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Beuty Amazu
Photo by Emmanuel Quaye
Beuty Amazu

Onward Christian workers

Effective Compassion | Our international division winner provides biblical worldview teaching as the link, often missing, between evangelism and economic development

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

POKUASE, Ghana-The names they carry: Anointed Hands Hair Salon, Jesus Saves Barbering Shop, Christ in You Chemicals, Thy Will Be Done Electronics, New Jerusalem Engineering, God Rules Internet Café, No One Is Perfect Except the Lord Shop, Try Jesus Digital Photos, Showers of Blessings Metalworker ...

Journalists refer to Ghana as a highly Christianized country: 69 percent of the country's 25 million people profess Christ, surveys say, and the names of small businesses are one evidence of that. But to Chris Ampadu, coordinator of the Samaritan Strategy ministry in West Africa, that statistic raises questions. Why does Christian belief have so little impact in Ghana from Monday through Saturday? Why so much corruption? With all of Ghana's natural resources-gold, fertile soil, newly discovered oil-why are the people so poor?

Many Christians in Ghana, Ampadu says, have five-hour services on Sunday filled with singing, dancing, and drumming, but little teaching about discipleship. Some attend all-night prayer and fasting vigils but do not work hard or love their neighbors. Ampadu is working to change that.

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Driving a Toyota Land Cruiser that has logged more than 220,000 miles, he took my wife and me out into the bush, northwest of the capital city of Accra, to show us grinding poverty and potential alternatives. We drove over deep-pitted dirt highways and turned onto lowways sporting thigh-high brush. Praying for axles not to break and spines not to creak, we stopped at small clearings in the bush-bare areas of dirt swept clean and baked by the sun-surrounded by mud-brick houses.

Those homes have neither electricity nor the blessing and curse frequent in poor areas of India or South America: television antennas (and sometimes satellite dishes). Outside, scrawny goats and dogs search for scraps, while women balance on their heads huge loads of clothes for washing or water for drinking. Children have to walk three miles through dense brush to publicly funded schools, past poisonous snakes and-occasionally-human antagonists. Little had changed for decades, but two new options are now emerging.

One is evident along the dirt roads: Small villages now have mosques, often paid for by Iran or Saudi Arabia. One of every six Ghanians identifies with Islam, and we saw not one but four mosques in Asamankese, a town of 39,000 nearly 50 miles northwest of Accra. Muslims in Ghana often are poor, and so far the religion attracts few converts, but that could change with funding from outside the country. Some trucks on their back windshields display stenciled slogans like "Is Allah not sufficient for you?" and "Does God have a son?"

Part of another option appears a few hundred potholes past Asamankese. (Countryside driving in Ghana is like whitewater rafting in a rock-filled stream.) There we visited a farm with 18 acres of palm nut and orange trees owned by the Hour of Deliverance network of churches. (Victor Owiredu, a 64-year-old Ghanian trained at Dallas Theological Seminary, founded the church network, and Ampadu has now influenced his thinking.) The farm employs villagers at a palm oil factory, a labor intensive set-up that presses palm oil out of palm nuts. Farm profits help to support schools in small villages like Nsontra and Wawase.

In Nsontra we visited 60 children, ages 3-15, and their parents who sweated to build the cement-block school. In the Wawase school two young men teach 85 young students: A scarred blackboard displayed sentences like "A fat cat sat on the bed" and one that pointed to crucial self-definition in the image of God: "Am I a cat? No, I am a boy." When Wawase residents saw the need for a well and school, they didn't wait for the government to build them. Instead they raised money and contributed their labor, while the Hour of Deliverance partnered with them to drill the well and provide building materials.

The names Accra-area businesses carry: Lord of Life Bakery, God Is Able Food Joint, Living Bread Bus Stop, Blessed Assurance Computers, For Christ Boutique, The Lord Is My Shepherd Beauty Salon, If God Say Yes Barbering Shop, God Is Able Hardware ...

Ampadu, 50, didn't see such names when he grew up in a Ghanian village 400 miles north of Accra. His mother was a fetish priestess known as a prophetess who sometimes became possessed. His father was a poor farmer who wanted his eldest son to gain an education, so Chris woke up at 5 a.m., three times carried water from the river Asukawkaw to his home, and washed in the river. Then he walked to school and sometimes 10 miles more to work at the farm, and came home carrying food on his head.

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