ARAfrica Mission: South Africa and GhanaTwo sisters overcome challenges and embark on a missionary trip to Africa, where they learn and share fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord. They bring home testimonies of God's grace, as well as the call for further support.In 1999, Sister Tracy and Yuyen had the opportunity of joining the missionary trip to Africa. They spent three weeks in Africa fellowshipping with the brothers and sisters in addition to visiting the various churches in South Africa and Ghana. They share their experiences and thoughts on the future work in Africa.
When I used to
listen to testimonies about Africa and invitations for members to get
involved, I had to remind myself that these invitations were not meant for
me. There are different types of services for the Lord, and I thought that
serving in Africa would not be my area. I thought if I wanted to see
Africa, I would either have to go on vacation there or marry a brother who
was willing to take me. So in August 1998 when I approached the
International Assembly (IA) about applying as a volunteer, Africa was not
a place I had in mind.
I do not know
exactly how the prospective trip got started, but before I knew it, Sister
Yuyen Syukur and I had the opportunity to join the June 1999 missionary
trip to Africa. Though the IA accepted our applications in October 1998, I
knew there were many factors that could hinder our trip. For one, there
must have been concerns at different church administrative levels about
sending the first group of sisters to Africa. If not concerns, then there
were questions, and even doubts, from the members about the practicality
of sending sisters to Africa.
I knew that
confirmation from God was the only way to bypass these questions and
sometimes-idle comments. I started to pray about this trip even before I
submitted the application. I prayed to God that if it was His will for
sisters to join the African missions, then He would give me the courage to
go through the entire process, from completing the application to
preparing for and financing the trip, to actually making the journey.
Challenges Before the Trip
In the months before
the trip, there were both personal and external challenges. Each one was
resolved with God’s help through prayer. The most visible and painful
challenge came from the people I love and need the most. Here is the
account I wrote during that time:
March 25, 1999
I received an email
from an IA pastor this morning regarding Africa. The family called him a
few days ago voicing their concerns (and “even objections,” as he put
it) about the trip to Africa.
I saw this coming; I
knew they would do something. Somehow I still hoped that they would change
their minds. Tears filled my eyes as I replied to the pastor. My heart is
broken in two because I know what I’m supposed to do and want to do, but
my heart is being tugged at the weakest spot.
Yesterday I wrote a
letter to Mom expressing my reasons and wishes for going to Africa. I love
Mom and wouldn’t do anything that would cause her pain or worry. Yet,
I’m doing exactly that...
I had many thoughts
yesterday as I wrote Mom. I thought about what Jesus said about leaving
one’s family for His sake. I’m not sure if I’m being too extreme,
but how far would I really go for Christ?
I thought about
earthly relationships, especially with family, in relation to God. Am I
crazy to think that there’s no comparison? It seems illogical for me to
put myself at risk against my family’s wishes and knowingly cause Mom
pain for this invisible thing called God—I question my own
Reading my own words
after returning from Africa reminds me again how gracious and awesome our
Lord is. Not only did my family come around to support me, but they also
came to support and comfort parents of other volunteers to Africa. My
family was able to share with others how worried they were and how much
they needed to trust God for my safety.
God is love. He does
not like to see a rift between family members. What He does want is our
heart and our complete determination. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice
Isaac, He wanted to see if he truly put God before his own son. Once
Abraham proved that he had the faith, God blessed him even more. When my
family tried to talk me out of going to Africa, I was sorrowful, but God
gave me peace and courage. I made up my mind to go despite my family’s
objections, and I asked God to grant them the peace that He had granted
me. In retrospect, I am deeply thankful for God’s grace and His
protection of my family.
Yuyen and I met with
two other IA workers in South Africa. As the trip began, I spent a week in
South Africa visiting the members and assisting with the work there. Most
of the members in South Africa are immigrants from Taiwan. Though they
have a better religious foundation than the rest of the members in Africa,
they still need spiritual nourishment, encouragement, and love. It is
evident that being minorities in a politically unstable country far from
their homeland has taken a toll on some of the members there.
South Africa is a
well-developed country, with modern facilities and comfortable living
conditions. In fact, staying at church there is more comfortable than
living at home in America. I stayed in a new room with a firm, queen-size
bed. It is easy to live very comfortably in South Africa, especially near
the southern coast. There is so much seafood available that it was beyond
my ability to enjoy it all. I can still remember the experience of seeing
and eating whole pieces of abalone.
After South Africa,
I headed to western Africa, to a different kind of Africa. In Ghana, other
than some minor inconveniences such as the occasional lack of running
water and electricity, it was like camping. I heard a rooster crow instead
of the telephone ring, I saw goats and chickens on the road instead of
dogs and cats, I listened to the radio instead of watching TV, and I used
a fan instead of air conditioning. Ghana has tropical weather, so there is
lots of sunshine and humidity, but there is also plenty of sweet and juicy
tropical fruits such as pineapples, mangos, coconuts, papaya, sugar cane,
When I look at the
members in Ghana, I can only attribute their faith to God; for we True
Jesus Church members outside of Africa, who have abundant resources, have
not done nearly enough. They need more assistance in every
respect—particularly in the pastoral area—than we, the world outside
Africa, may be able or willing to give. The pastoral resources for the
entire country, with over ten churches and service areas, consist of three
full-time workers and two full-time preachers. There are no other
ministers serving the members. Imagine your local church or service area
with ministers visiting once every four weeks if you’re lucky, about
four Bibles to share, and no access to sermon tapes and videos.
African members cannot afford to own a Bible or paper and pencils, it is
quite difficult for them to learn and retain information. Imagine if today
all of your learning is completely auditory. Unless you have someone who
reads and is willing to repeat the Bible verses to you over and over, you
will only get to hear them read once during the service. Also keep in mind
that you do not have the luxury of electricity and a study area to do your
spiritual cultivation. How then do you become knowledgeable enough to
provide good spiritual food for the children of God? Indeed, for those in
Africa it is quite difficult, but by the grace of God our members have
kept their faith for the past fourteen years.
Africa is a
beautiful place, full of natural resources and God’s wonderful creation.
Today, Africa needs to have willing workers to stay long-term in each
country where we have churches. Our African brothers and sisters do not
have the same resources that we have. If we love them and want them to
learn and mature in the Lord, then we need to sacrifice and be there to
teach them. It is difficult for us to provide help without knowing how
they live from day to day and week to week.
How can parents
teach their children if they do not know how to read or write, or do not
even have a Bible at home? Without the basic tools, how do we help them if
they do not fully comprehend English? How can we help the general
congregation be rooted in the Word of God?
We all have the
calling to answer these questions. We could help financially through the
IA, by praying for them, and/or by spending time with them personally. Let
us answer Jesus’ calling and be one of the workers, for “the harvest
is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest,
therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Mt 9:37-38).
three short weeks in Africa were full of good fellowship with the
brothers and sisters. I saw the power of our gospel working in
simple people and those in spiritual poverty. Most of all, I tasted
the joy and fulfillment of serving God all day, every day. For a
short time I became one of the missionaries. We prayed, planned,
worked, ate, shared, and laughed together.
In a land far from home
and our loved ones, we had God and one another to rely on—it was the
most wonderful experience. When the workload called for us to separate for
a few days, I was amazed at how much joy we felt when we saw each other
again. It was as if we had been separated from our best friends for weeks.
We recounted every detail, every emotion, and every reflection.
It was a
privilege for me to serve God in Africa. What I have learned and gained
from this trip is far more than words can describe. If you don’t believe
me, ask God to give you the opportunity to experience His grace and
wonderful work as a missionary volunteer.
I thank God for
giving me the opportunity to visit the churches in Africa. I’ve wanted
to visit these churches for a long time, but I’ve always been afraid
that I would be a burden to the preachers. When Sister Tracy Huang asked
me in late 1998 if I was interested in going to Africa, I replied yes.
From then on she arranged most of the communication with the IA.
When I applied for
leave from my work, another senior technologist there was also applying
for his vacation at the same time. I thought that this would be a problem,
because for about three weeks there would be only three technologists
working. I was prepared that I might not be able to make this trip. Yet my
director approved my leave, and I was able to get all the necessary visas
to the U.K., South Africa, and Ghana.
As I read up about
Africa and the various diseases that I could possibly contract there, I
asked myself if this was something I really wanted to do. I had to get
four different vaccinations, including the mandatory yellow fever
vaccination, and we would have to take malaria pills while we were there.
Finally, I just stopped worrying and entrusted everything to God. It all
went smoothly from then on.
We were scheduled to
go to South Africa and Ghana. I would be in South Africa for three days
and Ghana for twelve days. Sister Tracy would stay for an additional week
At the end of May, I
flew to London to meet Tracy. We rested a bit in London before continuing
on to our journey to Johannesburg, a ten-hour flight.
The True Jesus
church in Johannesburg was dedicated in February 1999. It is a modified
residential building. The city of Johannesburg has one of the highest
homicide rates in the world, so like the houses around it, the church
building has automatic double steel gates. As one gate closes, the other
gate will open. It is surrounded by high walls, and on top of the walls
are high-voltage electrical wires. This is supposed to stop intruders from
trying to come in. As you walk around the church compound outside, you can
hear a bzz-bzz sound.
Johannesburg church is comprised of about four families. Brother Wen-Cheng
Lee, the father of one of the families, was a member of the True
Jesus Church before he went to South Africa more than ten years ago.
He was a busy man, and he lived a comfortable life in South Africa.
During his time there, he put aside his faith until an incident
occurred in December 1997.
Brother Lee had
bought a property for his business, and one day he and the real-estate
agent went to the property to evict the seller, who had occupied the
building way past the deadline. When they got to the building, the seller
took out a gun and shot at them. Brother Lee’s agent died at the scene,
and Brother Lee was shot three times. He managed to escape and was sent to
the hospital. Brother Lee told a brother who visited him at the hospital
that if God allowed him to live, he would return to God and bring his
family to believe. This was how his wife and two young sons came to
believe and were baptized. Now they are zealously serving the Lord.
Next we went to
Ghana. When I arrived in Accra, the capital, at night, it reminded me of
Indonesia. We had to brush off the many porters who approached us, and a
brother had to haggle with the taxi driver to take us to the church. On
the way to the church, the engine of the taxi stopped several times, and I
wondered if we would have to change taxis at some point. The taxi driver
seemed unaffected by the problems, however, and each time the engine died
he managed to restart it.
We visited other
churches in the area as well, such as Kumasi and Amafrom. Kumasi is the
second largest city in Ghana. There were about twenty members there when
we arrived at the church for service. They had no electricity in the
building, so we used kerosene lamps for the evening service.
The Kpandu church is
another big church, and the building there is almost completed. They were
adding another lodging area for ministers so they wouldn’t have to stay
in guest houses anymore. The members of the Kpandu church have experienced
many miracles. There is Sister Felicia, who suffered from a boil on her
finger which became so serious that she died. The members prayed earnestly
for her for more than an hour, and she came back to life. Now her little
finger, which can’t bend anymore, holds the remaining sign of that
we visited was the Abiriw church in the mountains. The church bought
a plot of land there, but they haven’t constructed a building yet.
Currently they hold service in a rented house in a very small room.
We could sense the joy of the members as they worshiped God.
Both Tracy and I
wore head coverings there. The sisters in Ghana put on head coverings and
wear skirts or dresses instead of pants. We covered our heads to show our
respect and to prevent distractions. A lot of times, my head became
extremely hot during prayer, but it was something that I had to get used
to. I had to keep myself from taking it off. Another thing I had to get
used to was kneeling on the hard ground to pray. It wasn’t easy because
the sharp, loose dirt pricked my knees. Sometimes I would take off my
sandals and put them under my knees when I prayed. Praying on carpeted
floors seems like a luxury now.
We also visited
the Gbefi church. We walked for about twenty minutes through a
village to get there. The simple design and material really touched
me, because it’s something that you don’t see in the more
developed countries. The church building was comprised of a straw
roof and mud walls with a pole supporting it.
Throughout my visit
in Ghana, I was touched by the fact that although we looked different,
spoke a different language, and came from different cultures, we were
still all part of the family of Christ. Sometimes I felt left out, and I
yearned to understand the local language, to communicate with the
believers, and to sing praises to God with them. But even so, these
feelings do not separate us, nor should they. The feeling of oneness that
we share is brought about especially by the one spiritual tongue, as we
pray together to speak to God in His language.The future of the missionary
work in Africa is to have long-term resident ministers on the continent.
Currently there are three or four missionary trips each year that go to
Africa from other countries. The IA assigns certain countries to be in
charge of each African country or region.
More volunteers can help out in religious education and by holding student
spiritual convocations there. There have not been any student spiritual
convocations held in Africa before. An IA preacher has also suggested that
churches in other countries can adopt a church in Africa, like a
sister-church approach. For example, a local church in the U.S. could
adopt Abiriw church in Ghana, and help them financially.
These are just some
ideas of how we can participate in the Africa mission. My own stay in
Africa was really short—too short, in fact, to understand the lives of
the people there. There is still much work to be done in Africa. Please
remember them in your prayers. All glory to God.
BELIEFS IN GHANA
of the traditional beliefs among the tribes in Ghana that existed
before the arrival of the European missionaries actually correspond
to the truth in the Bible.
Akans in Ghana comprise the Akyems, Fantes, Kwahua, and Ashantes
tribes, who speak a local language called Twi. The Ashantes and
Akyems are polytheistic, but they also believe that there is only
one Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth.
the pouring of libation (a drink offering to a god), they utter the
words “Otwereduampon Kwame. Woa woboo osoro ne asase.”
“Otwereduampon” literally means a tree (dua) that, if a man
leans (otwere) against it, will never fall (mpon). “Kwame” is
the name given to a male born on a Saturday, whereas “Woa woboo
osoro ne asase” means “thou who created the heavens and the
earth.” As such, the drink offering is for a “high god,” the
Creator whom we can trust in and rely upon.
use of the word “Kwame” is significant, because the tribes
believe that the Almighty God was “born” on a Saturday. They
traditionally believe that Saturday is a day that belongs to the
Lord. Saturday is called “Memeneda”— which is a shortened form
of “Mene nea meneda”—the “I Am that I Am’s day.” The
name given to this day parallels the name God gave Himself in Exodus
3:14: “I Am that I Am.”
Akans also call Saturday “Dapaa,” meaning a good day, and the
other six days “Dabone,” or bad days. The other six days are
“Dabone” because these were days set aside to worship other gods
and perform idolatrous rituals.
was a day treasured and respected by the Akans until the arrival of
the European missionaries, who taught them to worship on Sundays.
provided by Pastors Joseph Danquah & Koma Jehu Appiah,
Evangelism Coordination Council of the True Jesus Church, Ghana.