I am sorry that I have not been able to send out any updates for quite a while. However, my reticence was not due to laziness, but due to more pressing concerns. Concerns that will become readily apparent as you near the end of this post. To begin, I want to share a little bit about the specifics of child trafficking on Lake Volta. Many people have me asked how these children came to be on Lake Volta and what their lives look like.
Trafficking on Lake Volta
Many of the children are sold into slavery by their parents, while others are obtained through trickery, and on occasion some children are trafficked into Ghana from other countries. The prospect of parents selling their own children into slavery is abhorrent in our minds, but it is sadly a far more common practice than one would hope.
Many of these families have 8 – 10 children and live in abject poverty. One way to secure money to feed the family is to sell one of the children to a boat-master on Lake Volta. I should note here that the verbiage of buying and selling a child is seldom used. Instead, the boat master talks of paying the family for the child’s labor over a number of years, after which the child will receive compensation. Or perhaps he claims he will send money back to the family periodically. Sometimes the boat-master claims the child will be sent to school and well fed. Another common arrangement is that the boat-master will pay half of the child’s future wages up front, and half after the contract is completed. However, none of this is true.
In reality the boy is not going to the lake for an agreed upon period of time to then be returned home. Instead, the boy will in all likelihood never return home. Some will try to run away and succeed, some will in time become boat-masters themselves, others will drown, or be disabled, or be sold into the cocoa or mining industries. Their stories rarely end happily.
Many of these children think they are going to the lake to learn a trade or to receive gainful employment. This is indeed common on the lake, many children learn fishing from their families, but while those children may be child laborers, they have not been trafficked. The trafficked child is not working for a parent, or learning a trade. A trafficked child has been commodified, he is owned, and he is used for the labor he produces.
After the child is purchased by the boat-master, he is then taken to the lake. There he may be sold to another boat-master, or remain with the boat-master who first purchased him. The work the child will be subjected to is brutal. Lake Volta is a man-made lake that sits atop an old forest, and the catch each canoe hunts is Tilapia. Because the lake is filled with old dead trees, the nets frequently catch on the underwater brush and must be untangled. Thus, children as young as five or six risk drowning on a daily basis as they dive underwater and untangle the nets from old tree branches. They do so without any safety equipment, and under threat of being beaten or starved by their master.
When they are not diving underneath the water the children are set to backbreaking work such as hauling nets, bailing out the canoes, and untangling the nets in the canoe. Often the children are found in canoes unaccompanied, so if something were to go wrong, there are no adults to help them.
Most of the children are not permitted to go to school, are beaten when they don’t work hard enough, and starved as an incentive to get them to work harder. To their masters they are little more than livestock. They are denied a present and a future. These children are the reason I moved to Ghana. God calls us to look after the helpless and the vulnerable. “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17. Victims of child trafficking are the oppressed.
That is why it is so exciting for me to tell you that on July 17, 2017 we conducted a rescue on Lake Volta and were able to rescue a large number of children! For reasons of security and confidentiality, I am only now able to share this fantastic news with you.
Those are children no longer in risk of drowning on a daily basis, children who will go to school, children who have been removed from the darkest of situations, children set free. God is amazing, and it has been amazing to watch him work here in Ghana. God used the Ghanaian Marine Police, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghanaian Police, the Department of Social Work, IJM, and many other partner organizations to rescue those children.
In some small way, as a cog in the great machine of IJM, God used me too. Which also means God used you. Everyone that has prayed for me, helped fund me, or helped me along the way enabled me to take part in this. It is amazing what God can do with his people isn’t it? When I left Atlanta in late June I had no way of knowing I’d be coming face to face with those children, and they had no way of knowing that they would soon be free from bondage. But God did.
When you gave me money, or prayed for me, or gave me a ride, or encouraged me, you had no idea who those children were. But you helped set them free in some small way. God used your contributions to put me here to do this work! Thank you so much! I will follow up with more details when I am permitted to do so.
Odds and Ends
In far more mundane matters, some of you have asked me for a mailing address. It is as follows:
However, if you want to ship me something via FedEx, UPS or DHL, I would suggest using my physical address which is:
16 Tanbu Street
No matter how or where you choose to ship me anything, please include my Ghanaian phone number so that the delivery driver can contact me to find my house. My number is +233 050 715 0982. If you have WhatsApp I am also reachable via that number.
Before you send anything let me be clear about a few things. There is a fair chance that any package will sit in customs for an extended period of time, so do not send me anything that might spoil easily. Furthermore, when you send anything you will need to write the value of the contents on the package. Please do not overestimate the value, I have to pay customs duty on the contents when they arrive, and that can be quite expensive.
As for things I need. There really isn’t anything that is a pressing need. If you have no idea what you want to send me I would ask that you pray about it, and just send me whatever you then feel led to send.
Please pray for the entire IJM-Ghana office. This work is extremely stressful and it takes its toll on everyone. Please pray that God’s grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding might descend on our office.
Please pray for my friends Greg and Amy Justice as they return to the United States along with their dog Marco. They have a baby on the way in October and they are looking for a place to live in Washington DC. So they would really appreciate your prayers, and any leads on housing if you have them. Should you have any leads, send them my way
Please pray for my friend Austin Kauffman as he returns to the United States, he has about 2 weeks to rest before he begins seminary at Talbot School of Theology.
Please pray for my roommate Linzy who will be transitioning back to the United States in December. She is still discerning what the Lord’s next steps are for her and would really appreciate your prayers.
Please pray for my funding needs. I am currently about 75% funded, and I would like to reach my goal in the next few months.
Finally, please pray for the children currently on Lake Volta. Pray that they would be protected, and that God would give us, or another organization, the opportunity to rescue them.
Help Fund my Work
Should you desire to invest in the work I’ll be doing with IJM, there are two ways you can support me financially during my fellowship, which I am doing pro bono. Should you wish to make a tax-deductible donation, please make your check out to “Lasting Hope, Inc.” and put my name in the memo line. You can mail your check to:
Lasting Hope, Inc.
C/O Paul and Cathy Crafton
1971 McCollum Pkwy. NW
The second option is to make a donation through my GoFundMe campaign. Please feel free to share this information, and this post, with anyone you think may be interested in following my journey.