Taking ‘hearts of service’ to Africa: Military veterans, studying at Lipscomb University, bring clean water to Ghana
It wasn’t until this summer that I participated in my first mission trip. It was an amazing chance to observe our students serving others firsthand. And it changed my life.
I had the good fortune of co-leading a team of six student veterans representing three branches of military service, along with my colleague David K. Hughes, director of Lipscomb’s Yellow Ribbon Program. We wanted to provide a special opportunity for our student veterans to immerse themselves in the experience.
We embarked on a journey that took us more than 12,000 miles — via plane, bus and boat — to the village of Kete Krache on Lake Volta in Ghana.
We partnered with Dr. David Vanderpool and his team from Mobile Medical Disaster Relief to install water purification systems and conduct medical clinics.
I had the opportunity to witness this special group of students get their hands dirty and put others’ needs above their own. In choosing the military, they made the ultimate commitment to serve. That heart for service remains with them long after they leave the military. So the fact that they were eager to serve others on this trip did not surprise me.
But the depth to which they embraced this opportunity was humbling. Each day the student veterans saw needs and filled them, always looking for ways to help, never having to be told what to do.
Our work conditions weren’t easy. We found lodging on the top floor of a partially air-conditioned credit union. For the majority of the trip, we were without toilets, electricity or running water.
No one complained. All were just grateful for what they did have. We found ourselves amazed at the joy we saw in the people we served — who live in those conditions their entire lives.
The mission took our team to the islands of Bakpa, Manayekpo and Lala on Lake Volta, the very polluted source of drinking water for the region. We worked with the Touch a Life Foundation and the Village of Life orphanage to identify locations to serve.
We began each day eating breakfast at the orphanage before embarking on an hour-and-a half-long ride across Lake Volta in a boat that was barely hanging together but faithfully delivered us.
Each day’s work included installing 900-gallon water tanks with purification systems that provide clean drinking water to villagers as well as conducting medical clinics to treat scabies, ringworm, cuts and other medical needs. The team treated nearly 1,000 men, women and children over five days.
Some of the most touching moments were watching our students wash the legs and feet of the villagers that were caked with mud. Often, they would sing to and talk to those they were treating — even when they didn’t speak the same language.
They treated everyone with love. And the villagers loved them back.
Our student veterans are great reflections of what we hope all Lipscomb students represent. I know that my life has been forever impacted because of these humble servants.
We laughed together. We held each other up when we were weary. We cried together. And we loved each other — and the people of Ghana.
KIM CHAUDOIN is director of communication and marketing for Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. She attends the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tenn.