Dotted along the gold coast of Ghana are a series of glistening 16th century slave castles, magnificent in beauty and nefarious in purpose. Inside these haunted walls, an unspeakable terror occurred. African slaves captured and sold to the European colonizers were herded into prison cells awaiting their passage to the New World where they would be divorced from their families and culture, given new names, and spend the rest of their days in miserable servitude in a foreign land without any hope of freedom. The door through which these condemned slaves passed to board ships to the New World came to be known as “The Door of No Return.”
While the slave trade has been abolished for almost two centuries, there is an even more terrible slavery that still haunts this beautiful country. It is the slavery of fear. Driving down the congested and chaotic roads of Accra one cannot go more than a couple of miles without seeing a large billboard or banner announcing deliverance and breakthrough from snake charmers and magic men disguised as shepherds of the flock of God. Capitalizing on the fear invoked by the pervasive animism that characterizes African traditional religion, these hucksters promise deliverance to the afflicted while the only thing they deliver their unfortunate victims from is their money and dignity.
ITEM exists to confront this modern-day slavery by training and equipping pastors to advance the true gospel through healthy and vibrant churches. The hope of Ghana and all of Africa is to know the truth, for it is only the truth of the gospel that can set the captive free. It is for the sake of the truth that I find myself in this haunted land.
Having arrived in Accra very late in the night after a nine-hour layover in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, I was pleased to pass through immigration smoothly without being molested by airport personnel over COVID protocols. Compared to many other airports in Africa, the Kotoka International Airport in Accra is a jewel, particularly as it relates to its efficiency. For Southerners in the States, it is like comparing the customer service at Chick-Fil-A to McDonalds. If you know, you know.
It is always a little awkward to meet someone face to face for the first time at an airport. Nevertheless, I had come to Accra to meet with our ITEM coordinator Stephen Okan and his team. Somehow having recognized him out of the sea of faces waiting for arrivals and doing my best Michael Jackson moves to avoid the eager baggage handlers, we embraced and immediately departed for my new digs for the next couple of days at the Shiloh Guest House.
A guest house in Africa is, in the words of Forrest Gump, like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. Fortunately, the Lord smiled on me, and my room is spacious, air conditioned, supplied with ample water pressure and hot water, and even contains a mini refrigerator to boot. Exhausted from a long day I fell into bed and immediately went to sleep.
Having awakened feeling somewhat refreshed, I went about my morning routine only to discover I had left my favorite razor in Cameroon. Oh well, I suppose that I will let what is left of the hair on my head grow until I can purchase another one. I’ve been curious to see how grey I am anyway.
After a dull cup of Nescafe, it was time to meet with several members of the ITEM Ghana team. Pastor Stephen Okan, our coordinator, is a gentle man, advanced in years, wafer-thin, and very quiet. It was a joy getting to know him sharing about our families and hearing his personal story of salvation, his experiences over forty-six years of ministry, and how he became connected with ITEM. In fact, it is Pastor Stephen that first invited ITEM to come to Ghana.
Having discussed some issues of concern, heard testimonies of ITEM’s impact, and mapped out plan to move training forward in Ghana, unbeknownst to me Pastor Stephen had scheduled me to do a teaching session with the whole Ghana ITEM team at his church. I was quickly reminded of the need to be instant in season and out of season.
The meeting turned out to be a wonderful time of sharing ITEM’s vision, mission, and method. The team is comprised of the first group of pastors who have received ITEM’s training in Ghana. ITEM’s work here is still in its nascent stage. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the team members response and their resolve to continue in the training process and then multiply that training to others. Ghana, like so many other countries in the majority world is pregnant with opportunity.
To that end, for some time I have been conversing with a pastor from Benin concerning launching ITEM training there. When he discovered I would be in Accra, he decided to come and meet me here so we could discuss ITEM further. Fortunately, he was able to attend the meeting where I shared the vision, mission, and method of ITEM with the Ghana team and after our conversation was excited about moving forward with bringing ITEM to Benin. When I think about the many doors the Lord is opening for ITEM to expand training it is both exciting and overwhelming. The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Would you join with me in prayer that God would provide the resources for ITEM to continue to expand?
On a lighter note, I was delighted to finally find a Coke Zero! The Lord is good! Additionally, a great little restaurant is right around the corner from the guest house that serves really good food for a pittance. Tomorrow is my last day in Accra before heading back to the States on the redeye. I’m looking forward to visiting the beach and taking in some of the local culture.
Until next time. So long from Ghana!