Ghana: A Country of Diversity and Challenge

Rev. Brummel is the pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.

After more than 20 years of correspondence and visits, the way has been opened by God for our churches to involve themselves in a difficult and intimidating work. This is a work which could well take as many more years to establish. When by God’s grace it becomes established it will be a work that will require much manpower and financial sacrifice. Out of love for God and His truth we face the challenge with confident hope. That challenge is establishing a mission in Ghana, Africa.

Where is Ghana? What is life like in Ghana? How much money does an average Ghanaian make? What challenges do we as churches face in establishing a mission there? These are questions which are being asked after Synod i996 of the Protestant Reformed Churches approved calling a missionary to labor in Accra, Ghana.

Location and Climate

Ghana, a country of about 18 million people, is located about 5,000 miles away from us on the southern coast of West Africa. The rectangular country compares to the state of Missouri in size. The widest distance from east to west measures about 310 miles, while it is 445 miles long from north to south.

Southern Ghana has two wet seasons and two dry seasons. It is difficult to predict when one or the other is to begin. Generally the most rain, between 30 and 45 inches, falls between March and July and between September and November. The month of August as well as the period from December to February is dry. The hot, dry winds howl across the Sahara from December to February, blowing down not only the heat but also the sand from the Sahara desert. The average year-round temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

History

The country of Ghana has a rich history and an important place in West Africa. Known from an early time for its wealth of gold, Ghana was named “El Mina” by the Portuguese, meaning “the mine.” French explorers called the district the “Gold Coast,” which remained its name throughout the colonial era until independence in 1957 when it became known as Ghana. Ghana still has an estimated 126,000,000 pounds of gold waiting to be dug from the ground.

Many European nations envied the Portuguese control of the African coast, and the Dutch, English, French, Danes, Swedes, and Germans began to flock to the Gold Coast. Disputes and wars abounded over who would control not only the gold market, but also the slave trade which was becoming increasingly popular. Europeans traded linen, silk, beads, copper, brass, guns, gunpowder, and alcohol for the gold and the slaves. Many locals grew rich by working alongside the Europeans or by demanding bribes. The port cities of the Gold Coast became powerful commercial centers. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished by Britain. Raw materials such as palm oil and cocoa began to be exported in the place of slaves, and the country retained its commercial importance.

In the late 1800s, due to the greed for new colonies and the lack of raw materials, Britain invaded the Gold Coast and overthrew the existing king. From 1901 until 1956 the Gold Coast was ruled by the British, but its people increasingly chafed under the unfairness of the colonial system. The country finally gained independence in 1957, and in 1960 Ghana, with its new name, became a republic. Harsh, power-hungry rulers and corrupt politics brought Ghana into a bad economic state throughout the 1970s. Government overspending, mismanagement, corruption, uncontrolled inflation, and drought reduced this once prosperous country to poverty. In 1982 the economy collapsed almost completely. Under new leadership, the country has seen steady economic recovery since 1984 at approximately 5% per year. Still the average yearly income per person is only $400.

Education

Children are supposed to go to school for at least 10 years after they turn six years old. The government provides free schooling throughout the country. Students are required to study English, which is the official language of the country. Students can apply for admission to one of the three universities in Ghana if they do well in school.

There are six major language and cultural divisions in Ghana. The country has made remarkable progress in uniting these various ethnic groups without tension. One contributing factor has been making English the official language. Although English is the official language, one or more of the other languages would have to be learned by the missionary who goes to Ghana. The literacy rate, though improving and one of the highest in Africa, is only 53%.

Christianity

The government of Ghana, though formerly hostile to Christianity, now provides its citizens with religious freedom.

As early as the mid-1800s many missionary societies began to establish themselves in Ghana. Hundreds of schools were built by the missionary societies, and many of the Ghanaians became not only Christian, but also highly educated, desiring to become more “European.” Christianity had a profound effect on the culture and society, but did not spread far beyond the coastal regions of the country.

Between 60% and 70% of southern Ghanaians profess to be Christian. Of these, about 30% are Protestant, 20% Roman Catholic, and 20% part of other sects and groups including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormans, Church of the 12 Apostles, and others. Although 40% of southern Ghanaians profess to be affiliated with a church, less than 15% attend church regularly. Throughout the entire country the percentages are, approximately: 45% traditional beliefs, 43% Christianity of some kind, and 12% Muslim.

Currently all religions are tolerated in Ghana, resulting often in a mixture between traditional spirit and ancestor worship and Christianity. Pagan world-views and practices have been tolerated and placed alongside Christian practices. Membership in charismatic churches, offering excitement and miracles, is growing by the thousands.

Northern Ghana contains over four million people who have never heard the gospel. It is estimated that another two million northerners have moved to the south and have not yet been reached by missionaries. Many of these individuals are being easily swayed to Islam. Along with the nominal Christians, there remain over five million adherents of Islam and traditional religions throughout the southern half of the country.*

Life

A favorite dish in Ghana is black bean stew, which contains vegetables, fish, and meat. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and various varieties of meat, especially fish, are enjoyed by the Ghanaians.

Housing varies greatly between the different areas of the country. In the city of Accra modern housing and conveniences are available. In Accra, the missionary will have ready access to telephone services, including access to the Internet. Within the more remote villages the houses are generally rectangular homes with mud walls and thatch or tin roofs. A central well is situated in the middle of a group of homes, and all the residents are dependent upon it for their water. Few villages have electricity or access to telephone.

The chief means of transportation is the public bus system. Private transportation is also common. Due to the inefficiency and unreliability of the busing system, synod approved purchasing a used, rugged vehicle for our missionary.

The Challenges

Although a high percentage of the southern Ghanaians profess to be Christians, many have not heard the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Enamored by a desire to be like the Europeans, many Ghanaians outwardly profess Christianity, but continue to practice their traditional religions. The truth of the gospel which demands reform in every area of life must be preached. Worship which reverences God must be promoted. Toward that end, synod decided that our churches should begin their own indigenous work. Although we have much contact with other groups of believers, especially the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana, synod deemed it wiser to begin an independent work. Uncompromising, biblical worship must be promoted from the beginning.

Our missionary will need to be polemic in his teaching. Out of love for the truth we must sharply defend the truth so that the Ghanaians may learn to discern the truth from the error. They must be equipped to defend the truth of the gospel against Pentecostalism, Roman Catholicism, and Islam.

Our additional goal is to bring the gospel into the remote northern regions of Ghana. In order to accomplish that goal, the missionary will labor through preaching and teaching to establish a church in Accra. The Lord willing, once a church in Accra is established, further outreach will be facilitated to the villages through the agency and help of that church. Families who move to the cities and become Christians have relatives and family in the rural areas to whom they would naturally desire to bring the truth. Depending on how God prospers the work, more missionaries might need to be called to labor in this country.

The life of the missionary will involve sacrifice. He and his family, along with the volunteer helpers, will live far below the standards of our country. Most modern conveniences are available in Accra, but our missionary will not find there the affluent life-style we take for granted in America. Besides, the laws, customs, and values of the culture will be different.

The learning of another language well enough to preach it will take years of hard work. Experienced missionaries have written that it often takes two or three years of hard work for a missionary to be proficient enough in a new language to communicate, and four or five years before he may be able to preach effectively.

The challenge of educating the children, not only of the missionary but also of the believers whom God in His grace brings to our mission, will demand much wisdom.

God is sovereign over all mission work, including this work in Ghana. We are encouraged that He has already moved more than five individuals and three couples to express willingness to accompany the missionary as volunteer helpers. He will raise up the man of His choosing to labor as missionary. God will produce fruit upon the faithful preaching of the gospel. He will use us to gather His precious church not only from those who are nominal Christians, but also from the unreached peoples of the world. This is His promise: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). May He lead us to those whom He in His sovereign good pleasure has determined to gather to Himself. We confess: “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he wills at what time he pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (Canons of Dordt, First Head, Art. 3). Our prayer is that God will be pleased to use our churches for this great work. We firmly believe that He will bless that work which is done to His honor and glory.