Through our partnership with IJM, we are sharing stories of their work for justice in the world. We hope these stories serve to practically undergird the truths we’ve uncovered together in days 1 through 4.
Thousands of children between the ages of six and eighteen live in slavery on Lake Volta, working up to eighteen hours a day in the fishing industry. For these young children, the only way out of slavery is to drown or be rescued. This is the story of one of those children, named Foli.
Foli was raised by his grandparents in a loving home in Ghana several hours from the largest manmade lake in the world, Lake Volta. They wanted to send him to school, but simply couldn’t afford his school fees, so Foli stayed home.
One day, his grandfather was struck by a car, and medical expenses quickly began to pile up. It was then that a relative who lived near Lake Volta visited and offered to take Foli in. His grandparents believed he would simply go from one loving home to another.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Foli realized that the promise of a better life was a lie. Instead of school and a loving home, Foli had been trafficked into slavery. Very early one morning, Foli was taken by his boat master out on the massive waters of Lake Volta. As they floated in the deep, dark water, he wondered why he was brought on the lake. He soon learned that his boat master needed children like Foli to dive into the dark, murky water and untangle fishing nets that would catch on branches below the surface.
One day Foli witnessed the true darkness of the lake. A boy in a nearby boat was told to dive into the water to untangle a net that was caught on a stump. He refused, saying the water was too deep, but his master threatened to beat him if he didn’t go. All of the boys stopped their work and watched.
“The boy didn’t have a choice,” Foli said. “He dived in. He went deep. And because it was that deep, he got tired, and drank some water, and died.”
Foli became afraid of the deep places after that. In the mornings when he went to the lake, he would move away from the other boys, to a place on the shore where only God could hear his voice in the darkness. There he would pray:
“God, we are awake. In Your name we are going to the lake. Put Your hands over the net and don’t let it go to a place where humans can’t go, but someone still has to go. Take it to a place where it is safe for humans to go.”
One morning, as Foli was preparing for another grueling day, some IJM social workers, investigators, and local authorities were searching for children who were working as slaves on Lake Volta.
When their boat pulled up next to Foli’s canoe, they called to him, asking him questions about his life. The boat master answered, but they saw straight through his lies. The abusive boat master was arrested and Foli, along with nine other boys, was rescued in the operation—IJM’s first in Ghana. All the boys were immediately given food, clothing, and medical attention. Following interviews with the police, the boys were moved to a safe aftercare shelter run by an IJM partner, and the IJM team went to work locating their families.
When IJM located Foli’s grandparents, his caseworker showed him a photo to verify it was them. His huge smile was instant confirmation
Foli remembers when he finally arrived back at his village and the neighbors all came out to embrace him and welcome him back. He remembers seeing his childhood home looking exactly how he remembered it. And in front of his home, standing under a tree to welcome him, were his grandparents.
Foli is glad to be off the lake, free of abuse and free to pursue his education. When asked if he would say anything to the children who are still enslaved on Lake Volta, he said, “The work on the lake is not good for children to be doing; so if you have a way of escaping, of leaving the place, you must do it. God should richly bless those who rescue them.”
Every day, children like Foli are forced into unthinkable darkness. Yet through the prayers of God’s people, light shatters the darkness and freedom is restored. Your prayers drive and sustain the work of IJM. To receive urgent prayer requests for IJM and our survivors, please visit www.IJM.org/Pray.