As we pull into the Cocoa Research Institute, Bishop starts praying without any warning at all. He is thanking God for giving us a safe ride. This is one thing about African Christians that I thoroughly enjoy. They are thankful for God's provision, not just in a "I know I should be thankful way." It's real.
We wake up and get to the van because we are heading to town. We go to visit the school in Bole. The morning is filled with stares, shaking hands with kids, and the entire school coming to see the white people. This is the last day of school before a month vacation. They are excited we are here, but just as anxious as any other kid to get out of school.
The smallest things intrigue them. They want to rub our arms because it's odd for people to have hair on their arms. They don't care about our car, our clothes, or even our food. They DO care about our water bottles and our small leather bracelets. The things you think they would be interested in don't even grab their attention.
The morning is filled with introductions. We all give our names in what seems like a ceremony. The 200 secondary school kids in attendance recognize Joel and Jackson. They even notice that Jackie was here last year. She is suspiciously absent this time. Even though Jackson is 12, he is by far the most popular member of the team. Kids automatically relate to them. He is one of them. Throughout the week we will be driving around town and hear other kids scream "Jackson" every 20 seconds. This is not an exaggeration.
I meet a lot of kids named Mohammad. There are lots of Muslim children in the school. It's one of the only times that Christian kids have the opportunity to interact with people from a different faith.
The afternoon is when we invite students to come back to school, even though they just got out. School students return, but some of the poorer "street" kids are there too. We pass out name tags to students. We help them pin them to their shirts. A leader in the school and the church named Ed is there. Ed helps us tell the story of Zacchaeus. When we start to hand out coloring sheets and crayons, that's when the riot begins. Kids knock each other over just to get crayons. CRAYONS!
We have a detailed conversation with the teachers about their vision for computers in the schoolhouse. They have one now. But the headmaster of the school has a vision for a computer lab with 30 computers lining the walls. We hope that we can help make this happen.
Afterwards, we go to the middle of Bole to play soccer. They call it football, but as my dad would say, "that ain't football." I get to climb trees, which is just as fun in Ghana as it is at Camp Lake Stephens in Oxford, MS. Later on that evening, the pastor in the region, Jobe, has a conversation with some of the Muslim parents. They ask why people would want to come and play with their kids even though they belonged to a different faith. Jobe explains to them that Jesus really loved people, no matter where they came from or how they acted. It was unsettling to them. They couldn't understand why we would do that. They confessed that, had the roles been reversed, Muslim leaders might have been reluctant to play with kids who don't belong to Islam.
That may be the greatest compliment we receive on the entire trip.
After the sun sets, we go back and get ready for bed. It's been a great first day. I have been exhausted from the time I woke. The jet lag and time difference have really thrown me off. I'm tired. For some reason my head still feels like it's 30,000 feet in the air. But there's not a whole lot of relief for me. Physically, it will get worse before it gets better.