College students in the Los Angeles area have some of the best educational resources available through the University of Southern California, the University of California-Los Angeles, and other nearby schools. But InterVarsity staff at those Los Angeles and Orange County schools believe that a visit to the Amazing Grace Preparatory School in central Ghana, Africa, provides an important added value to their education.
For the last dozen years, InterVarsity students from Los Angeles area colleges and universities have been traveling to Ghana during their summer vacations as part of the Adom Partnership. “There’s a whole group of alumni who would say that InterVarsity changed their lives and a big part of that was this project,” said Jon Ball, the associate divisional director for InterVarsity in Los Angeles. Jon is also the chairman of the board of Adom Partnership International, which operates Amazing Grace School.
This past summer ten college students and staff on the InterVarsity team spent four weeks at the Amazing Grace School. Linda Kim, the staff member who led the group, said that they did construction work and helped teach some classes. But the most important thing they did was build relationships and learn cross-cultural skills. “We taught the students a few of our songs and had them teach us some phrases and songs in their native language, Twi” Linda said. “And we had a chance to talk with the students about Jesus.”
The relationships may last far beyond this summer. “Because the Adom Partnership exists, summer missionaries can have an opportunity to stay connected to the school for many years,” she said. “I don’t think students on most InterVarsity summer projects have such an opportunity to stay involved after the project.”
The textbooks are old; one building is still under construction, and the school struggles to pay the teachers’ salaries. But little by little, with the help of InterVarsity students, the facility is improving. And the education that the Ghanaian boys and girls receive continues to be top notch.
The school’s first 9th grade graduating class in 2005 had 16 students. Most were in pre-school when Jon Ball made his first trip in 1995. All of them passed the national high-school entrance exams, guaranteeing admission to secondary school. Few schools can match that achievement. Several students’ scores are so high that they can be placed in an elite secondary school. “Students who are children of farmers are performing at an academic level with the best in the country,” Jon said. “It really is doing a phenomenal job of breaking the cycle of poverty.”
The InterVarsity students bring more than just school supplies and a few weeks of manual labor.
“For Ghanaians in this poor village to see white, latino and black Americans doing manual labor under the direction of local skilled workers…I’m not sure words can capture what that does for the local Ghanaians in terms of empowerment,” Jon said. It also lends credibility to the school. “Local parents see Americans come consistently year after year. The parents know they can trust the school with their kids.”
The Adom Partnership is the vision of a Presbyterian pastor, the Reverend Joseph Mante, and his wife Florence. Reverend Dr. Mante has pastored 19 village churches in Ghana’s Ashanti region, and now serves as dean of Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra, Ghana. Studying in the U.S. during the early 1990s, Reverend Mante shared his vision with Jon Ball and others. InterVarsity students started traveling to Ghana on a regular basis, and the Adom Partnership was established. Adom means “grace” in the Akan language of Ghana.
Currently all ten American members of the Partnership board are InterVarsity alumni, from seven different colleges in the Los Angeles area.
“We all are deeply appreciative of the common values we have through InterVarsity,” Jon said. “Those enable us to work well as a board together, because we’re not hashing through some basic issues of worldview, faith, commitment to missions, incarnational ministry, approach to Scripture, etc. All those we have in common, so we’re able to work really well together as a board from that common basis.”
Some InterVarsity alumni will sponsor children through the Adom partnership. Others are getting their churches involved in the partnership. Jon said that one student at USC is planning to return to Ghana as a math teacher, to teach at the school.
A simple partnership and a long term commitment, deeply rooted in the Gospel message, is changing lives in Ghana, and in California.