It feels like only moments ago, I was under the Ghanaian sun, surrounded by dozens of giggling children, all eager to hold my hand and learn my name. Close to my memory, are all the late night conversations I had with my team members on topics like justice, identity and faith. Even though it happened one month ago, I find I am still grappling with the experiences I had, and struggling to figure out what it means to live out the lessons I learned.

In countries like Ghana, the needs abound. The problems the country faces seem very visible, from power outages, to poverty, to traffic congestion. It was all a little overwhelming for me. It wasn’t until I witnessed the people and the school in Lolito, that I began to understand how change happens. It’s not about solving all the problems. It’s about using your gifts to address the needs in your own community.

It’s a good lesson to learn, but I’ve found it challenging to apply to life in Canada. The issues seems far less obvious here, and even more so in my wealthy, small town of Elmira. It has forced me to step back and take a critical look at my community and the people I interact with. What are the hidden needs and what is my role in addressing them?

In my reflection, I’ve noticed the need for genuine relationships that go beyond the surface. Relationships built on trust, openness and encouragement. To be a part of the solution, requires a great deal of intentionality on my end. This summer, I will have numerous opportunities to interact with those who may not have these kinds of relationships. Whether it’s the children from the summer camps, the youth from Sunnydale Connect, or my fellow leaders and friends. I must go beyond the “programming” by being an example of openness and encouragement and by intentionally starting conversations of greater importance.

I know it’s a lot easier said than done. It takes extra effort, a certain amount of patience, and sometimes it’s downright awkward. But this is how I start taking the lessons I’ve learned from across the ocean and bringing them into the context I know best, my home.

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