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Ghanaian Christians jailed after baptism drowning


A washed-out bridge in the city of Swedru, Ghana. (Photo provided by David Essuman)

Christians in Africa and the U.S. seek prayers for three members of a Church of Christ in Ghana who were arrested in connection with a July 4 drowning following a baptism there.
The following information comes from Gary Heath, deacon of missions for the Mesa, Ariz., Church of Christ, and Joel Coppinger, of World Bible School of Tulare County in Visalia, Calif. Both men make regular trips to the region for Gospel campaigns.
The drowning happened July 4, said Christopher Arthur, minister for a Church of Christ in Swedru, a city west of the capital, Accra.
Derick Ayensu, a church member in Swedru, was visiting a congregation in the nearby village of Mensakrom. After the worship service, two men asked to be baptized.
Church members took them to the edge of a river. High rainfall in late June caused flooding in Swedru and knocked out bridges in the city. It also made the rivers that flow through the region dangerous.
Ayensu baptized the two men and left the river without incident. Then Ayensu returned to the river to rinse off his feet. He slipped and was washed downstream. His body was found six days later.
“Police came and arrested the two new converts with the brother in charge of the village church,” Arthur said, “and the police wanted to charge them with negligence of duty leading to death.” Other charges include operating an unlicensed church, Heath said.
Arthur also was arrested and held in jail overnight before he was released.
The three church members in prison are scheduled to be in court tomorrow (July 23). Ghanaian church members will appeal to the judges to have the charges dismissed.
Heath and Coppinger are collecting funds to help with the church members’ legal defense. For more information, contact Heath through Aid N Action Ghana. (Click here for a mailing address and more information) or the Mesa Church of Christ. Coppinger can be contacted through World Bible School of Tulare County.
The city of Swedru is home of the Swedru International Bible Institute, an affiliate of Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas. In a recent newsletter, David Essuman, who oversees the school, describes the flooding there:

Two days upon my arrival in Ghana, there was a heavy downpour which lasted for over 20 hours. As a result, the River Akora, which divides the city into two (regions), overflowed its banks and there was flood stretching several thousands of yards to the business district of Agona Swedru.
Two of the main bridges on the river … were all washed away, making it impossible for motorists and humans to cross.
We experienced electricity power cut, because majority of the poles were down, telephone lines were no longer working, water supply was affected. … We are virtually trapped. Several homes were destroyed as a result of the flood, and many buildings in the business center collapsed.

  • Feedback
    This definitely shows unjust actions. I am praying for the members and the Body of Christ.
    Nita kirkland
    July, 22 2010

    It was clearly a lack of common sense to baptize people in a river after heavy rains and flooding. Negligence, but certainly no malice. I hope and pray for the release of the disciples who were arrested and for the comfort of the family of the deceased.
    Adam Gonnerman
    July, 22 2010

    I have revised this post based on new information. The person who drowned was not one of the new converts, but the church member who baptized them. I apologize for the error.
    I just received word that the three church members were released from jail today. There’s still a court appearance related to this case set for Monday, so prayers continue to be needed. The funeral for the drowned man will be tomorrow. Church leaders will meet with members of his family this weekend.
    Erik Tryggestad
    July, 23 2010

    I agree with Adam that it was not appropriate to attempt to baptize anyone in a flood-swollen river. But the incident could not have been intentional. Surely the judge will recognize this.
    John Gentry
    July, 23 2010

    I was in Ghana in September with Joel Coppinger and Gary Heath and worked with Derick while in the Swedru area. This was a terrible tragedy but when someone wants to become a Christian and there is no facility available one uses the only water source there is. We baptized approximately 500 people during our campaign. Everyone was either baptized in the river or the ocean depending on our location. I think that it is important when someone realizes the need for baptism that they be baptized immediately. It is easy for us to criticize or second guess motives. However, the Ghanaians live with this situation regularly and, more importantly, their resources for baptizing is very, very limited. There was no problem with the two baptisms; the accident occured when Derick returned to the river to wash his feet. We will continue to do all we can, we have sent money, and more importantly we send prayers. I am very excited to be returning to Ghana in January with Gary when we will again be baptizing in the river by the grace of God.
    Steven Black
    July, 26 2010

    Steven:
    Appreciate the comment. Originally we received information that the drowning victim was one of the people who got baptized. I have changed the post to correct that, but I think the comments from John and Adam preceded that change. I don’t know if that changes anything for anyone, but I thought I should clarify that point.
    Also, I would love to know any comments you have about Derrick (what kind of person he was, how he’ll be remembered) for the story I’m putting together now for our print edition. You can post again here or send me an <a href=”mailto:[email protected]” rel=”nofollow”>e-mail</a>. Thanks.
    Also, I’m looking for a photo of Derrick if you or anyone else has one.
    Erik Tryggestad
    July, 26 2010

    We also worked with a WBS campaign in that area in February of this year and baptized a number of people in that same area. As Steven mentions above, they use what they have. They have few buildings and non with an indoor baptistry as we use here in the US. So it is easy to find fault, but we have baptized in crocodile infested rivers, flooded rivers, contaminated water, and water that I would not touch. But we did it because the person so desired and the Lord so commanded. They are in His hands; as is our Brother Derrick. We are saddened by this news and our prayers are with these new converts and with the church there in Ghana.
    Ron Pottberg
    July, 26 2010

    CHURCH MEMBERS IN GHANA REMEMBERED THE LEGACY AS THEY SHARED A MOMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE ”GREAT HERO”
    HIS FUNERAL WAS A DAY WHEN .
    WE USE THE DEAD OF DERICK ANYENSU TO PREACH MORE ON WATER BAPTISM FOR PEOPLE OF SSWEDRU,WHO ARE ASKING WHY ”WATER BAPTISM”?
    IT WAS A GREAT DAY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN THERE TO BE HAPPY FOR WATER BAPTISM WHEN PEOPLE.
    MORE THAN 500 PEOPLE GATHERED IN AND AROUND THE FUNERAL GROUND TO HEAR THE ”GOSPEL OF CHRIST”
    CHRIST WARNED MEMBERS TO EXPECT DIFFICULTY.EVEN IN THE WORST OF TIMES,THEY SHOULD REMEBER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS AND THAT ”HE WILL BE EXALTED” THAT VICTORY IS ASURED.
    WHILE OBEYING GOD MAY NOT BE ALWAYS BE EASY,IT IS ETERNALLY REWARDING”
    NOAH MENDS
    July, 27 2010

    Thanks Noah, I couldn’t have said it better. You hit the nail on the head. God Bless You and your family for the work your doing in Ghana
    Steven Black
    July, 27 2010

    A practical suggestion for anyone baptizing in dangerous waters. Tie a rope around the waist of the person doing the baptizing and another rope around the waist of the person being baptized. Each rope should be held by someone on land who is strong.
    Roy Davison
    Roy Davison
    July, 27 2010

    This is part of a email from Noah Mends:
    <blockquote>Thanks be to God for the great things he has done. The late Derrick’s family was reminded the circumstances may be extremely difficult and they may have no clue why God is designing their situation the way he is, but they should remember Christ’s words in John 16:33 ‘You will have suffering in the world, be courageous. I have conquered the world.'”
    After the end of the preaching the following were Baptized in the same river
    The father
    his mother’s sister
    and a visitor.
    The father was so touched by the work his son was doing for the Lord, that he promised to be closer to God then ever.
    We need to continue to pray for the family and the church.
    Glory be to God the Father, and His mercy.</blockquote>
    Steven Black
    July, 28 2010

    In case you haven’t seen it, I have written an <a href=”https://christianchronicle.org/blog/2010/07/christians-freed-souls-saved-after-ghana-baptism-drowning/” rel=”nofollow”>updated blog post</a> about this. Thanks.
    Erik Tryggestad
    July, 28 2010

    […] NSRI and a police dive unit were continuing their search for the three. Ghanaian Christians Arrested After Baptism Drowning (Erik Tryggestad/The Christian Chronicle; July […]
    Quest For Eternal Life Proves Deadly Yet Again | AnAtheist.Net
    July, 28 2010

    There is a purpose why things happen the way they do. Man may see it another way because it is painful to him,but Our Father knows it all.
    That incident could be god’s way of calling the Ghanian government authorities to salvation.
    Obed Anthony
    July, 28 2010

Filed under: Breaking News News Extras

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