Life Lessons from Ghana

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Today we are welcoming Jenna Harwell and Caitlin Phelps, students from Lipscomb University’s Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program, to our blog. Jenna and Caitlin traveled to the Care Center in Ghana as part of Touch A Life’s August team and led therapeutic art activities for the Touch A Life kids. Their week in Kumasi had a profound impact on their worldview and, as a response, these thoughtful women wrote a joint catalog of life lessons to share.


While traveling on the road from Kumasi to Accra, we began to reflect on the depth that the past week had held for us. After saying goodbye to our new friends at the Care Center, we wanted to make sure that all of the lessons we conjured stayed close to our heart.

1. Choose to be restored with God’s Compassion.

The root of the word compassion means “to suffer with”. To be Compassionate, we must set aside our agenda and sit with others in their times of trial. We have the invitation to simply show up and let God love through our words and actions.

2. Let your heart beat in rhythm with our Creator’s.

If we allow ourselves to seek quiet spaces, it’s here that we are able to come more fully in tune with our Creator. His heart beats for social justice, and visiting Touch a Life was a powerful reminder that so many across the globe are in tune with His vision for our lives of Freedom.

3. We are united in the common language of God’s Love.

When people are in crisis or have gone through trauma, they speak in a different language. They share stories that only other survivors can truly understand the verbs, nouns, and adjectives that they use. However, we are united in the common language of God’s love. This allows us to be present without needing concrete comprehension.

God has given us the gift of connection, and sometimes that is more powerful than words. We discovered this lesson in a concrete manner through doing art therapy with the children. Many of the younger children still primarily speak their native tongue and needed the older kids to serve as translators for expressing more complex ideas. But this did not stop us from being able to communicate fully. Through color, through smiles, and through eye contact we were able to form friendships with very few words.

4. For true connection to take place, we must be fully Present.

Sometimes our greatest strengths are also our weaknesses. For us, our ability to plan and stick to our agendas has gotten us to achieve our dreams. However, sometimes this strength can get in the way when it takes us from being fully Present. At Touch a Life, we learned that being Present often happens through relinquishing control and learning to be more fluid. When we made the decision to be Present, miraculously everything still got done. It’s one of the great paradoxes of being Present and fully engaged in Community.

5. God’s Provision for all is good.

We are part of His “Provision Plan”. He always meets needs, and because God has a strong desire for connection, He tends to meet these needs through others in relation. It was humbling to realize that we had the opportunity during our week at the Care Center to read stories, play sports, lead group therapy, and love each other well. If we hadn’t decided to do this, God still would have provided. But He delights when this provision is met through the hands and feet of His children.

6. Pure joy is not conditional, it is contagious.

Dancing to the beat of the drum with 80 children is pure joy, no matter what the circumstance. We were taken aback by the pure joy that radiates through each child’s smile. These children have been through more than we could ever fathom, yet they still have the ability and desire to laugh and dance their hearts out. We can learn so much from their choice to choose to resiliently step forth in pure joy.

7. All people are created in the image of God.

Though this was not necessarily a new lesson, we realized that He displays unique parts of Himself in each of us. As we travel to different parts of the world and meet others with different cultural backgrounds, we are meeting different parts of our Creator. As we get to know our fellow humans better, we are in turn getting to know the One who made us.

8. One of the most significant ways to heal from grief is to serve others.

The gift of service is Presence. Just as one of God’s greatest gifts to us is His Presence through His Holy Spirit. We are our authentic selves when we give our Presence to others. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed with the brokenness of the world, and sometimes this causes us to hold back. In times of grief, we are tempted to retreat back into ourselves. But, if we choose to step out and be fully present, healing flows forth and writes a new story of growth.

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