Ghana’s president promised to protect religious freedom during a meeting with Seventh-day Adventist Church leader Ted N.C. Wilson, and he enthusiastically accepted an offer by Wilson to read the Bible and pray together.
Signaling thriving religious freedom in the West African country, 20,000 Adventists also gathered over the weekend to celebrate a milestone in Africa’s church history.
Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo raised the issue of religious freedom after welcoming an Adventist delegation to Jubilee House, the seat of government, in the capital city, Accra.
“We are a country where even though the overwhelming majority are Christians, we have a significant Muslim population and there are still a few who are committed to the old gods,” said Akufo-Addo, speaking at the head of a table flanked by Adventist leaders on one side and senior government officials on the other.
“They make up the population, and we live here in harmony and in tolerance of each other,” he said. “It is one of the distinctive features of our country, and it is one that we want to preserve.”
He made the pledge after Wilson described the Adventist Church’s efforts to improve lives in Ghana and around the world by meeting people’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs.
The Adventist Church has a significant presence in Ghana, with 342,000 members worshiping in nearly 4,000 congregations, according to the world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Ghana has more Adventists than any other country in the church’s West-Central Africa Division. About 71 percent of Ghana’s population of 28.8 million is estimated to be Christian, while 18 percent is Muslim and 5 percent is traditional.
Reading the Praying
Wilson thanked Akufo-Addo for supporting religious freedom and, near the end of the 20-minute meeting, offered to read from the Bible and pray. Akufo-Addo smiled broadly at the proposal and exclaimed that he would like to hear both a Bible passage and the prayer.
Wilson opened a small Bible to Micah 6:8 and read, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (KJV). Wilson paused as he read each of the requirements — to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly — and commented on their meanings. God blesses those who follow this advice, he said.
Akufo-Addo bowed his head as Wilson prayed for him, his family, his administration, Ghana, and its people. In parting, Wilson presented him and his team with copies of a book by evangelist Mark Finley.
Afterward, members of the Adventist delegation praised God for the large number of senior government leaders who were able to learn about the Adventist Church at the meeting.
“Normally, it doesn’t happen this way,” said Joe A. Hagan, a longtime church leader for public affairs, who coordinated Wilson’s visit. “You might get one person, the president or the vice president. This has been very, very tremendous.”
Among those present were Ghana’s vice president, Mahamudu Bawumia; the presidential chief of staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare; the president’s executive secretary and assistant secretary; and the government leader responsible for religious affairs. The Adventist group included Wilson’s wife, Nancy, and top leaders from the West-Central Africa Division and the church’s two unions in Ghana.
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Celebrating 50 Years
Following the Jan. 31 meeting, Wilson took a 30-minute flight to the central city of Kumasi to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Central Ghana Conference, the first black conference in Africa. The continent’s first conferences, located in southern Africa, were white, and the Central Ghana Conference became the first black conference upon its formation in 1970. To obtain the status of conference, a church entity must be completely self-supporting.
On Sabbath morning, Feb. 1, thousands of people packed a Kumasi arena for a celebratory worship service. Some of the 20,000 worshipers started arriving at 5 a.m., and they stayed until 3:30 p.m. During the service, church leaders described how God has led the conference from its beginnings and how He has blessed Ghana today with two unions comprised of 19 conferences and three missions.
Wilson, speaking in an anniversary sermon, urged church members not to rest on the conference’s past successes but to move forward through Total Member Involvement, a world church initiative in which every person does something for Jesus.
“Jesus is coming soon,” he said in the sermon live-streamed by Hope Channel Ghana. “Do you believe it? If you do, what are you doing about it?”
Reading from Ellen White’s book “Testimonies for the Church,” volume 9, page 116, he said, “The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.”
Elie Weick-Dido, president of the West-Central Africa Division, praised the anniversary as an important reminder of God’s power.
“The celebration was an encouragement to all African countries that the church belongs to the Lord,” he said in an interview. “If we trust Him and cooperate with Him, He will do things that are beyond our understanding. That is what I have learned from the celebration of this conference.”
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Visiting University Church
Before the anniversary sermon, Wilson spoke with hundreds of students at the Adventist university church at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, a major public university in Kumasi. In a short sermon, he urged the students to read the Bible daily and to participate in Total Student Involvement.
“Have respect for God and for His precious Word,” he said. “Don’t let a day go by without spending time in the Word of God.”
Late Sabbath afternoon, he stopped by the grounds of the Central Ghana Conference headquarters in the city of Kwadaso to unveil a 50th-anniversary statute, watch dozens of people be baptized, and dedicate a new central pharmacy building that will distribute medicine to Adventist medical facilities around Ghana.
Wilson visited Ghana as part of a three-week trip to five countries. He arrived from Jordan, where an Adventist school inaugurated a significant expansion, and he next will attend a General Conference Global Leadership Summit in Cape Town, South Africa. The trip will wrap up with stops in Malawi and Angola.
In an interview, Wilson gave thanks to God for the faithfulness of church members in Africa.
“God is so much alive and in the hearts of our people in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, pushing the borders of the proclamation of the three angels’ messages to the very last person,” he said.