It's now been 33 days since we met him face to face in Ghana, time still of the utmost essence for this young boy whose life is fast fading. His face and his plight has struck a chord in all of us, from the members of our team who met him face to face and desperately prayed through the negotiations, to the people we shared his story with. He has, for us all, become the face of child slavery, the constant reminder that the work is not over. He's not free, and he's not alone.
I sat in church last Sunday, watching with the rest of our congregation the video testimony of God's provision for our mission in Ghana. Although the words from my interview were familiar to me, I had not seen the final video and was not prepared for the acute impact of seeing Richard's photo flashed on the large screens as I explained in the narrative that we had not secured his freedom.
Sobs immediately shook me to the core.
It wouldn't be the first time, nor would it be the last.
As I attended the second service, I thought the impact would have been cushioned, having known what to expect and bracing myself for it.
I am not alone, not in having been moved by Richard's face, that haunting look in his eyes and his desperate situation... nor am I alone in wanting to make a difference for him and the children still awaiting freedom.
It would be all too easy to feel completely overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such a serious situation, but that's simply the enemy's way of distracting us from what we CAN do. The same was true in the vision of building the school -- those who struggled to see it as possible were perhaps simply focused on the seemingly impossible. It's understandable.
What can we do?
Our first call to action has always been prayer, and it remains as such. I recently shared in an interview that while on the island, one could feel "absolute darkness mixed with absolute light". The primary battle when it comes to slavery is deeply spiritual, and to intercede with prayer on behalf of these children, even on behalf of the slave masters whose hearts need to be softened to the truth, is the most powerful weapon we can wield.
Our second call to action is prevention. Compassion isn't merely a child sponsorship organization. Their holistic child development approach impacts lives far beyond that of the sponsored child, and it ensures that these children and their families will be empowered against the dangers of slavery.
Our third course of action is to seed the fund that provides financial support and resources to those on the front-lines working toward the abolishment of slavery, negotiating and securing freedom, as well as supporting the rescued children through sponsorship until they reach adulthood.
It's not enough to simply rescue these children. The need does not end there. Once rescued, Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Texas, commits to providing for the children residing at the Village Of Life in Kete Krachi, as well as a second refuge close to Accra. This includes but is not limited to food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care.
Many of the children we met at the Village Of Life are not yet sponsored. Their needs are provided for through fundraising efforts and general donations made to Touch A Life. At $150/month, sponsorships are often done through "Find Your Mark" chapters/groups, based on the story of Touch A Life founder Pam Cope having been touched by the plight of one young child slave on Lake Volta named Mark, and providing for his rescue and care. Touch A Life foundation encourages everyone to also find their "Mark" and make an impact through sponsorship.
We found our Mark. His name is Richard.
For those who are unable to commit to sponsorship, a general donation can still be made to Touch A Life for the care of children like our beloved Samson*, one of the most delightful children I have ever met in my entire life. Samson* was one of 116 children rescued in May as part of a large anti-slavery crackdown on Lake Volta. At five years of age, he is currently the youngest child at the Village Of Life. The joy of freedom shines so bright through him.
This year, during the holidays, every donation made to Touch A Life until the end of December for the care of these children will be matched by a generous donor. This helps provide children like Innocence, Patrick, and all the others currently at the Village Of Life with all that they need to overcome their past and live their future to their full potential.
Remember the classroom space? The Village Of Life was at maximum capacity and without more classroom space, it hampered their ability to release more children. The same holds true for the financial support given to Touch A Life. The more financial resources Touch A Life has to care for the rescued children, the more rescued children they will be able to support.
We strongly encourage you to give to this amazing ministry before the end of December in order to make the most of the matching program, but we also encourage you to give to this organization at any time throughout the year.
Last but not least, each and everyone of us can continue to share and spread awareness on modern-day-slavery. If I had a dollar for every person that told me they did not know that slavery still existed today, let's just say a very large donation could have been made to Touch A Life foundation. Information leads to transformation.
As for Richard, although we're somewhat limited to prayer and financial support, there is great news: A sponsor has stepped forward for Richard, committing to sponsoring him in full should his freedom be granted. This is nothing short of an amazing answer to prayer, and such a beautiful, priceless gift.
I spoke to a member of PACODEP's team a few days ago, and was told that they are preparing to return shortly to the island where Richard is in order to continue the negotiations for his release.
As we prayerfully wait for an update, let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9)
Let's show the enemy that we are not giving up. The harvest belongs only to Him.