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To honor son’s memory, couple rescues children from slavery

Ron and Nan Deal speak at the Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ark. (Photo via www.kait8.com)

Ron and Nan Deal returned to the Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ark., recently. The couple talked about the legacy of their son, Connor, who died at age 12 on Feb. 17, 2009, about a week after contracting pneumonia, TV station KAIT reported.
“His fingerprints are all over this building,” Nan Deal said of her son and the Southwest church.
The family attended the Southwest church before moving to Amarillo, Texas, a few years ago, where they attend Hillside Christian Church, Amarillo South. Connor died in Texas on Feb. 17, 2009.
“When a child dies, you want to find their voice,” Ron Deal said. “You want to know that who they were has not be forgotten.”
The Deals honored their son’s memory by establishing Connor’s Song, an effort to rescuing orphans around the world from child trafficking and modern-day slavery. The Deals partner with Touch a Life Foundation, a Coppell, Texas-based nonprofit that seeks to end child trafficking in Cambodia, Vietnam and Ghana.

Connor Deal (Photo via rondeal.org)

Touch a Life was launched by Pam and Randy Cope, whose story is similar to the Deals. The Copes lost their 15-year-old son, Jantsen, in 1999 to a heart defect. The Touch a Life ministry grew out of the Copes’ efforts to honor their son’s memory.
The story of Touch a Life’s involvement in Ghana is a personal favorite of mine.
In 2006, Pam Cope read a story in the New York Times about child slavery on Lake Volta in Ghana. She contacted agencies in the West African nation that could help free the children she had seen in the newspaper article. She also contacted her brother-in-law, Mike Cope, then minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, who referred her to the Village of Hope, a church-supported children’s home and school near Ghana’s capital, Accra. (See our recent blog post about the Village of Hope)
Pam Cope assisted in the rescue of seven Ghanaian children, who were brought to the Village of Hope.
She wasn’t the only one who read that New York Times story. Oprah Winfrey also had seen the piece and launched an effort to save the children in the story. When correspondents for The Oprah Winfrey Show arrived in Ghana, they found that the “magnificent seven,” as they had come to be known, were safe and sound, thanks in part to the Church of Christ ministry.

Students walk through the Children’s Art Village plaza outside Hope Christian Academy, part of the Village of Hope ministry. The Touch a Life ministry helped with funds for the Art Village. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

In 2007, Pam Cope appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Here’s my report on that appearance, and a New York Times follow-up story that mentions the Village of Hope.
Pam Cope invited Nan Deal to travel to Ghana and participate in the work herself. Nan Deal kept in touch with her husband in the U.S. as she helped in the rescue of two brothers, ages 6 and 8, from near-slavery among the fishermen of Lake Volta.
Here’s an excerpt from Connor Deal’s CaringBridge page in which Ron Deal describes his reaction to the rescue:

As my wife sat in a boat with two rescued children and I sat on the floor of my house crying, trying to process what was happening. “Now let me see if I have this straight,” I thought to myself. Twenty-one months ago, my son Connor was being taken even as Nan and I saw a movie about a child taken for child trafficking. And now, my wife is half-way around the planet taking back two children who were taken into child trafficking. Is this real? Who is this God that I serve? How great is His power to redeem, to bring beauty from ashes! And that’s when I echoed back to God the words of Job. “God, for a year and a half now I have been calling into question things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. And I have seen now who you are and what you are capable of; my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (see Job 42:1-6)

At the Southwest church, Nan Deal said that establishing such an effort in her son’s memory is one step toward hope and healing.
To contribute, see Connor’s Song.

  • Feedback
    Thank you so much for this article. The work of the Deals, Copes and many others has made such a difference in the lives of the children in Ghana. The work of the Village of Hope is an amazing opportunity for Christians around the world to make a difference in the future of Ghana.
    Jessica Knapp
    April, 11 2011

    Thanks for sharing this story. Not sure why the “c” in “Christian church” was lower-case, but the content of this article was great. 🙂
    I’ve blogged in the past about the problem of child prostitution in Brazil, where I was a missionary for a time and to which I hope to return in the next couple of years to do community development work. I also have recent post up about a way youth groups and others can support Rapha House, a Christian Churches/Churches of Christ effort to rescue girls from slavery in southeast Asia. A forthcoming post about child slavery in the United States is also in the works. This is a global epidemic that impacts millions of children, and the church must not remain silent.
    Adam Gonnerman
    April, 11 2011

    I was privileged to hear the very moving presentation given by Ron and Nan Deal yesterday. The cause that they have embraced, in memory of their son, loudly sings Conner’s Song!
    Phyllis Russell
    April, 11 2011

    Adam: I went back and forth on whether or not to capitalize that “c” and chose poorly. I fixed it in the post. Good eye!
    Also, I just confirmed that Connor Deal was the grandson of Lloyd and Barbara Deal, faithful members of the <a href=”http://www.mrcc.org” rel=”nofollow”>Memorial Road Church of Christ</a>, my home congregation here in Oklahoma City. The Deals are a mission-minded couple with hearts for lost souls from Iowa to Uganda.
    Lloyd Deal has traveled to several African countries on mission trips. The joke I like to tell about him is that I can go to a Church of Christ in the middle of the African bush and someone there will ask me, “Do you know Lloyd Deal?”
    Erik Tryggestad
    April, 11 2011

    Erik, no worries! I’m sure someone will come along and ask, “Why did you capitalize ‘church’?”
    Adam Gonnerman
    April, 11 2011

    The Cope and Deal families’ losses and the way they have honored their sons and God through serving children is a heartbreakingly beautiful and familiar story.
    We were recently searching for an organization to serve in Ghana when we stumbled upon the website of the Jacobs family and discovered “His Chase”, which led us to Touch A Life Foundation, the Village of Hope, the Village of Life, and George Achibra at PACODEP. It was like God had left an unmistakable trail leading us to Lake Volta.
    The moment we read about the children enslaved on Lake Volta, we knew we had to make a difference, we had to get involved. For us, three simple women with a heart for God, getting involved meant raising funds to build an extra 3 classroom unit at the Village of Life for rescued children, as well as serving for two weeks in Africa in November of 2011. It hardly makes sense in eyes of the world, but it only needs to make sense to God.
    We don’t know all the reasons God chose us to serve these children, but we do know that He continues to redeem losses and create beauty from ashes in ways that have His fingerprints all over it. We are simply eager to serve Him and follow.
    JD Richardson
    April, 11 2011

    I revised this post a bit to correct some inaccuracies in the KAIT report. Apologies for the errors.
    Erik Tryggestad
    April, 12 2011

    Don and I and others in our family have supported and worked with the Village of Hope, Ghana for several years now and are so thrilled and thankful to see so many getting on board. A ‘fun’ side is that Don has built a nice cottage at the VOH in memory/honor of each of his 3 wives! We are teased that he is an African Chief, with all the small cottages for each wife! I am the only one living. God is good. Also Don was surprised recently with a foundation in his name, started by some of the graduates of the VOH, for the purpose of helping new grads of VOH get a start in life. Keep on keeping on . Marita Barnett
    marita and don barnett
    April, 15 2011

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