Sea of Mercy... Ocean of Grace

There she was sitting on the beach looking at her first ocean and totally spellbound. Waves crashing in one upon the other, the smell of the salt sea spray – Mercy was in heaven and I was thrilled to see the joy on her face.

It was her first visit to Australia, a world aeons apart from the world she had known from the age of 8 years. You see, Mercy was until just a few years ago, a Trokosi slave girl in Ghana, West Africa.

She had been denied all pleasure in life from the age of 14 years until she was 22. It must have seemed more than a lifetime.

A moment later and I see Mercy like a little child watching a wedding on the same beach. The bride and groom, beautifully dressed and standing near a large rock – there are seats spread out in front of them and the wedding guests in their finery are seated to celebrate the proceedings.

Not far away, there are people everywhere in their swimming costumes, laughing, catching waves, splashing in the water – thrilling at the joy of life.

How out of place little Mercy looks yet nothing will stop her from enjoying this moment. We who have the luxury of choosing where, who and how we marry will never really understand the life she has had. We choose whom we love and how we express that love to each other. All of this was denied her. For Mercy there had been no mercy at all.

Watching this precious released slave woman on Currumbin beach I felt a renewed sense, a longing for justice, for real mercy for every oppressed person in this world. A sense that I couldn’t do much but I could something to see another child free.

To really feel and share the depth and cruelty of another’s pain in this world can be almost beyond human endurance.

How can I, a man, ever understand what it is to be given as a child-slave to pay the price of a crime committed by a family member. Mercy was just such a child-slave. Can I really know the agony, the emptiness, the horror she experienced when she realised that the parents she loved had abandoned her in a shrine where she was to serve the fetish priest – a witchdoctor – to fulfil all his commands and never once to receive the gentle affection that is a child’s right?

Can I, a man, understand what it was for Mercy to be raped by the same man soon after she had the horror of experiencing her first period? Could I ever understand what she felt when people from her own community ostracised her because she belonged to the gods and was no longer ‘one of us’?

No, I don’t think I can ever understand fully her pain.

What then of the resignation she had to life when she discovered she was pregnant to the fetish priest at the age of 13? Could we ever know the sense of dread she must have felt when she realised that she would not only have to somehow provide her own food and clothing as she had done from the age of eight in this dread filled experience, but soon she would have to provide for another. The provision would include love and affection that that little child needed but which had been denied Mercy.

In my full-time role as a mission director I often travel with visiting representatives of our organisation, national directors and their wives, pastors and sometimes, children. This was the first time that I had spent 5 weeks travelling with a former slave – a woman who still bore the marks of her experience in a profound depression that came and went as with the rolling of the tide that held her captive on that beach.

Her translater was Patience Vormawor, a mother, university graduate who holds a Master’s Degree in African studies, and a woman totally dedicated to the calling of God to minister to these hapless victims of an unjust religion.

Patience shed tears with Mercy one night as I showed a professional video to a dinner group in Adelaide so that they could understand exactly how bad this practice was. Both women were in tears and I was not in a position to see it. They were sitting behind me and when I got up to speak and walked towards them I knew something was wrong. Poor Patience, she almost spat out the words to me when it was her turn to speak.

‘I can’t speak, it’s just so horrible...’, and for the first time in my role with the Inter-National Needs Network I felt completely and hopelessly lost. What could I say? What could I do?

Yet God is amazing isn’t he? I stumbled my way through a presentation about the need for support for our work in Ghana to see another 3,000 women released from this terrible bondage – doubling the number we already have released in that country. A painting had been donated by an Adelaide artist – it was worth about $1500 – I was sure it wouldn’t sell as there weren’t enough guests there and surely there wasn’t one ready to pay that price.

Later during the night as I sat back at my table drinking a cup of coffee and feeling despair, a dear friend whispered in my ear that someone from her table wanted to buy the painting but would only take it for $3,000.

Oh, thank you Jesus.

It’s an awful cliché really, but we are so blessed in this lucky country. I’m reminded of this everytime I go to the developing world and see poverty in all its dehumanizing power. At times like this I’m convinced that God’s heart must break as he sees his precious children suffering for lack of bread. Then I think that His heart must doubly break when he looks at the rest of his world and sees others of his children – yes, people who even claim to be his – who cannot share their bread, nor even cast it on the waters.

The work of Rev Walter Pimpong and his team to release Trokosi slaves in Ghana is a huge task. When he started it in 1992, it was thought that no breakthrough would come until after the turn of the millennium. How surprised we all were to hear of the first liberation ceremony, which occurred in 1996 for 30 women and their children. God is surely a God of surprises.

Walter’s method has been astounding. He takes the words of Jesus literally ‘Love your enemies.’ The fetish priests are certainly enemies of everything holy and good in this world. They are involved in ritual abuse, child slavery, persecution and even torture of little girls – all in the name of their religion. They have to be enemies of everything we hold good.

But Walter didn’t take the line of protest. He didn’t organize rallies to stand outside the shrines, wave banners, and shout condemnation of the wickedness that he knew was going on behind those walls.

No, he took Jesus words literally. He saw that the fetish priests were as much victims as the bride-slaves who served them. He saw that every creature God has ever created needs love, and that all but the most degenerate of human beings responds to love.

Despite persecution, despite cursing, and sacrifices made so that Walter, his family, his team will die – they keep on going. And the fact that they keep on going, believing in the protection and love of God, is the one thing that undermines most the evil power of the fetish priests, their shrines and yes too, their religion.

I’m convinced we have so much to learn about what it is to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.

It is my privilege to work with my friend Walter Pimpong, and with his team in Ghana, Wisdom, Patience, Mercy and all the others.

As you read this article today please spare a thought for the girl slaves who are still being taken captive to appease the anger of the ‘gods’ and protect their families through villages in Ghana and in two neighboring countries, Togo and Benin.

Please pray that God will raise up supporters, provide miracle workers to enable His love to truly reach everyone of these oppressed peoples. There are 800 children of released slaves that urgently need sponsors to provide them with hope for the future. Please pray that people will respond to this need.



At the time of writing, David Ayliffe was the Executive Director of I.N. Network Australia, part of the Inter-National Needs Network.

Thursday, November 9, 2006   printer friendly version | 9066 reads