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Ghanaians in Antwerp

Ghana goes global

Europe's churches are increasingly African

ANTWERP, Belgium — Europeans who walk by a basement apartment here on Saturday nights hear the sounds of laughter and singing in an unfamiliar language — pulsating through a small window at their feet.
The apartment is the home of Adjei Poku, and the language is Twi, spoken throughout the West African nation of Ghana.
Poku and other members of the Deurne Church of Christ pack into the tiny apartment for a taste of their homeland, more than 3,100 miles to their south. Ghanaians from nearby Brussels often join them.
“When I came here, I decided not to go to any church unless I went back home,” said Poku, a roofer, who was raised Catholic. Then he met George Yankey, a fellow Ghanaian immigrant who began studying the Bible with him. Soon, Poku was baptized.
“I thank God for what he has done for me and my family,” he said.
He wasn’t alone.
As more Ghanaians were baptized, the Deurne church added an early morning Bible class in Twi to its Sunday schedule.  
When they traverse the globe — for employment or as political refugees— African Christians take their faith with them. Believers fromNigeria, Liberia, Sudan and Kenya worship with churches across Europe and the U.S.
Ghanaian Christians go a step further. When they leave their homeland to work in manufacturing, agriculture or service industries overseas,they form their own Bible classes and, when they can, plant churches.In European nations including the Netherlands and Italy, the largestChurches of Christ are almost entirely Ghanaian. The U.S. also is hometo growing Ghanaian congregations.  
As they go abroad, Ghanaians practice “what they have learned back home,” said Gabriel Opong, an elder of the 800-member Bomso Church ofChrist in Kumasi, Ghana. “They try to bring themselves together.”
Today, Ghanaian Christians invite ministers from their homeland to speak at gospel meetings and evangelistic campaigns. From his church’s conference room in Kumasi, Opong recounted his itinerary from his mostrecent visit to the U.S. He worshiped with Ghanaian congregations inMaryland and New York.
“One Ghanaian congregation is about to be born in Virginia,” he said,and Ghanaians in Mississippi have asked him to help establish a church there.
Missionaries from the U.S. and Nigeria helped plant the first Churchesof Christ in Ghana about 50 years ago. Today, Ghanaian evangelists are “the best in all African churches,” said Francisca Ike, a Nigerian church member who worshiped with Ghanaian Christians at the 2008Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference in Badagry, Nigeria.
“The Ghanaian brethren are establishing churches everywhere they go because they love God,” Ike said. “They were empowered by dedicated brethren who also loved God. As a result, their work yields increase.”
From the time they are baptized, Ghanaians “are constantly reminded to spread the good news,” said Benjamin Okai, a Ghanaian student atHarding University in Searcy, Ark.
Before moving to the U.S., Okai preached for the Brescia Church ofChrist in Italy. The church, established in the 1960s, was mostlyItalian, with a few U.S. missionaries, until the 1990s, when Ghanaians moved into the area. Now the majority of the church’s 120 attendees areGhanaian, member Isaac Asante said.
On a continent often referred to as “post-Christian,” the influx ofGhanaian members is welcome news for European church members.
“Their faith is so strong. It’s refreshing to see,” said Tony Console,an Italian-born believer who has served as a vocational missionary in his home nation for more than 20 years.
While Ghanaians have reached fellow Ghanaians with the gospel, theyhave little success ministering to their new countrymen — Europeans.Many immigrants don’t speak Italian fluently, and Italians don’t feel comfortable attending services in a Ghanaian language — or evenEnglish.
“It’s not that they don’t want to mix,” Console said. “It’s just that they like to do things in their own language.”
Ghanaians are used to receptivity, said Kingsley Tuffour, a member of the Deurne church in Antwerp.
“If you reach out to a person of color like yourself, they give you attention,” Tuffour said. “Sometimes, if you ask a white man, ‘Pleasecan I tell you (about Jesus)?’ he won’t even give you time.”
Ghanaian Christians face similar challenges as their Western counterparts when it comes to reaching Europeans, said Paul Brazle, anAmerican missionary who works with the Deurne church. Culturaldifferences compound those challenges.
“Europeans — even from the perspective of their materialistic secularism — still think in terms of ‘we were the ones who sent missionaries there,’” Brazle said. “In contrast, the Africans have an open ear with every new African immigrant.”
As a result, European Churches of Christ are increasingly African.Though most church members are used to cultural diversity, they are“challenged with being overwhelmed by the increasing African proportions — and everything that comes with that,” Brazle said.
“That looks to be our situation here in Deurne,” he added. “The Holy Spirit has some work to do to guide us through this.”
Pascal Yankey, who worships with his family at the Deurne church, was 12 when he left Ghana for Antwerp.
“I consider myself as a Belgian,” said Yankey, now 19. He speaksEnglish with a slight European accent and, unlike many older Ghanaians,is fluent in Dutch. He enjoys participating in activities with Belgian youths, though he acknowledges that his lifestyle is much differentfrom theirs.
Members of the Amsterdam Church of Christ, about 90 minutes north ofAntwerp, told The Christian Chronicle that they’re concerned about their children losing their Ghanaian heritage and adopting Europe’ssecular culture. The church worships in English and Twi. For many ofthe members’ children, it’s one of the few times during the week when they hear their parents’ native language.
But the congregation’s love for God requires no translation, said Gale Branham, who came to Amsterdam from the Caribbean island of Aruba,where she was baptized at the San Nicolas Church of Christ.
Though she’s never traveled to Ghana, she feels at home among the Ghanaian Christians and has even learned to sing hymns in Twi.
“I have lived in their homes for almost five years, and I applaud their loyalty, dedication respect and love — shown not only to me, but thecommunity in general,” Branham said. “I feel like I am a part of them.”
MORE VIDEOS ONLINE: See members of the Deurne Church of Christ in Belgium singing, and find other videos on The Christian Chronicle’s channel on YouTube.

  • Feedback
    I seriously believe Ghanaian are doing in the work of God. Please my congregation is seriously in of pastor from Ghana to assist the senior pastor.
    Benefits, monthly honorarium and accommodation..
    Please kindly me , this [email protected],
    God bless
    Word bible covenant church int’l
    port harcourt, River
    August, 19 2013

    taifa accra, GAREATER ACCRA
    November, 11 2012

    I have been working in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana for 15 years and have found Ghanaians to be good and receptive people. I admire the fact that when they leave Ghana, they take the gospel with them.
    Joe Connell
    Gloster Street Church of Christ
    Tupelo, Mississippi
    June, 2 2010

Filed under: Global South

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