Over the past four days, our home (and our hearts) have been opened to a precious girl. Her name is Esther and we met her at GMI, one of the homes we visit here in Ghana. A few nights ago, Esther shared the story God has begun writing in her life. My heart was deeply touched. She’s endured much loss and grief, yet, she exudes an overwhelming joy when we talk. I asked her today if she might like to share her story with you. Humbly, she agreed.
I asked Esther to do this because I’ve realized there is so much that Americans can’t seem to grasp, myself included. She’s enlightened me to what life is like for many children here. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned. So, I sit here and type, while Esther sits right beside me here in our bedroom. Engage your heart in this sweet 17 year old’s story. These are her words... (The words in parenthesis are my own side notes for you.)
I was born in the Asanti Region in a big village. It was my mom’s village. My father took me at the age of 6 months because my mother was not caring for me. My mother was involved in religious activities that concerned my father. My father was a Christian and this was not okay with him. (The ways Esther describes the religious practices will be hard for you to understand, but the spiritual dimension here is REAL. People experience and witness the spiritual battle in ways that are difficult for us Americans to grasp. Suffice it to say, her father needed to protect Esther.)
My father took me to begin living with him and my grandmother in the Eastern Region. While there, I lived in a double room made of concrete...it was two small rooms. There were 13 people in the house with us...about seven adults and six children. My father and all of my uncles and aunties and their children lived with us. For water, we would fetch it from the river. We had no electricity.
Everyone in my father’s family was Christian, so we would praise God together in church. We always trusted God would take care of us.
My grandmother loved me. While I lived with my grandmother, I would go with her to the farm while she worked. She grew cassava and yams. (Cassava is a root that grows here in Ghana. It is a staple food found in many forms here.) After it grew, she would sell it and she would feed herself and me. While she worked, I would be tied to her back. We would go around 6:00 am and come back at 4:00 pm. While we were farming, she would build a fire and put yam and cassava in it so we could eat something.
We ate what she grew - cassava and yams. She sold some too, so she could take care of her children and me. Sometimes I would go to the market with her to sell the the cassava and yams. I would sit with her at the table while we would sell. I lived with her for six, almost seven, years and then she died. My grandmother died of sickness. She was 60 years old. I was with my father about 8 months before he also died. My father died because some people were fighting and he went to separate them. When he did this, they choked him and cut him with a knife. I cried. I was seven years.
My Auntie came to take me to Accra because there was no one to take care of me. She was going to try to take care of me there. She had a small provision store. (Something about the size of a small coat closet in America.) I would go to the store with her while she sold. Sometimes when a person would come to buy something, I would sell it for her. I did the house chores for her too. I would wash the bowl, sweep the house, and wash my own clothes. (Esther was with her auntie from age 7 until age 12..) When I stayed with my Auntie, we stayed in a concrete house - a hall and a room. The bathroom and the kitchen were outside the house. I slept with her in the room on the mattress. There were three of us living in the room, my auntie, a girl who helped in the store, and me.
In Accra, some white woman saw me and she offered to help take care of me. Because my Auntie couldn’t care for me, she let me go stay with her. I stayed with her about eight months. She was very nice to me. I was the only child she was caring for. When she was leaving to go back to America, she called my Auntie to see what to do. I told her I wanted to stay with the children we would sometimes visit at the orphanage. My Auntie agreed to this because she could not take care of me. The white woman took me to the man who had an orphanage. I was 12 years old when I came. After two years, the man taking care of us at the orphanage also left. After he left, things were very difficult.
Then Pastor John found us through Pastor Eben. Pastor John came to us, but things were hard because Pastor John was not having money to take care of us. So, he went around preaching in a car. Some people would give him money so then he would go and get us food. Until then, we would stay without food. Sometimes for one week we would have no food. Sometimes, Pastor John would travel to the Volta and bring back gari for us. (Gari is grated and roasted cassava.)
A man from Ghana heard about us because John would go and pray with him. So, this man brought us rice, gari, and oil every month so we would have food. Then he also stopped. In the house where we were staying, the landlord wanted to sack us because we were having no money to pay. He was telling us to leave the house because we were not having money to pay him. At this time in this home, I was the only girl with seven boys and we all slept in one room with Pastor John and Pastor Eben. They were all good to me because I was the only girl. I would cook for them, clean for them, but they washed their own clothes. I liked helping take care of them.
Pastor John shared our troubles with a white lady named Anita. So, I think Anita told him about a home in Teshie where we could come to stay. That’s where we are now.
Now, we have sponsors who can take care of us for food and schooling and everything. So, I thank God that He has moved us from difficulty to a joyful place. We always have enough food, and all the children are in school. We have school inside and outside. Pastor John and his wife, Irene, take good care of us. Everyone in the house is covered because of sponsors for food and education.
I just completed Junior High and I want to continue on to Senior High. I’ll be going to boarding school in September for Senior High for four years. I want to study cooking so I can open my own restaurant once I complete University studies. Through that, I want to open an orphanage one day. Because I have lived in an orphanage, this is what I want to do. One day when I get money, I want to rescue children from the street and from villages where they have no food and no water to drink. I plan to use the money from my restaurant to pay for this.
(Esther is already blessing others with her love of cooking. On weekends, she prepares the meals for the 56 people at the home where she lives - children and staff. I’ve tasted her meals, and they are yummy. Today she is teaching me to make ground nut soup. Delicious. Back to Esther...)
I want the orphanage to be like a foster home a little bit away from the city. I want the children to feel happy that God loves them. I want them to know there is a hope for them to get where they want to be.
I thank God that He has rescued me from difficulty and I am now in a place where I am comfortable. He has taken care of me. I thank God for all that He did for me.
Esther’s favorite two verses are Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can not be hidden.” Amen. Also, “Blessed are those are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Amen.
(I asked Esther if there is anything she would like to say to each of you...)
In closing, Esther would like to tell you all that you need to care for people and love people. Share what you have with people who don’t have. Share with people who are in need. You should have caring hearts. I was one of those people.