Ghana mission trip was not the average summer vacation

Sometimes it is the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.

For Camille Santos and Rainey Lankford, choosing to spend two weeks in Ghana, West Africa has done just that. Camille Santos, a senior nursing major from Memphis, Tenn. says that Lipscomb’s summer mission trip to Ghana has opened her eyes in many ways.

“This might sound sad, but I’ve been on mission trips before and I feel like I never actually got anything from it,” Santos said. “But even on the first day there I felt completely compelled… you do change as a person. I feel 100 percent myself when I’m there. No makeup. No shower. It doesn’t matter because the kids are the focus.”

Santos is one of the students that returned from Ghana last week. Lipscomb works with an orphanage called the Village of Hope, which is home to around 200 children. The children are brought to the orphanage from off the streets, abusive or dangerous living conditions and even rescued from child slavery.

Santos explained that the children live in homes overseen by couples who devote their lives to raising these children as their own. The orphanage consists of a medical clinic, dental clinic, Hope Christian Academy (a school of 600-700 students), the Village of Hope Church of Christ, staff houses and guest houses.

Santos reminisced with a smile about the confusion she caused at the beginning of the trip. Santos is biracial and has several piercings. In Ghanaian culture, people are either white or black and facial piercings are not common. She gained the nickname,“The Black American,” but Santos wasn’t the only one dubbed with a nickname.

Rainey Lankford, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn. was called “Jesus” throughout the week.

“I have long hair and a beard so I fit the description of the Catholic style paintings of Jesus that the children have, but I felt so awkward,” Lankford said with a laugh. “Normally I can come up with a witty response, but I didn’t want to say something blasphemous. I was also asked if I was a boy or a girl.”

Like Santos, Lankford has been on many mission trips, but this one was different. He says he felt like the team made a lasting impact on the children; that the relationships he has made will continue to grow. However, coming home has been bittersweet.

“It has been difficult coming back from the simple life in Ghana to being a consumer American again,” Lankford said. “But I’m trying to remain simple because I love that. I still shower the same way to conserve water.”

So, if you are looking for a summer mission trip, Santos and Lankford both encourage you to “go to Ghana!” Any discipline of study or vocation is useful for this mission trip. Santos helped out in the clinic and Lankford taught in the classroom.  Both agree that the main purpose is to love and build long-term relationships with the children and house parents in Ghana.

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