How a trip to The Gambia changed my life

Derek Beel writes…
Growing up,the only place that I ever wanted to visit was Africa. Missions in Africa have always been a part of my life since being a boy and still are to this day. Some of my family friends were missionaries in Nigeria and some in what was then known as the Belgian Congo. The latter ones, along with their children were massacred in the up-rising.
My daughter, Jayne who was in remission from cancer, was able to go to Uganda on a mission trip. She died some time later.
For many years I have been co-ordinating the Gift Aid for New Life Children’s Centres and personally sponsor two students. I had seen the DVDs, read the regular newsletters but then I had the opportunity to see the work out in The Gambia first hand.
Nothing I had read or seen could have even started to prepare me for what I would see! It was life changing! The whole experience was unforgettable, from the moment the 747 started its descent into Banjul and we got our first glimpse of Africa.
The impact that the children and staff had on me, their friendliness and welcoming was truly great. During break times you are literally mobbed by children wanting to hold your hand or cling to your arms and to meet my sponsored kids, Humis and Pascal for the first time was very special.
There is so much to tell… the youth meetings, the Sunday Services, especially the wonderful assemblies outside their classrooms, with hundreds of children, from primary through to secondary ages all singing songs has to be seen and heard. These children really appreciate the opportunity to learn. They are great kids with such happy smiles even though they have so little compared to children in the West.
Education is very important to these children and their families as it is the only way out of poverty. Education and health care does not come cheap to them, so for many families these are not available.
The sponsorship scheme run by NLCC is very important. £15 a month might not be very much to us but makes such a difference to these children and their families.And what is more, every penny given goes directly into the work! Everyone involved in the UK is a volunteer.
This month will be my third visit to The Gambia and I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again.
On my last trip, I met in the school grounds one day, probably the oldest person I had seen out there, a very dignified and serene lady, carrying her cooking pot and utensils wrapped in a cloth, on her head. ‘I welcome you!’ was her greeting and the younger lady with her when told I was supporting children said ‘Thank you’ over and over again. I found this really humbling. To think that MY small donation each month means so much.
I can’t wait to go back and if I should ever meet my readers personally I shall keep you a long time telling you just how much my trip to The Gambia actually changed my life and is continuing to do so!
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