are like because you cant ‘fake it’ 24/7. After being there for the week I can attest that they are not ‘faking it.’ He is a father of 6 and has adopted another girl from the church as well. He has a heart wrenching testimony and big dreams and ideas of all that God will do. We had some challenging conversations and memorable laughs throughout the week but all of which made us both stronger. I was humbled as the whole family treated me like a queen and sister as they showed me their generosity, hospitality, servants’ heart, and consistent joy the whole time I was with them.
A few days before I was to leave I told them “Na ma jwa, ma fa vi” which means, “When I go, I will cry.” Even though I said it I didn’t ACTUALLY think I was going to cry. Well let me tell you, those tears fell. The tears fell for many reasons as Togo will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. The fishing village, my amazing friends (dayworkers), my church family, my sister Alida, my students, my old and new Burkitt's patients, and so many other things have stolen my heart made it really hard to leave again. I think another reasons it was hard was because I saw how great a need there is and but sadly that a lot of those being effected are my friends. The effects of poverty reached a whole new level when the ones being affected are those you love.
As Pastor James and I drove off towards the Ghana border I did my best to hold back my tears. I don’t know when I will be back again or IF I will be back again but I do know that Togo will ALWAYS be in my heart and that I will be praying for this nation and its development. Please be praying for Pastor James and his family, his church (Eglise Mission Internationale Church), all the Mercy Ships dayworkers and patients, and Togo as a whole.
A matter of belief
3 years ago