“My days are swifter than a runner….They skim past like boats of papyrus…”(Job 9:25). Yesterday was our sixth day in Ghana, west Africa. It was a whirlpool of activity and adventure…so much so that I am taking a day to “Eddy out” from my Walk on Water.
The students and I took a break from the classroom for an “African adventure” to Aburi Botanical Garden and a nongovernmental organization called ABAN (A Ban Against Neglect) in Aburi. Aburi is a beautiful little town located in the mountains northeast of Accra with several well-known schools and beautiful churches. Aburi faces some economic and social challenges that ABAN is attempting to solve at the grassroots level…more about them in a moment.
Aburi Botanical Garden reminds of the book “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. In the book a garden is found overgrown and neglected because of a great loss suffered by the father of one of the book’s main characters, Colin. In fact two of the main characters feel neglected and alone. Mary Lennox, whose parents died in India; and Colin whose mother died when he was a baby. With the help of an amazing young “gardener” with a gentle spirit named Dickon, Dickon and Mary set about to renovate the “secret garden” hidden and neglected since the tragic loss of Colin’s mother. In the process of renovating the secret garden Mary, Colin, and Colin’s father are renovated.
I am not sure why resources are not available to maintain the Aburi gardens but they have become overgrown and neglected in some locations and many of the buildings and pathways look like they could use some refurbishing and renovating. Just like in the book, beauty and bounty are present but they are sometimes hidden by neglect. The gardens remain very beautiful for those who have the time, and a knowledgeable guide, to help them see the wonder that is all around. We saw trees that bear many of the spices we use for cooking like allspice, nutmeg, cocoa, and cinnamon. The trees were interspersed with flowers and a few interesting critters like a large millipede crossed our path.
After our Ghanaian lunch and visiting the garden we drove through the town of Aburi to ABAN. ABAN was started by students attending the University of Ghana in 2008 (Ghanaians and GVSU exchange students). The idea came out of a class project inspired by their professor Dr. Justice Bawole. The idea was to train young mothers who were being neglected by their communities and address an environmental issue (plastic discarded from the water sachets used to sell water) at the same time. ABAN provides jobs, a safe place, and training so that these young mothers have choices.
Each of these women is in many ways a “secret garden” that ABAN is helping to reveal and “refurbish”. Young mothers are often stigmatized and neglected and ABAN provides the space and time to clear away some of the “weeds” and “thorns” that have grown up in their lives. Through this process they reveal the amazing talents and spirits within these women. I have great admiration for these women, the work the people of ABAN are doing, and the impact they are making in the lives of those they are serving and their community. ABAN is funded by donations and the sales of the products made by the young women. You can support their efforts to “ban neglect” by donating or purchasing their products.
Prayer: God thank You for revealing “secret gardens” in all of us through your love and the love of those who are serving as your hands and feet.