Reflection on 07/08 Trip for Dixon, MO

Out of Africa:
Missourians On Mission in Ghana, West Africa

By Heath Hawkins, Mission Team Member
Dixon First Baptist Church, Dixon, Missouri

A mission trip to Africa is an adventure that can change your life.  On December 27, 2007, ten Missourians, including myself, left for Ghana, Africa on a mission trip sponsored by First Baptist Church in Dixon, Missouri.

After almost two days in transit through Chicago, London and finally Accra, Ghana the mission team was in the country.  For most, this would be their first real mission trip, their first trip out of the states and for me, my first time on an airplane.  So, we were happy to finally be planted on solid ground for a few days.

Our mission was simple…in theory: train the leaders of Seed Ministry Bible Clubs to use a multi-colored soccer ball to share their faith with kids and tourists coming to see the African Cup of Nations Soccer Tournament to be played in Ghana. I did not realize then the impact that this “job” would have on the people of Tamale or…on me.

Our team would be working with Seed Ministry, located in the northern region of Ghana near the city of Tamale.  Seed Ministry was started by a Southern Baptist pastor and his wife.  Bob and Bonnie Parker went on a short-term mission trip to Ghana in 2000, and while there, the Lord broke their hearts for the people of Ghana, especially the children.  That year they decided to pack up and move to Ghana.  Their ministry started in 2001 with one children’s Bible club in the yard of the home they rented in Tamale.

Today the ministry has seen the blessing of the Lord.  From one club, they quickly grew, and today they have over 100 Bible clubs in more than 50 villages all over Ghana.  The ministry still focuses mainly on children, but they are also very involved in church planting and training pastors and leaders to share the Gospel. While the southern part of Ghana claims to be Christian, the northern region is still almost totally Muslim.

Since 2003, they have been working out of their current ministry compound. They do work with mission teams on a regular basis, and it was important to the Parkers that the teams feel welcome and comfortable while they are there.  Their guest quarters that will house up to 12 people comfortably.  Plus they also have a large education center where they train pastors and Bible club leaders.  The grounds are beautifully maintained.  As guests, we felt very safe and well taken care of.  Our time at the ministry compound was a wonderful time of rest and respite for the work we did while on mission.

Our Dixon FBC Mission Team was honored to join with Pastor Gary Longenecker and his ministry, Kingdom Sports.  We would be in Ghana just before the opening of the African Cup, the national soccer tournament for all of Africa.  We would be using a multi-colored soccer ball to present the gospel.  Gary went with us to Ghana and his ministry donated 1000 balls for us to use while there. The balls were to be shipped directly to Ghana and should have been there when we arrived.  As it turned out, they were tied up in customs, so at the last minute we had to adapt.  Every member had to condense their luggage so that each person could also take a suitcase full of deflated soccer balls.  We were able to take nearly 250 balls with us.

From the time we arrived at Seed Ministry, we were off to the mission field.  Over the next few days, we would be in 19 villages.  Many of the villages were very remote and would require nearly an hour’s journey into the most untouched parts of Ghana.  With only a couple exceptions, none of the villages had running water or any electricity.  The scene was right out of a Discovery Channel program.  The people of northern Ghana, where we worked, lived in small, mud huts with thatched roofs and dirt floors.  They did not have bathrooms or kitchens.  This is a third world country, and my group now really understands what that means.

There were several facets to the ministry we did while in Ghana.  The majority of our time in the villages was spent training local Bible Club leaders how to use the soccer balls to share the gospel.  But we were quite the novelty when we pulled into the villages.  For many, we may have been the first white person, or Sangurea as they called us, that some of them had ever seen in person.  In many of the villages, hundreds of people flocked to where we were.  Some were from the Bible Club, but many may have never heard the gospel before. They wanted to talk to us and touch us.  As we shared, they set there, glued to every word we spoke.  Our own words had to be interpreted, but it did not matter.  The word from the Bible was just as clear.  At the end of every presentation, there was an opportunity for them to respond.  Though training was more of our goal, we were, of course, so excited about the salvations as well.  Our best estimates were that between 300-400 people made a profession of faith, and many more will have that same chance as a result of the work we did there.

We also had the opportunity to be a part of several church/worship services while in Ghana.  We were sent out in small groups to different village churches and everyone was treated like an honored guest.  All the services were different.  In some, there were full acoustic drum bands with lively worship and even dancing.  In others, like the one my team visited on Sunday morning, the only instrument was two wooden blocks beating in rhythm while the worshipers praised in their native language.  It was so amazing to be part of their services.  In a country where they truly have nothing materialistic, they give everything they have to God in praise and worship.   We could not understand a word of the songs they raised, but the same Spirit was there.

Our group shared many experiences while in Ghana, but most agreed that one event stood out as a pivotal moment for us.  It happened on New Year’s Eve.  We had a very long day that day.  We traveled to five villages, and it was getting dark.  As night engulfed us, we found ourselves wandering into the middle of a very remote Muslim village.   In the pitch black we huddled together preparing to do an evangelistic crusade.  Part of our team had already been presented to the tribal chief, a Muslim himself.  He was allowing us to hold the crusade right in his own courtyard.  The natives would lead the worship time, but members of our team would be sharing in song, testimony, and our pastor would be preaching.  He gave a simple message right from the Word.  He challenged the villagers, “Who do you say I am.”  As I stood there, tears started to roll down my cheek as I contemplated what an awesome God it is that we serve.  Outside this small group of people, there is no one at home that could even begin to understand this moment.  We would tell them, but they could not truly know.  So I challenge all those reading this to just GO!  Allow God to show you how wonderful He is.

You do not have to go to a remote village in Ghana, West Africa to experience God.  Find somewhere that you can.  Go where you are not comfortable:  where stretching your limits is going to be required.  For you, that might be Africa or China, but it might even be Anytown, Missouri.  Go! 

People have asked me many times since my return if I would go back.  The answer is absolutely, “Yes!” One day, I hope to return with my family.  I feel much like Bob and Bonnie.  The children of Ghana stole my heart. 

For more information or to see lots of pictures from our trip to Tamale, Ghana visit our church website and look for Ghana under ministries or pictures.  Bob and Bonnie Parker would also love to work with you in planning a mission trip to Ghana.  Their complete info is on their website  If you have any questions or comments about this article, I would be happy to hear from you.  Just email me.

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PICTURE INFORMATION:  I have included two pictures  with this article.  You will see the descriptions below.

Picture #1(Group) This picture is of the entire mission team plus the interpreters that we were blessed to work with.  Back Row Left:  Jimmy A, Casey L, Jon (interpreter), Pastor Brandon M, Emanuel (Interpreter), Pastor Gary L, Peter (Interpreter), Caleb S, Peter (interpreter), Joshua (Interpreter), Heath H.  Middle Row:  Christen F, Christiana (Interpreter), Robin H, April M.  Bottom Row:  Jacob M, Joseph (local boy).

Picture #2(HeathKids1) Picture taken right after a village training.  Everyone, regardless of age was eager to her the word of God.