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One Contented Boy: Hands in Ghana Series

July 21, 2017
by Sheila Leech

Sheila Leech, Vice President of International Healthcare for Reach Beyond and a team leader for the 2017 Ghana medical internship, shares a series of stories from the experiences there. This is one of them.

His beaming smile greeted us each morning as our convoy of vehicles pulled into the dusty schoolyard of a village in Ghana. Such joy was there in greeting the team that had become his friends so quickly! His wide smile was reciprocated by the team members. The Reach Beyond summer interns looked forward every day to seeing Joshua.

Joshua was not the most agile team player during games, nor the most articulate student, but he definitely seemed to be the happiest. Born with cerebral palsy, eight-year old Joshua struggles to speak clearly. His gait is awkward and he falls a lot. This does not deter him one bit from joyfully launching into every activity taking place, from chasing bubbles to playing "duck duck goose", to throwing a ball.

Even when his effort is not quite successful, the satisfaction he gets from the thunderous applause of the surrounding team is evident by the beaming smile he gives and the way he enthusiastically applauds himself.

Joshua's father visited the clinic one day. He is an intelligent articulate man who had spent some years living and working in London. Now he is home in the village - a far cry from the busy bustling streets of England's capital city. His life consists of farming at a gentler pace under the hot African sun and eking out a living to provide for Joshua and his two brothers. He spoke with love and affection for Joshua, who although always filthy from rolling in the dust and constantly falling, was always well dressed and wore good strong shoes to facilitate his mobility. Additionally, Joshua often enjoyed proudly sporting a red baseball cap, which was a gift from someone in the USA.

  To many people, Joshua's life might seem a sad tragedy ...
  However, [his] life is filled with the important things.

There is a saying: "it takes a village to raise a child", and certainly this seems to be true for Joshua. It appears that his teachers are patient with him, other parents are caring and look out for his safety, and other children are willing to let him play even though he has the capacity to totally mess up their games. True he gets a bit bullied and pushed around at times - but what child doesn't?

To many people, Joshua's life might seem a sad tragedy of what life might have been: if only he had been born without CP, if only he had been born in the UK, or somewhere he could have received speech and physical therapy.

However, Joshua's life is filled with the important things -  the love of his family, a supporting community, and lots of laughter. Every new thing he can do is a huge accomplishment and every new thing he learns contributes to a better quality of life for him.

While our team was sad to think about what Joshua's life might become, Joshua teaches us a lesson which the apostle Paul learned long ago: "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." (Philippians 4:11). Joshua seemed to be VERY content with his life - enjoying even the simplest gift of a new red baseball cap from the USA. A lesson we all need to learn.