In a presentation last Monday night in Dodowa, near Accra, those of us attending WCRC’s Executive Committee meeting heard the situation in the country’s remote northern region described as an « evangelism emergency. »
Solomon Sule Saa of the PCG is in the frontline of responding to the needs of the sparsely populated area where a high level of illiteracy and potential conflict between the Muslim majority and Christian minority challenge the churches. Eighty per cent of the region’s population is Muslim, 20 per cent is Christian.
Saa is originally from the region and has clear ideas about what the church can contribute to developing a stable and peaceful environment in which the economy can grow.
The minister currently serves PCG as its Ecumenical and Social Relations Officer as well as heading the Interfaith Centre in Accra and the Youth Peace programme. His attention is focussed on church youth throughout the country. But the problems of young people in the north are a special concern. Many of the young are leaving for the south of the country in order to find work. The youth that remain in the region are confronted with challenging situations where there is real potential for violence, especially in the lead-up time to elections.
Older people are left alone to look after themselves and their dwindling congregations. They struggle to pay their minister’s salary. Some clergy go for months with no pay. There is a pressing need for adequate church buildings and manses. Large distances between the communities further complicate the situation. Ministers often serve more than 10 parishes that are far apart. Transportation is a problem as the parishes are so poor that it is not always possible for their minister to have a car, meaning he or she must rely on public transport or travel by bike or on foot. It is hardly surprising that few ministers want to serve in the north!
There are two million northerners living in southern Ghana. The PCG has recognized their presence and begun reaching out with literacy programmes, help in seeking employment, and the formation of new congregations to serve them. Congregations of northerners who are living in the south hold services in their mother tongue and draw on their own cultural contexts. There are now 80 congregations of northerners living in the south that are served by six ministers.
In an effort to meet the need for evangelism in the north, PCG has launched “Operation Go Back”. Saa says the PCG programme encourages northern youth who have become Christian in the south to go home to tell people about what Jesus has done for them. To assist them, the church mobilizes resources to support ten days of mission in the north.
Saa is taking his own support for the north even further. This September he will take on a new position as Chairperson of Northern Presbytery. “It is like being a bishop”, one young church member told me with admiration.
The region clearly needs a person to encourage those who have stayed in the north and help them meet the many needs of their churches and communities. In short, it will be Saa’s role to coordinate response to the “evangelism emergency.”
Saa and his young family will be in our prayers as he takes on this mission. With his deep faith, calm authority and communication skills he is a leader who is up to the challenge.
Photo: Photography service of the Office of the President of Ghana