Bringing it to Ghana

Real Life Church brought together 16 community members to travel to Ghana this spring to participate in humanitarian projects. - Courtesy image
Real Life Church brought together 16 community members to travel to Ghana this spring to participate in humanitarian projects.
— image credit: Courtesy image

The communities of Covington and Maple Valley are bringing it.

To Ghana that is.

“Bring it Ghana” is the slogan a group of community members from the two cities adopted as they prepared to go on a trip to serve in the West African country this spring break.

The group, which is made up of students from area schools including Kentlake and Tahoma High as well as adult community members, will be on the ground in country for 10 days.

Some team members attend Real Life Church, some attend a Catholic parish, some aren’t affiliated with a local church, some are members of the Maple Valley or Covington business community, and some are parents going on the trip with their student.

In total, 16 people are on the team.

The trip has been more than a year in the making. In the fall of 2012 Real Life Church Senior Pastor Steve Murray and Kevin Holland, associate and missions pastor, were looking for a project to go beyond the walls of the church and include the entire community.

“We were trying not to make it something we do alone, but make it ‘what can we do better together than we can do alone,’” Holland said last spring.

The vision originally was to deliver a shipping container of wheelchairs — that is 550 — through Free Wheelchair Mission.

Due to Typhoon Haiyan and a drastically increased need, those chairs will be going to the Philippines and another trip is being organized for later this year to be a part of the delivery effort of those chairs.

On the trip to Ghana wheelchairs will still be delivered, through a separate organization, and the team will take on some additional projects like volunteering at a school and participating in athletic activities with local children.

“Mostly it’s going to be fitting people for the chairs,” Murray said. “We will be going from small village to small village putting people in chairs.”

Ghana is a country of more than 24 million people located on the West Coast of Africa.

The country was selected because of the church’s connection with the country. Kwaku Dapaah II, who lives in Maple Valley part-time, is chief of the Mo Tribe in Ghana and attends Real Life.

Murray said Bamboi, the area to which they are traveling, is a region of about 60,000 people and has about 18 villages.

“The combined energy, the effort is really interesting,” Murray said. “When schools come together they’re often there to compete with another, but when they come together for a cause they can change the world.”

Both Kentwood and Kentlake came together in school wide efforts to raise money for wheelchairs, and the wider communities have been involved in raising funds as well.

For the school portion of the trip, 20 netbooks that were refurbished by Tahoma High students will be set up.

“We are going to a newly established school that was just built and has nothing there,” Murray said. “We are going to set them up so the kids can access the internet and learn some basic skills. It also gives them access to online education.”

Susie Neds, a senior from Tahoma High who is going on the trip, said that word spread through the school about the trip and students began approaching her and donating what money they had in their pockets. She also said it was exciting to see her peers get involved with the computer refurbishments.

Dave Koon and his son Jalen, who is a junior at Kentlake, are both part of the team.

This is the second missions trip for both, having previously gone on a missions trip to Guatemala.

Dave said his son came home excited about the Ghana trip and when they went to an information night about the trip the decision for them to go was easy.

“My wife wrote on a piece of paper during the video, ‘can you get two weeks off of work?’” Dave said. “Decision made.”

Jalen said that he felt God called him to the Guatemala trip and he couldn’t wait to go on another missions trip.

“To see that inspiration in your kid is really special,” Dave said.

Amber Cielinski, one of the adults on the trip said that community support of the trip was contagious.

“They just all want to be involved somehow,” Cielinski said.

Kentlake leadership teacher Greg Kaas is also a part of the team.

“I never though I would be doing something along this line—traveling and doing humanitarian work,” Kaas said. “I just think it’s really cool to get to take our kids to experience a different culture.”

Clark Davis, who owns American Family Insurance in Maple Valley and attends Real Life, has been on more than a dozen trips to Ghana and coordinated this trip.

At a team bonding meeting before the trip Davis looked around the room and spoke about how the trip is really as much about the team members and what they will learn as it is about helping people in Ghana. He challenged them to be open to the moments that will rock them.

“What is going to be the something that gets put in front of you?” Davis asked.


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