Below are a couple of links you may find helpful to keep up-to-date with Ghana activities:
On Sunday afternoon, August 16, 2015, I will fly out from Omaha to spend a week in Ghana with our partners in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Some of you will know the Evangelical of the EP Church is the Evangelical of the E & R side of the UCC. Literally, the folk who travelled to Ghana at the invitation of the Ewe people were also connected to the folk who helped organize the Evangelical Synod of North America. And, following the outbreak of World War I, folk from our Evangelical side helped fill the gap when the Germans had to leave the English colony.
The EP Church and the UCC are close cousins, not distant kin.
The world is sometimes a small town. A missionary doctor for the UCC whom I met in India serving in a hospital and school organized by our mission partners the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was related to missionaries who had served at Peki and Ho in Ghana.
During my time in Ghana, I will preach at a service of Ordination and Thanksgiving during the General Assembly. I am profoundly humbled and honored to be asked. I am also aware of the profound challenge of preaching to a gathering of folk who have suffered from the burden of colonialism and post-colonial exploitation.
As a young man, I heard an black South African Anglican Bishop preach at Westminster Abbey. I wish I could tell you that I went to the Abbey to hear him, but, I went to experience worship in the beauty of that place.
The service would have taken place around 1974, some twenty years before apartheid ended.
The words of pain, frustration and challenge flooded over me in the midst of this beautiful place creating a dissonance that demanded attention.
In this world, we can be part of the problem because of the accident of our birth. But, to be part of the solution, we must choose to act for justice.
What shall I say to our partners in Ghana?
One thing I will say is that I am blessed to have walked with those who seek the gospel in the context of the place they live and the world they live in, both here and in Ghana.
But, I must not ignore the fact that there is no First World which is inherent in our description of a place as Third World. We are in one world.
As a teen, I would drive along the Mexican border fence as I delivered papers early in the morning. On one side there were green lawns, brick houses and nice cars; the other side had dirt yards, abode houses and donkeys.
One of the blessings that you have given me as I serve in your midst is the gift of seeing the UCC as part of a global community. Traveling to Ghana in 2006 was an invitation to see myself as a partner in a human journey where the gospel was given to me by saints like the Very Reverend Noah Komla Dzobo. He allowed the gospel to be read with African eyes. Often since hearing him, I have caught myself thinking of Jesus as if Jesus were part of the Western and Northern European culture that I saw reflected in the brick houses on the Arizona side of the border in my youth.
The hand of our Creator traced the shape of Israel, Ghana and our own Nebraska. The forces of the world we live in have made our part of the world a great inland sea (whose sandy coast marks our beloved sand hills) and great plains filling the middle of our continent.
Many Nebraskans have traveled to Ghana. Walking in the streets of Peki, I was stopped by a motorcycle rider wanting an update on friends in Nebraska. I was American and in Peki, therefore, I must be from the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ.
When I come home, help me find someone to come to your church and talk about Ghana. We share a history, we share stories, we share faith, we share vision. Let Jesus call us to love our local church and love the world beyond it.
Pray for me as I travel,
A LOOK BACK --
The Rev. Jane Ellefson arrived in Peki, Ghana in 1991. Her assignment with the Board for World Ministries was to teach music and pastoral theology at the Evangelical-Presbyterian Seminary. Thus began the informal partnership between the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical-Presbyterian Church, Ghana. Rev. Ellefson remained in Ghana for six and a half years helping to lay the foundation for a formal partnership, an effort supplemented in Nebraska by the formation of a task force to help guide the establishment of that partnership.
Rev. Clarence “Clip” and Janice Higgins were the first official visitors from the Nebraska Conference in 1993, when they came to explore the possibilities for a partnership. As the Conference Minister, “Clip” extended an invitation to the Rt. Rev. J.Y. Ledo, Moderator of the E.P. Church to come with his wife, Esther, to the 1994 Annual Meeting of the Nebraska Conference. These efforts bore fruit in 1995 when the Nebraska Conference sent a delegation to Ghana to formally enter into a partnership with the E.P. Church, Ghana and to discuss work projects to be done as partners.
The first work camp team arrived in 1996. The fifteen-member team completed a water retrieval system at the Seminary and began the construction of a health clinic in the neighboring village of Dzemeni. That work was continued in 1998 by the second, seven-member work camp team. An extension of the Partnership Agreement in June 1998 allowed for the partnership to continue. This team completed work on the health clinic and affirmed the Nebraska Conference’s “Partnership in Faith” with the E.P. Church, Ghana.
Rev. Francis Amenu, who was a UCC Board for World Ministries-sponsored theological student in Indianapolis, traveled to Nebraska twice in 1996; once to attend the Annual Meeting of the Conference in Chadron, and once to help in the orientation of the work camp participants in Omaha. Rev. Cyril Fayose, another theological student of the E.P. Church, Ghana also spent time with individual churches in the Nebraska Conference.
By the time Rev. Ellefson returned to Nebraska in 1997, twenty-two UCC visitors had been to Ghana, and four of our Ghanaian partners had traveled to Nebraska. Through the efforts of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Music Department and the First-Plymouth (Lincoln) Board for Christian Outreach, it was possible to bring Wilson Akortia, a master drummer and music tutor at the E.P. Seminary, for a nine-month music educational program. He was able to visit many UCC churches and associations, and he participated in the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Conference. Here he delighted everyone with his music and drumming. Rev. Seth Agidi, who had come to visit in Minnesota, also attended that meeting and led the gathering in a joyful, Ghanaian auction to raise funds for the 1998 workcamp.
A DEEPER LOOK --
A true partnership goes beyond the issues of money. A true partnership is reciprocal in nature and takes shape around a core of sharing, involving investments of time, interest and above all, faith. The Nebraska Conference desires to expand the Partnership commitment beyond the biannual work camps to encompass a true partnership with the Evangelical-Presbyterian Church, Ghana.
As the partnership continues to evolve, its eventual shape may take a number of forms, e.g. Congregations-to-Congregations, Women’s Fellowships-to-Women’s Fellowships, Youth Groups-to-Youth Groups, or combinations of these and more. If we feel we are constrained or limited, we need to examine our faith and note one thing, with funding, many things are possible, but with God, all things are possible. Our Ghanaian sisters and brothers remind us always that it is only by God’s grace that we live and move and have our partnership. And so we continue by faith.
MISSION OF PARTNERSHIP
We are called as Christians to become one in Christ. Through our work with the Evangelical-Presbyterian Church, Ghana, we hope to create a “Partnership in Faith” and to support and enhance ecumenical relationships.
We plan to accomplish this mission by understanding each other as people defined by difference experiences but alike in our oneness in Christ. We will strive to understand each other spiritually, economically, educationally, socially and culturally and to celebrate both our differences and our similarities.
NEBRASKA CONFERENCE - UCC PRIORITIES
The first goal was to focus on our relationships with the Western Presbytery of the Evangelical-Presbyterian Church, Ghana. This goal was accomplished by:
Please enjoy the pictures from the August 2015 and January 2014 trips to Ghana, and pictures of previous trips.
Nuti fafa na wo, (Peace be with you)