Ghana (MNN) — In some villages of the east region of Northern Ghana, children born with an ailment or illness have little hope–until now.
Dave and Ellen Bartlett are a couple with The Mission Society serving in Ghana who has encountered the superstitious practice involving “spirit children.” These are children are often born with a physical or mental deficiency. The local fetish priest will pronounce them to be a spirit child, proclaiming the child to be an evil spirit trying to enter the household.
The families of the children can either kill the child, leave it to die, or wait to see if the child improves. Unfortunately, if any misfortune befalls a family who is keeping their sick child, the child will usually be murdered.
As the missionary couple encountered this reality for the first time, they had to remember, as Ellen says, “God is good, the devil is evil, and the people are deceived. They are not evil; they are deceived by the evil one, which is the devil, and God is good.”
They are trying to teach these villagers that their children are not “spirit children” and that they are sick and still worthy of human kindness.
Despite having to tell people of a culture that has been murdering children for many generations that they’ve been wrong, there have been some overwhelmingly positive results. One man approached the group to thank them for revealing the truth about these children to him. A child in his community who was going to be thrown away received the proper medical attention just in time.
The couple has been connected with One Step in Faith when ministering to these children. Once a child is no longer in danger, Ellen and Dave are able to talk to the community and to the family to explain not only the truth about their child, but the truth of the Gospel as well.
One woman whose child was saved was a Muslim; she has now claimed an allegiance with Jesus after meeting Dave and Ellen. The woman would sneak off to church to learn about what the couple believed. Ellen says, “She gives us credit for her faith, but we just lived like Jesus in front of her. You know, we loved her in spite of the situation that she found herself in, we didn’t treat her different because of anything. We just loved her and came alongside of her like Jesus teaches us to do.” Now the woman attends church with her son.
In another area of focus, Dave and Ellen hope to begin a faith-based recovery program in the next five or six weeks. It is called “Celebrate Recovery,” and it will help establish a godly lifestyle for those who have been trapped in harmful patterns. Most of the time, this means eradicating the use of alcohol from people’s lives.
Dave says, “Our plan, our vision, is to train the trainers. There are too many different languages for us to be able to go around and communicate clearly to all the different communities.” Getting the local people involved with this effort will increase the impact potential.
Similar to the AA, Celebrate Recovery uses 12 steps that are backed up by a Biblical foundation. “The whole process brings them closer to Jesus,” Dave says. “We view Celebrate Recovery as a discipleship program. [That’s] really what it is. You have to teach these people how to live life…using all the teachings of Jesus as a way to live that life.”
One of the biggest challenges that Dave and Ellen have to face is the nature of the religion practiced by many in this area. While many listen to the story of Jesus with interest and joy, syncretic faith is often the result. To them, Jesus is just another god to worship. Dave says, “It’s life and death, and it’s darkness versus light. They have a strong sense of the spiritual; the problem is: a lot of that is the darker side.”
The great grandfather of a disabled child who was saved says he believes in Jesus. However, as evidenced by his prayer to ancestors, his is another example of syncretic faith. Ellen says, “We now have the wonderful task of teaching him that Jesus is enough.”
There is no one way to reach all the people in the area. “It’s just this one-by-one discipleship program that Lord opens these doors. The children just walk up to us; we don’t even have to go looking for them. Then we develop these relationships with these families, and we’re just praying that these people that we’re developing these relationships with–that we’re being Jesus to–become the people of peace in their family and in their community. [We hope that] the Gospel will be propagated through them,” says Ellen.
The couple asks that you would be praying for wisdom and discernment and clear communication across the gap of culture and language. They ask for prayer against the stronghold of spiritual darkness. Please pray that God would open the eyes of their hearts so they can see the one true God and King and accept His Son as their Savior. Pray also that Dave and Ellen can be light to them.
Often the procedures to help the children are very expensive. If you would like to help Dave and Ellen rescue more children, click here.
I pray for and think of you and your extended ‘family’ there often. It was so wonderful meeting you and now learning more about your specific calling.