Ghana/Lake Erie partnership brings fresh perspective to mission service and Christian living
by Seth Senyo Agidi | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
— Rom. 14:19
GHANA — The theme for mission partnership between the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana (EPCG) and Lake Erie Presbytery is “Joining Hands in Faith and Friendship.” Since 2012, this theme has defined our partnership in mission and our relationship with the Ghana Mission Network, a collaborative of Presbyterian churches in Ghana and the U.S.
This theme in many ways brings to the forefront our understanding of partnership in God’s global mission. Understanding mission as holding each other’s hand in faith and friendship enhances our faith journey culturally, spiritually, materially and in many other healthy ways. It allows for a building up of one another’s capacity in the mission and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Like all the major Protestant churches in Ghana, the EPCG has been traditionally referred to as a mission church. From the beginning, the mission of the church has focused on conversion-oriented evangelism, church planting, education and socioeconomic development. Thus, the EPCG originally was characterized by much receiving from partner churches in Europe and America and little giving, having been made to understand that we had little or nothing to give in the mission of the church. During that time, the Christian missionary movement was molded by a Western religious and cultural dynamic in which the missionary was, as a giver and an initiator, in a position of power.
However, it did not take long for the EPCG to start moving away from merely receiving to also becoming a missionary church, operating its own mission and ministry programs with partner churches.
In light of this paradigm shift in missionary thinking, mission is no longer regarded by the EPCG as a Western movement of evangelism and church planting, but as the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospels: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The EPCG understands we are called together with all God’s people to work with God and one another in the fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity as a whole. Our life as Christians in this world is a life in mission together. I believe that it is with this understanding that the World Mission Conference, which met in Mexico in 1963, stressed that mission is to be carried out by the whole church because the missio Dei (mission of God) takes place in every continent.
The fact that the Christian church is by its very nature missionary means that the church is one — the PC(USA) and the EPCG are partners and friends in the mission of God. This is critical because the links that bind us together are many and varied. The most vital of these is our commitment to one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one Eucharist. In addition, we are reminded of and conscious of Christ’s priestly prayer that all his disciples be one (John 17). The unity of the church is a challenge to the mission of the EPCG and the PC(USA) to work together as a family of brothers and sisters.
Understanding mission from this perspective, the EPCG sees and practices mission with the PC(USA) as “joining hands in faith and friendship”: participating in the liberating mission of Jesus Christ; relating to, with and for each other as brothers and sisters in God’s extended family; sharing of worship experiences; influencing each other’s faith journey, socioculturally, spiritually and by building up each other’s capacity in the mission and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During fraternal visits, the two sister churches identify areas of collaboration, such as understanding each other’s social and cultural contexts; evangelism, education and training of church agents; scholarship for brilliant and needy children; transportation for church agents to remote areas of the country; renovation of health facilities; and assisting in providing clean water to villages in Ghana.
The presence of Joshua Heikkila, the PC(USA) regional liaison for West Africa, provides an opportunity for a unique relationship. Joshua and visiting friends from the U.S. joyfully participate in almost all activities of the EPCG. We worship together, eat together, sing and dance together. Joshua has pastoral oversight of one of our congregations. He speaks our language. We, in turn, learn more about the U.S. and the global church.
In the faith journey of the Ghana/Lake Erie partnership, we are mutually empowered and enjoy each other’s unique hospitality. Our American friends are welcome to Ghanaian homes with generous smiles of “Mia woe zor”(welcome). This relationship continues to develop into individual and family ties. We mourn, comfort, rejoice with, support and mutually build up each other in our journey of faith and friendship.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Seth Agidi is moderator of the General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.
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