Wesley Foundation group makes impact in Africa

9/2/2008

Special to the Advocate
How does one describe the indescribable?

That’s the dilemma facing at least one member of a group of 13 Wesley Foundation students from Mississippi State University who spent the summer in the nation of Ghana in West Africa.

“Our Ghana mission trip has forever touched and changed my life,” said MSU senior Katie Heckel of Oxford. “I wish I could describe to you in words how amazing it was, but it was indescribable. I wish I could show you pictures and then you would understand, but the pictures do not give our trip justice. I wish I could write an amazing song about this experience, but there is no way you can comprehend this unless you were with us.”

The students took part in a variety of activities. They moved tons of dirt and concrete preparing the foundations for new Methodist churches. They told Bible stories and taught new songs to thousands of children in schools across southern Ghana. They worked in orphanages and assisted with four free medical clinics. They spoke and sang in 150-year old churches founded by some of the earliest Methodist missionaries.

The team was organized by Charla Lindley, a member of New Albany First United Methodist Church and a 2008 MSU graduate. Lindley, the daughter of the Rev. Giles Lindley, superintendent of the East Jackson District, had decided a year before that she wanted to spend a summer in Africa. Through the Rev. John Garrott of the 4M Foundation, she made contact with Dr. Mathias Forson of the Methodist Church of Ghana. At the invitation of Forson, Lindley spent much of her senior year building a team of fellow MSU Wesley students who heard a call to minister in Africa.

Eight of the 13 students who made the trip stayed for two months. Though some of the students had to return for summer school commitments, all stayed at least one month. The longer stay allowed them to learn more about the people and culture of Ghana. It also allowed them to make repeat visits to some sites.

The students had to adjust to different food, culture and understanding of time; there was also an unexpected language barrier the team had to overcome. Through all of this, however, God provided. Everywhere the group went they were met with smiles, warmth and curiosity. While every word was not understood, the outpouring of love in the name of Jesus Christ that came from the group was. 

In one small rural village, only a handful of people could speak English. The group visited this site several times, assisting in a free medical clinic and helping to construct a new church. Though little of the words they spoke or the songs they sang were understood, the love of the group impacted that village, especially the children. 

“While we drove through the village on the last day, we saw the children who were playing outside calling to their other friends when they saw our van,” said Lindley. “By the time we had parked the van a little way down the road at the church construction site, what seemed like all the children of the village were gathered at the other end of the road waiting. The instant we opened the door and stepped out, they began to sprint down the road towards us. It was that moment when I knew we had touched the lives of these people.”