Which partner do you serve with in Ghana?
I am presently serving with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana, West Africa.
There are music students here at the Peki Seminary where I serve. The church music program owes a huge debt to the Nebraska conference of the United Church of Christ.! I find the music students delightful also. I am working on getting a video made of some of the students singing a song written by one of the female music students. Please watch for it in the future.
How do you fit into their mission?
I am serving as a “lecturer” or professor at the Peki Seminary of the E. P. Church. The Seminary is considered part of the Evangelical Presbyterian University College in Ho. Many of the pictures on the web site are of the Peki campus. I teach Old and New Testament to their ministers, both licensed and ordained. The licensed ministers are called “catechists”. They work under the supervision of ordained ministers who are referred to as “Pastors”. They also hold the title of “Reverend”. The Pastors are often time responsible for several churches (much like the Methodist system of a “charge”). When the Pastor is not able to be in attendance on any given Sunday the Catechist is in charge of the service as well as any weekly responsibilities that a Pastor would normally perform.
What led you to engage in this calling?
I was led to engage in this calling because one of my “gifts” is teaching. My favorite thing to teach is the Bible and history. I have some history of teaching the Bible in Africa, when I taught Christian Religious Knowledge for the government of Nigeria at a teachers training college in Plateau State, Nigeria, West Africa. I have a love and respect for those who take on the work of the Lord by serving the local church and I feel it is a special privilege to help in the equipping and training of minister of the Gospel.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
II Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”. This passage basically frames my work with my students as we work on the tools to interpret the Bible and to teach it in such a way that to be understood by their congregations.
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Ghana and the EPC?
In Ghana, their world is changing swiftly. Technology is here and it has been incorporated into daily lives. Almost everyone owns a cell phone! I have seen people stop and get off the bicycle they are using to carry a large load of firewood on their head to answer their cell phone! I have recently seen a man stop from bending over to cut the grass with a machete to answer his cell phone and to reply to a text. Recently, I went to Ho (the big city) to try and work out something with my phone and internet provider and a young man said to me: “You are a BBC”(born before computers). Of course I was offended, but he was correct and I needed his help, so I didn’t argue with him! This generational divide that we also witness in the U.S. is affecting the churches here in Ghana. Here at the seminary in Peki we have a beautiful computer lab, filled with nice computers with no internet access. We are far enough away from the large cities we can only access with dial up modems that work only on good days when the electricity is on and all the stars align just right. Even then it is so slow that my computer will not even recognize that it is connected to the internet. It is important that the ministers we train here are equipped to incorporate technology into their ministries. If not, they are in danger of losing the generations who take for granted the world of technology and will avoid any group that seems to be too old fashioned to use it.
What lesson have you learned working alongside the staff and students of the EPC that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
One thing that I have learned from our partner here in Ghana is to make the time of financial offering a time of joy! Here, they literally dance down the aisle to put their offering in the basket. They enjoy this time of their service so much that they do it two or three times (I have seen four) during the service. I think it is their favorite part of being together! It stands in stark contrast to the hushed tones we seem to use when we take up an offering. They are glad and rejoicing that they have something to share and they give it with a smile!
What is a common phrase used in the local churches?
The equivalent of the greeting, “Peace be with you” in Ewe is: “Nutifafa na mi” and the response to that greeting is: “Mawu nanor kpli wo”, or “God be with you”.
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in Ghana?
How are you liking the local food?
As far as local food goes: think spicy hot! One of the favorite dishes is: fufu. It is made from pounded (and I mean pounded) yams (which are not sweet potatoes, they are more like a huge, tough Irish potatoes) and cassava root that is rolled into small balls with your fingers and dipped by hand into a spicy sauce and swallowed whole without any chewing. Because I have trouble swallowing anything without chewing and my stomach and tongue do not do well with spicy foods, I do not have a recipe for fufu, besides you would be hard pressed to come up with a yam! A favorite of mine is fried plantain chips. These thins sliced pieces of plantain are deep fried and salted and they meet my yearning for potato chips!