As you might remember, Baby GN was our first introduction into the world of “spirit child”. What is a spirit child? Areas throughout Ghana, especially Northern Ghana, still practice some of the more traditional beliefs. This part of the world, poverty is VERY real, and life is VERY hard. Most farm land and so children can be a blessing and a curse. As they grow older and stronger, they are able to help farm the land, however while they are small OR if they are ill and/or disabled, it takes a family member away from the work needed to be done to care for them. In a part of the world where there is NEVER enough food, where there can be days without food, this is a hardship difficult to sustain. Shaped through the poverty and ignorance in some of the more rural areas, the practice of ancient traditions and customs still occurs. When there is a child with a deformity or disability, or if a new child is born in the community during a time of great hardship in the family or farm, the community will seek a local witch doctor (Soothsayer) for guidance. The Soothsayer will communicate with the “gods” to see if the child in question is an “evil spirit”. And, the child almost always is. Once the child is deemed an “evil spirit” or “spirit child”, they are no longer considered human. The community, family, and others around are able to separate themselves and feel justified in murdering this child. It is at this time, the custom is to seek another witch doctor (Concoction Man) for a concoction to take care of the “evil spirit”. The child drinks the concoction and if they die, then the child was evil. (The concoction is made from known poisonous root.)Baby GN is a child that was deemed an “evil spirit”. His parents abandoned him, and left him with his mother’s parents. His community did not want him there and although they had attempted to starve him, he sustained – he survived. In February 2013, God brought us and the Riverstone Mission team to meet God where He was already at work.
Since his rescue, GN was diagnosed with Hydrocephaly (water on the brain). He had surgery in June. After his recovery from surgery, the missionaries began to see a love flourish in the grandmother. So, through their guidance and ongoing supervision Baby GN was reintegrated back with the family (grandparents). It was a scary time, as days prior to Baby GN’s surgery the grandfather had come to kill him. You see, they (Grandmother & Grandfather) had minor children still at home as well to care for, which he had been left to care for himself while she was away to take care of Baby GN (a spirit child). But, God began to work in the family and they were able to see him differently. Our missionaries, Dave & Ellen Bartlett were able to meet with the head of the family/community to share HE IS NOT A SPIRIT child. Baby GN stayed in the family home for a couple months, but soon we learned, unfortunately…once a child is classified as a “spirit child”, they really remain a “spirit child”. It wasn’t that they tried to kill him again, however in a pseudo caste-like system Baby GN was not a priority compared to the other children or people in the family. He had started to decline in some of the positive milestones he had accomplished since surgery. He was battling malaria, where the other children’s malaria treatment was a priority to his. There were many other concerns. It is important to understand, it is important for me to explain – they are NOT BAD PEOPLE – but to them – in their culture – it was reasonable, but to us and as advocates for Baby GN’s life, we couldn’t just sit and watch. So, in September it was decided to request custody of Baby GN be transferred from family, and allow us to take him closer to Kumasi where he could be closely monitored and he could begin receiving additional medical care. The family & community were very supportive, and relieved, as the burden was great to care for him. I have no doubt it was hard, regardless of his status in the family…Grandmother LOVED this small boy. But, giving him a better opportunity and allowing their family the opportunity to get their family back to normal, was best. I know it was VERY, VERY difficult for our missionaries to go through the whole process! They saw and knew the love in the heart and soul of the grandmother for Baby GN, yet they also know she was NOT caring for him the way he needed. When you begin to love the people, it is hard. But, the important thing to remember…even a reminder for them…God is in everything, even in the hard times – and He has a plan for this little boy’s life. We are just praying the steps we take are His not our own.
It has been a long wait of getting medical records transferred, caretaker setup, and so it is ONLY now…Baby GN will begin his medical appointments to assess where he is. We all feel, he is now very “healthy”…he eats PLENTY since his transfer to Kumasi!! But, he still is struggling to hold up his head, to move and communicate like a typical 2 year old. He is cognitively not a typical 2 year old child. He has bouts of thrashing around and screaming (not even just crying, but really screaming/crying). He requires 24/7 care, and truth is it is difficult for the caretakers. Today, we are still awaiting next steps medically. We are hoping to have an update in coming weeks of what options are available, if future surgeries are necessary (if so what), and how the shunt inserted into his brain is doing (is the fluid draining like it should). There are still many unanswered questions; he and his caretakers could really use a lot of prayers!!! We are also seeking God’s direction, the caretakers need a break every week. They need at least one day to themselves – without the 24/7 care of Baby GN. Please pray a caretaker option will be revealed. (Current full-time caretakers: Charles & Julianna)