Plans for what was planned to be a mission trip to Haiti by some members of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Mooresville changed by almost 5,000 miles as the group instead went to Ghana.
“God chose this location for us,” said Dr. William (Bill) Flannery, who led St. Patrick’s mission to Ghana and others to Haiti over the years.
The team, made up of members from the church and others, ranged in age from 15-20, was planning to go to Haiti, where the church had been three times previously. However, Flannery noted that when they went to sign up for Haiti, the trip was full.
They are affiliated with a group called Give Hope Global headquartered in Fort Mill, South Carolina. It does mission work in Haiti - and just last year began work in Ghana. The head of the organization asked the team from St. Patrick’s if they would be interested in going to Ghana. A small group was going, they were told, and they would be happy for a medical group to go as well.
They felt led to go. They served from July 5-14 in three different areas of the country. Flannery noted that most of their work was done in Pepease, the second largest town in the Kwahu East District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. They also went to the town of Atibie, which is located in the Kwahu South District, also in Eastern Ghana, and the town of Medie, where a different group with Give Hope Global went last year to support a school, Sowers Academy, and built them a playground. Dr. Lillian Ferdinands, a pediatrician, was also with St. Patrick’s group and provided check-ups for the children at the school.
This year’s 13-member team focused on two projects, utilizing both its educators and medical and pre-med members. Team members included Dr. Bill Flannery and his wife Dr. Olivia Flannery, Gus Winifred, Mark Hatley, Jackie Pehan, Dr. Lillian Ferdinands, and Ashley Pehan, all of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Jody Damron, Roger Braswell, Melissa Caldwell, Maggie Swanson, Crandall Swanson and Kayleigh Swanson.
Flannery said that an “American educator, an amazing lady that runs a school in Haiti, went on this trip. She and others on the education team provided arts and crafts with two schools, one in Pepease and the other in Medie. This group also shared a drug and alcohol presentation for the school-age children and their parents.”
The medical mission aspect of the trip involved three things, Flannery noted.
“One of the biggest issues in Ghana is infant mortality,” he said. “Twenty-nine out of 1,000 died each year. When we went last, some of the Ghana physicians and PA’s had asked for some teaching to be done that would help improve infant mortality and childhood mortality.”
Therefore, Melissa Caldwell, a Mooresville native who is a neonatal nurse practitioner from Novant Health, Flannery and Dr. Olivia Flannery and two registered nurses - Jody Damron and Jackie Pehan of Huntersville Pediatrics and Internal Medicine - were all recruited to help in the teaching.
The group lectured for two days, teaching approximately 75 people, which included PA’s nurses, midwives, and physicians at a hospital in Atibie.
Focusing on pediatrics during their stay in Ghana, the group provided health screenings during one of the days in Pepease, where they, along with two physicians from Ghana, screened 300 children. A health screen was also provided at Sowers Academy in Medie where they saw 200 children.
Adult cardiologist Dr. William Ntim , who is originally from Ghana and is now in Charlotte, not only helped the group while there, but he also served as the liaison to put all this together with Give Hope Global and those in Ghana.
Two members of the team who are pre-med students provided vision screenings as well.
Before the team began the various ministry responsibilities, the members were greeted with a reception on Saturday with approximately 50 people in attendance. On Sunday, the team was given the opportunity to worship with the people in the village and meet the people at a reception, which was held at the home of one of the prominent members of the village, with approximately 100 people attending this event. They were also introduced to the village chief.
Prior to the team’s arrival in Ghana, letters and communication with the chief by Pastor John Watson, head of Ghana ministries, let the chief know of their arrival and get his approval to work in the community.
When they arrived, Flannery noted that the people that he and his wife had met last year “welcomed us with open arms and hugs.”
How welcoming the people were was one thing that resonated with the new members of the team.
“One interesting thing,” Flannery said, “is we say hi (when meeting someone), “but they say you are very welcome – you are welcome here. That is a huge part of their culture.”
The team also had the opportunity to do some sightseeing while there. On Saturday before they left, they visited Accra, one of the larger cities and saw a nature preserve, giving them the chance to see lots of trees and the natural habitat of the area.
They also were able to participate in a dedication ceremony of a medical clinic in Pepease which sees about 100 patients a day. Last year, the building had no running water or bathrooms, and this year, thanks to Ntim and his brother, who is a businessman in Ghana, the building has new exam rooms, running water, two bathrooms and a new wing.
Roger Braswell, co-founder of Give Hope Global, shared that the mission of Give Hope is to do just what the name says, “give hope and bring lifelong change through the power of The Good News (Gospel), good health, good education and good jobs.” For more information, visit www.givehopeglobal.org
The organization works in these four ways and exposes people to the work going on in both Haiti and Ghana through Impact Teams.
Braswell said, “our projects include operating pastor training programs in Haiti and Ghana, community health initiatives in both countries, a high school for over 900 students in Haiti, two elementary schools in Haiti and one in Ghana, a transitional home for 26 young men in Haiti and a university education program with students in Haiti and Honduras.”
The group also has a Shop Hope where they work to provide careers for men and women in Haiti through selling fashionable, ethically produced items from Haiti. More information about this can be found at www.shophopeglobal.org.
“We don’t go around looking for problems to address, but when God places something squarely in front of us, we don’t turn away from it,” Braswell shared. “We believe we are called to improve the odds of success for people in difficult circumstances so we do whatever we can in the four ways mentioned.”
A return trip to Ghana has been planned for next year. “Lots of donations of equipment (medical) came from Novant Health and Lab Corp. so we want to make sure what we have donated is able to help improve the quality of healthcare there,” Flannery said. “And we actually formed a pediatric emergency response team with two of the physicians there and ourselves and if have a complicated patient is there we help facilitate it.”
When the group returned home, they brought back more than they took because they brought back memories of those they worked with and the people they ministered to.
When asked how the team was touched by being a part of the group, Flannery shared two things, “the welcoming spirit of the people that we served and the children, and like most mission trips when you are with people that intensely for seven to 10 days, you develop a bond with those you are serving with. We always feel that we receive much more than we give.”