Friday, February 18, 2011

PCUSA Mission Yearbook - Nigeria - February 18, 2011

The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria traces its origins to 1846, when missionaries from Scotland arrived in Calabar, at the invitation of the local kings.  In its early years, the church spread to the nearby cities of Port Harcourt and Aba.  In more recent times, it has expanded into Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, and Abuja, the political capital.  The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria is a large, vibrant, and growing denomination.  It is a wonderful example of how a church can be African, charismatic, and Reformed, all at the same time. 

The church has placed a high priority on establishing a university, named Hope Waddell University, in honor of the first Presbyterian missionary to arrive in the country.  The church envisions “a dynamic institution built on the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria’s tradition of academic excellence and the Church’s commitment to the regeneration of society toward service to God and humanity.”  It sees the university as a way to train leaders who will serve Nigeria, just as the church has served the country. 

Nigeria’s potential is enormous.  It has a large and educated population, and vast natural resources.  But the problems are also daunting.  There is periodic violence between religious and ethnic groups, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while most are poor.  Let us pray, therefore, for the church and its work. 

Lord God, you have promised that in Christ, there is a new creation, the old has past and the new is come.  We pray for the Christian mission, ministry, and service of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.  With the power of your Holy Spirit, may they bring about transformation and regeneration of church and society.  

The moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Rev. U. B. Usung, standing in front of a historic congregation in the city of Calabar.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PCUSA Mission Yearbook - Ghana - February 16, 2011

In 1869, Swiss missionaries Fritz and Rose Ramseyer were captured and imprisoned by the Asante people of Ghana.  During their five years in captivity, they became the first people to preach the gospel of Christ in the Asante capital of Kumasi

In 1896, the Ramseyers returned to Kumasi, this time to establish a new preaching post for the Basel Mission.  Those five years in prison had prepared them well, as they once again began to evangelize among the Asante people. 

Today, the Ramseyer Memorial Presbyterian Church sits atop one of the highest hills in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city.  More than a thousand people pass through its doors every Sunday.  It is a vibrant and important congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

One block away from Ramseyer, on the grounds of the old Basel Mission, the congregation has begun to reach out to the many Ghanaian northerners who have moved south to Kumasi for work.  Although the northerners often come from families with a Muslim or traditional African religious background, they have embraced Christianity with zeal.

This Frafra-language speaking fellowship, part of the PCG’s “Northern Outreach Program,” is about 100 strong in number.  Almost all are under the age of 30.  It is wonderful to witness their new faith in Christ and the powerful way the Holy Spirit is working in their midst. 

Prayer:  Lord God, we are grateful for those who planted the seed of your gospel in years past; we are grateful for those who continue this work today.  We pray for the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and for its Northern Outreach Program.  May it continue to spread the good news of your Son Jesus Christ among all the many peoples of Ghana.  

The Ramseyer Memorial Presbyterian Church, founded in 1896, located in the heart of Kumasi, Ghana's second city.

A member of the Northern Outreach Program Frafra-speaking congregation choir, standing in front of the old work shed which they use as their chapel.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February, 2011 - Togo

One Sunday a few weeks ago, I crossed over the border from Ghana to Togo, to attend church in a village called Badja.  The congregation there, part of the Eglise Evang√©lique Presbyt√©rienne du Togo, has a friendship with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, congregation in Nima, Accra, 150 miles to the southwest.  Nima is the closest congregation to my house, and I often worship there when I’m not pulled elsewhere for work.  As a result, I had met some Badja church members in Accra, and I was now looking forward to seeing them in their home village.

I have to say, I was amazed by this small church and its congregation of about 75 people. Their deep faith, the hospitality they extended to me, and most of all their wonderful worship and music, gave me a renewed sense of peace and hope that I really needed at that moment in time.

The youth choir of the congregation.

Throughout Ghana and Togo, there is something I really like about small rural and urban congregations, both of which are perceived as insignificant within their denominations. In these congregations, people are so grateful to see visitors from far away. They express a gratitude and affection to those who simply take time to visit them. It’s as if just showing up is enough to make you a saint.

I’ve also especially come to like the Togolese Presbyterians for their commitment to justice and compassion ministries. This past year, the EEPT chose as its annual theme, “Life in Abundance: Preserving Human Dignity.” The denomination seems unique in West Africa, for the central focus it places on this aspect of Christian faith and practice.

As more and more churches in West Africa are influenced by a hollow charismatic prosperity gospel, let’s pray that the EEPT can be a model of something different and better. Pray that others will follow their lead, being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who live joyfully, trusting in the promises of God, and who serve others with Christ-like love and compassion.

It surely is a striking contrast to what has become so common these days – those who shout Jesus’ name loudly, who make empty promises of wealth and prosperity, and who do everything in their power to appear as a strong “man of God,” claiming to predict the future and perform “miracles and wonders.”

Members of the Badja congregation, greeting one another after worship.