In Ghana, dream for Christian college materializes
From a blaring television at an auto parts store next door, President Barack Obama’s recent speech to Ghana’s Parliament drifted into the Nsawam Road Church of Christ auditorium.
“America will be with you every step of the way, as a partner, as a friend,” the nation’s first black president said.
In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office, Obama promised U.S. support to help Africa build a better political and economic future.
At that exact moment, several hundred Christians were gathered inside the Nsawam Road church building to celebrate a different kind of partnership — one with eternal ramifications.
“As significant as Obama’s visit is … what we’re doing has a far more staggering impact for Africa because we’re dealing with souls,” said Deon Fair, a member of the Richardson East Church of Christ in Texas and a key figure in efforts to develop a Christian liberal arts university in this small coastal nation.
As Obama spoke that Saturday, the leaders of two Christian higher education institutions — one in West Africa, the other 6,500 miles away in West Texas — signed a memorandum of understanding.
The agreement formalizes a partnership that started in 2002 between Heritage Christian College and Abilene Christian University.
“What we did today was a product of a seed we sowed many years back,” said Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah, the Ghanaian preacher who shared his dream for starting Heritage Christian College while earning a master’s degree at ACU a decade ago.
Akosua Konadu Asamoah, who goes by “Olivia,” joined other Nsawam Road members in celebrating the partnership.
“For the Church of Christ in Ghana to have a university is brilliant, and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for the church through the establishment of this school,” said Asamoah, a human resources professional working on a master’s degree in business administration.
A HIGHER EDUCATION FOR GHANA
The 1,200-member Nsawam Road church — the largest Church of Christ in Ghana — oversees Heritage Christian.
The church building sits beside a busy, six-lane highway at the center of this developing metropolis, where most commerce seems to occur at street corners as vendors peddle fruit, toilet paper and other items to motorists stalled in traffic.
In the past 20 years, the Nsawam Road church has:
• Planted about 40 congregations throughout Ghana.
• Sent missionaries to Muslim-dominated Mali as well as Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Senegal and Togo.
• Coordinated the drilling of water wells in disease-infested communities of northern Ghana.
• Supported the Village of Hope orphanage’s vocational training program for street children in Accra.
Now, Twumasi-Ankrah and Nsawam Road elders see transforming Heritage Christian from a preacher-training school to a broad-based university as a crucial step in developing leaders.
“We think we should broaden our scope … and also train people who do not plan to be in full-time ministry,” Twumasi-Ankrah said.
The church needs educated leaders, he said, who can “address questions that arise from science and technology without losing faith in Christ.”
Heritage seeks national accreditation to offer business and Bible degrees and hopes to add future majors in nursing, education and community development, he said.
To help, ACU has promised to provide a rotation of temporary faculty and offer full-tuition scholarships to train potential permanent professors from Ghana.
ACU also intends to supply secure Internet access to its electronic library and furnish curriculum consulting and mentoring.
“I’m very impressed with what the Ghanaian Christians have pretty much done on their own,” ACU President Royce Money said. “I think it’s important that whatever we do that (Heritage) remain indigenous and also autonomous.”
Money, Twumasi-Ankrah and other leaders held a series of meetings with top Ghanaian officials — including minister of education Alex Tetteh-Enyo — to lobby for national accreditation for Heritage Christian.
Twumasi-Ankrah and Money also appeared on national television to promote a business seminar at the Nsawam Road church.
“I think God’s all over this,” said Fair, an ACU trustee and head of a U.S.-based foundation to raise funds for Heritage.
Since missionaries and native converts planted the first Churches of Christ in Ghana in the late 1950s, church membership has boomed.
Some researchers estimate that 450,000 church members now live in Ghana. Others put the number as high as 700,000.
But membership at the Nsawam Road church has reached a plateau, said Harold Oko-Asamoa, one of the church’s deacons.
Some of the decline can be attributed to Nsawam Road’s church-planting efforts, but Oko-Asamoa suggests Ghana’s rapid urbanization also has played a role.
“Almost every Lord’s Day, we were baptizing two or three people,” he said. After Sunday worship, “we went to a brother’s house and spent the whole afternoon.”
But that was years ago.
Now, Accra’s streets are choked with cars. Many church members hurry to attend to their businesses after worship.
Door-knocking evangelism in the city is increasingly difficult, Oko-Asamoa said.
As Ghana’s economy expands, some residents have left their tin-roofed shacks for gated houses surrounded by barbed wire.
To provide financial stability for Ghana’s congregations — and reach the growing urban population — church leaders are establishing programs that go beyond ministry training.
Other African church leaders are doing the same.
In nearby Nigeria, longtime minister Moses Akpanudo oversees Obong University, a four-year university accredited by the Nigerian government in 2007. The university offers degrees in business and liberal arts.
Since 1997, Akpanudo and his family operated a college of management and ministry training school near their home in Obong Ntak, Nigeria. The curriculum includes daily chapel and Bible study.
In Nairobi, Kenya, the Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute trains students in computer operations, Web design, automotive engineering and electronics.
Berkeley Hackett, a longtime missionary in the East African nation, serves as the institute’s principal. More than 2,000 students study at the institute, which has its own choir, drama club and basketball team.
In neighboring Uganda, members of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches are partnering with African congregations to establish LivingStone International University.
HE TAKES THE WORD WITH HIM
Back in Accra, Heritage Christian occupies a 10-acre campus 12 miles north of the church. The lush green campus, with the first two floors of a planned five-story classroom building constructed, overlooks banana and papaya trees and a soccer field where children play.
A Ghanaian church leader bought the land. American church members contributed funds to start the concrete-block buildings, using volunteer labor by church members.
Nsawam Road elder Douglas Boateng serves as chairman and CEO of an Accra-based fishing gear and equipment company with subsidiaries all over Africa.
Boateng has used his business connections to help plant churches in several countries.
He foresees the day when vocational missionaries trained by Heritage Christian will take the gospel all over the world, including mission points in North America.
“Ghanaians are travelers, and just like in Acts chapter 8, when we go, we go with the Word,” Boateng said. “I am a businessman, and as I go, the Lord uses the business. We believe that the Lord has sent us, and we are called for that.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Erik Tryggestad
Feedbacki would like to receive some teaching material on the church of christ. matt.16:18lydia opokucatholic churchaccra, ghana
ghanaJune, 13 2012i’m so thrilled and elated to hear about heritage christian and the great work coming from preaching and teaching the gospel!i heard about a 1200 member congregation in accra,but didn’t know where it was located.i been threre twice,and i can see the people listen to a lot of religious music on sunday,and i was so shocked to learn that ghana had so many churches of christ,and wasn’t aware of it.keep up the great work with the strength and power God provide to them that love him. robert lumpkinrobert lumpkinfriendly ave.church of christhigh point, north carolina
usaFebruary, 11 2012CONGRATULATIONS!
The word of God is clear on meeting the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a mile stone in achieving and equiping Africa with the word of God.Thats a dream come true and we expect more to come to AFRICA esp Kenya where Islamic is geting roots very fast.Denis MulliCHANGAMWE CHURCH OF CHRISTChnangamwe, Mombasa
KenyaSeptember, 12 2009It is good to have University at Ghana and that is a great things which God has done to Africa.Brother Erick we want also to pry for Kenya So that we may have one.God bless you.Paul OchiengPaul Odhiambo OchiengSoweto Church of ChristMombasa, Oklohoma
KenyaAugust, 26 2009Oh yes!! “This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it” As art of those who witness the great ceremony of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between ACU and HCC which is part of the preparation for HCC to attain a status of University in Ghana,and as a bible student of HCC and preacher, I urge everybody to join hands to help this dream come through.Lawrence LampteyAfiaman church of christAccra, W/A
GhanaAugust, 15 2009Yes, this is what I have been praying for that Church of Christ in Ghana should have their own universities to compete with. As member of the church it is my prayer that every Ghanaian member should take that opportunity to enroll themselves. I am ready for somebody to sponsor me to go and pursue my first degree in Christian Heritage College.
Grace to you all.Maxwell K.W. AgyarkoOorikrom Church of ChristKumasi, Ashanti Region
GhanaAugust, 14 2009To say that I am happy is an understatement infact I am very excited to know that at last we have a university college in Ghana. I couldn’t understand why a church like ours didn’t have a single University while other denominational churches had at least one university college.Let us contribute generously to this project.God bless anyone involved with this projectPrince KyeiFriendly Avenue Church of ChristGreensboro, NC
USAAugust, 12 2009Thanks Ken, but I fell compelled to point out that Bobby Ross wrote the story! I contributed a few paragraphs and shot most of the photos. Go Dawgs!Erik TryggestadMemorial Road Church of ChristEdmond, OK
USAAugust, 11 2009Erik,
You did a great job writing and reporting; A great article. I love to tell the Ghana story. worked with and through their missionares wile at World Radio: in Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Benin, The Gambia, Central African Republic and now…Equitoral Guinea. If you added to this list the fact that the Ghanans working in Brussels, London, Montreal, and Toronto… you’d have an article!
Ya done good! Go Dawgs – KenKen BoldenSheridanSheridan, AR
USAAugust, 11 2009