U.S. and Ghanaian Presbyterian congregations inspire one another through mission partnership
October 31, 2017
In an age of tightened budgets and more limited financial resources, congregations are understandably counting the cost to engage in mission. Supporting the work of African partner churches in areas like evangelism, poverty reduction and reconciliation does, after all, take money.
At the same time, it is crucial to look beyond simply what it costs to engage in mission. It is equally important to consider how mission gives Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations opportunities to grow in faith and be spiritually nurtured and enriched by our African partners.
Let me share with you two stories of U.S. churches that became involved with mission in Ghana, and the impact it has had on their congregations. These churches are proof that mission partnerships deepen the faith of those directly involved in international mission, while sparking revitalization stateside in new and unexpected ways.
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, first became interested in mission in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. According to Elder Carolyn Smith, the congregation felt a need to “increase awareness of marginalized people in our own community, particularly communities of color and immigrant groups.”
Around this time, the Westminster congregation met a Ghanaian Presbyterian pastor who was visiting the U.S., the Rev. Alice Kyei-Anti, who convinced them to visit Ghana. Rev. Alice’s connection to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began in the early 1990s, when she worked with World Mission in Malawi, assisting the Malawian Presbyterian partner on its journey to ordain female pastors.
Over time, Rev. Alice helped Westminster develop a partnership with Presbyterian Church of Ghana congregations in the city of Tema. Because issues like education, health and the environment were affecting the community in Albany, Westminster took a special interest in these areas in Ghana as well.
Elder Tom McPheeters, who has been involved with mission in West Africa and Albany, felt there was a special synergy between the two efforts, and that each has gone much further because of contributions from the other. “Community revitalization knows no boundaries,” he explained, “even if some of the issues are quite different. In the end, it’s all about people and relationships.”
Before Westminster became involved in Ghana in 2001, they were a congregation whose membership was 99 percent white. But as mission inspired them to reach out to the local community, they have now become a congregation where 20 percent of the nearly 400 members are immigrants from countries like Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Elder Lois Wilson, who has been especially active in reaching out to the African immigrant community in Albany, spoke about the transformation these new members have brought to Westminster. Friends from West Africa “have enriched our lives,” Lois said.
A second congregation that has experienced transformation through African mission work is the First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield, Connecticut. In 2016, after an exploratory visit, the congregation decided to support PC(USA) partner the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Ghana in its efforts to develop and expand a maternity clinic in the town of Dzemeni.
First Fairfield knew they couldn’t take on this project alone, so they reached out to other congregations in Southern New England Presbytery to join together with them in supporting the maternity clinic. Turn of the River Presbyterian Church in Stamford, Connecticut, was excited that mission in Ghana was helping bring these neighboring congregations closer together, heightening the sense that they were part of the one body of Christ.
Those from First Fairfield who have traveled to Ghana also knew that only a few from the congregation would ever have the opportunity to take part in a mission trip, so they began looking for ways to include a local component of mission. Several from the church joined a Ghanaian Presbyterian congregation in the Bronx, New York, for worship and lunch last year, and in May, a contingent from that Bronx congregation worshipped with them in Fairfield.
Elder Patti Law, who has been leading First Fairfield’s effort to develop a partnership in Ghana, was especially touched by the joint worship on Mother’s Day, knowing that the money they raise for Ghana will support the development of a church-run maternity clinic. She called it “a fabulous convergence of the theme of new life.”
Rev. Josh Heikkila, Presbyterian World Mission’s regional liaison for West Africa and served as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Ghana from 2002–03
Today’s Focus: U.S. and Ghanaian Presbyterian congregations
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious Lord, thank you for your persistent calling in our lives. Tune our ears to hear your voice, as you beckon us out of the comfortable spaces and into the wilderness. Bless us always with partners for the journey. Amen.