Mission Trip to Ghana and Nigeria On May 14-27, 2009, a team of eight from Uptown Baptist Church of Chicago, Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA USA), and Myria Reed Foundation for Children with Special Needs went on a mission trip to Ghana and Nigeria. The team members consisted of Pastor Michael Allen and Pastor Laudariji (co-Leaders), Doug Nguyen (team administrator), David Onouha, Laura Jarrett, John Amissah, Autumn Krause, and of course myself Sandra Reed. To have such a diverse group of people from Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria, Belize, Florida and Louisiana representing many parts of the world was such a blessing. The purpose of this trip was to take much needed supplies and encouragement to mission groups, orphanages and a woman medical center and have an impact on spiritual and humanitarian needs. Acts 1: 8 was the team’s challenge and inspiration: ―But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth.‖ This challenge led the team to Ghana and Nigeria. Both countries are so much similar and yet very different, but they both carry the scars of slavery. In these two countries, people work intensely hard to improve their way of life, but there is a big need for better health facilities, fewer deaths among children, running water, electricity in homes and greater educational opportunities. The monumental problem is the dark shadow of inequality and abusiveness that lingers over the lives of women and children. In Nigeria and Ghana’s culture there are underlying impediments that affect the lives of women and children and hinder their progress into a more free and unrestrictive society.When the team arrived in Ghana, First Tema Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. O.K. Nkrahene and Rev. Dr. Dora Bortey, welcomed us warmly. They assigned each team member to a perfectly matched host family, which gave each person a good opportunity to understand as well as become a part of the culture. First Tema members organized and meticulously planned the four-day itinerary, which was educational, spiritual, enjoyable and hassle free and the women played a vital role. The Ghanaian women are exceptional leaders and entrepreneurs. First Tema Baptist Church is doing an excellent job with their outreach services by adopting and supporting other churches in Ghana, which also house schools. We had an opportunity to participate in a two-day outdoor crusade in Bethlehem Tema-East, which is a poverty-stricken area. The team witnessed children and adults, searching for faith, hope and love. Seeing all the humble children coming for blessings and prayers was a cathartic moment. The following day, we visited mission churches and several one-room dilapidated schoolhouses; the children excitedly huddled around us, singing and pleading for whatever goodies individual team members offered them. The children have so little yet do not ask for much. Ghanaians are religious, moralistic and have strong family values. You can sense the independent spirit shining brightly through the lives of the women, who run the open-air-markets, which areorganized and carefully regulated. Regardless of the poverty and the lack of vital resources, you can still feel the positive changes that are emerging in Ghana. While visiting the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, many of us retraced the steps of our ancestors. When we visited the dungeons where the slaves were held captive and peered through the ―door of no return‖, it gave us a different perspective of life in Africa. This was a healing moment for many on the team and a harsh reflection of the past, but the scars of slavery have instilled fortitude, tenacity, stamina, and integrity in many Africans. As an African-America, this historical moment strikes a chord. Walking the brutal path of my ancestors and being reminded of why it is so important to embrace my heritage, shines the light on what we need to do as a people. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, struggle and the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." You can see the sufferings and struggles in Nigeria, which is a disorderly nation and over populated. When the team arrived in Nigeria, corruption and inefficiency polluted the air, Regardless of the danger, it was important for the team to bring needed support to various groups. We first visited Dignified Youth Development Mission in Lagos, Nigeria led by the director Christiana Bola A. Adeniyi. ―Their vision is to be an efficient, focused and ethical organization contributing to raising uncommon and healthy future leaders with power and integrity in Nigeria and other parts of the world.‖ They work especially with orphans and vulnerable children. The work that they are doing is commendable. After a one-day stay in Lagos, we traveled to Umuahia, Nigeria escorted by three military security guards. We visited Motherless Babies Home and Sister Mary Anita Ogbonna shared with us the conditions and ongoing problems at the orphanage. We toured the facility and had a chance to interact with the children and felt their heartfelt excitement through their gazing eyes. Visiting both orphanages gave the team a chance to witness the positive works that these organizations are doing. It felt so good delivering the needed clothes, games, school supplies, and especially giving our love and support. The team then took a long journey to Jos, Nigeria, and on arrival, we stayed in ECWA (Evangelical Church of West Africa) mission house. Once we settled in, we had dinner at a Baptist Mission House, where the mission leaders debriefed us on their work among the various tribes and enormous need for volunteers, finances and others to adopt a people group. The next day we visited Urban Frontier Mission, which has a rehabilitation program that empowers young college students that are addicted to alcohol and drugs. During our visit we heard some powerful testimonies from these young people, especially how their lives have changed. Touring the facilities, we saw a great need for computers to continue training the students; the measly five computers were outdated and archaic.