By Ryan Lee
In December of 2017, One Kingdom Director Ben Adkins and I set out to West Africa to visit Sam Twumasi-Ankrah in Ghana and One Kingdom West Africa Ambassador Isaac Daye in Liberia. Both Sam and Isaac were presiding over graduations for their respective schools, Heritage Christian College and Restoration Bible and Agriculture Institute. This was my first trip to Africa, and I captured this experience through daily journals. Here is a first-person perspective into One Kingdom’s latest trip to Africa.
I met Ben at the Monroe airport around 5:00 am. I didn’t sleep very well—I think I was just too excited. Before bed I spent about an hour creating a scavenger hunt for my two little boys. I hid 14 notes around my house, one for every day I will be away. Then I laid in bed, thinking about the trip. I can’t wait to see Sam and Isaac again. I can’t help but wonder what Ghana and Liberia will be like. I’m going to miss my family, but the anticipation of seeing my brothers again gives me high hopes for this trip.
We flew from Monroe, to Dallas, to London. I did my best to sleep on the flight from Dallas to London as we landed in London at 7:00 am local time. I was thinking to myself, “I should be more tired,” but I think the adrenaline of getting closer to our destination took care of that. We ate breakfast in the London airport as we awaited our next round of flights that would eventually get us to Accra.
The waitress in the restaurant was really in a foul mood and it showed. As she brought us our drinks, Ben said “obrigado,” which is Portuguese for “thank you.” He had noticed that on our waitress’s name tag was a Brazilian flag, indicating the country where she was born. Immediately her demeanor changed. It was like her whole day changed just because we were able to communicate with her about something familiar. We chatted for several minutes and she asked us about our travel, which gave us an opportunity to share about One Kingdom and ultimately, Jesus.
We arrived in Ghana around 7:00 pm local time. Again, the travel exhaustion was replaced with excitement as we met up with our brother Sam Twumasi-Ankrah. We’ve had a relationship with Sam for many years dating back to when WFR Relief sent aid to Ghana during a famine in the early 1980’s. Sam is now the president of Heritage
Christian College, a school One Kingdom supports.
We traveled to Sam’s house where we met his wife Theresa and his son Kwame. Theresa prepared us a delicious meal of fish, rice, and the best pineapples I’ve ever tasted. I’m glad to not be in an airport or on a plane. Sam and his family are great hosts, and we immediately felt like family.
We went to the college where Sam works. As they are prepping for the graduation tomorrow, it’s awesome to think about what’s going on at this school. Fully accredited by the Ghanaian National Accreditation Board, HCC will be graduating 23 men and women tomorrow from their Bible school. Heritage also has programs such as business administration, information technology, and computer science.
Hearing Sam talk about the future of Heritage is very inspirational. There are facilities that line half the property, but it’s the empty half that excites Sam the most. He plans to build a library, more classrooms, study halls, and administration offices. The future looks bright here.
We met several of the graduates and the faculty. As we passed by one of the classrooms, we peeked in on a lecture by one of the professors, Winfred Sackey. With a booming voice, he said, “If you want to change the world, you cannot just baptize, you have to disciple!” We couldn’t have been more excited.
In the evening, Ben spoke to the upcoming graduates during a ceremony at the Nsawam Road Church of Christ. We met many of the members there and got to visit with the graduates and faculty. Everyone has been so nice to us. While English is spoken by most Ghanaians, the local language is Twi (pronounced ch-wee). We have learned several phrases and our new Ghanaian brothers and sisters are very patient with us.
Graduation day! You could tell how much this moment meant to each graduate. I talked to several of them, and one in particular, Theophilus, got my attention. He was very happy, yet at the same time very solemn. He told me that this was just the beginning. While he was excited to graduate and celebrate all the hard work he had put in, he was even more anxious to get out and start preaching the Gospel in his hometown. He was ready to be sent out and start changing lives.
The ceremony was amazing. It started with a long processional with the graduates singing hymns like “Onward Christian Soldier,” followed by the school’s alma mater. Ben gave the keynote speech and Sam put the finishing touches on the event with a final charge to the graduates. Sam called all of the graduates to the front of the stage and asked them to kneel in a circle. He and the rest of the faculty then laid hands on each student and prayed over the class. It was a very special and touching act that had many of the grads, their families, and myself overwhelmed with emotion.
We had dinner that night at Sam’s house, and he told us stories of how he grew up in the African bush, surviving on only what animals he and his brothers could trap. School was a luxury as his family couldn’t even afford a school uniform, but God provided him a way out. To see him as this strong, confident man, now in charge of a growing college, and discipling so many young men and women, was quite remarkable considering his humble beginnings. I really treasured sitting under his counsel and wisdom, learning from such a humble follower of Christ.
We began the day by attending McCarthy Hill Church of Christ. Wow! The singing was fantastic. They sang mostly in Twi, but they gave us song books in English to follow along. God is moving in Ghana, and I am blessed to be surrounded by brothers and sisters who are sold out for Christ. It’s a reminder that even though we are separated by many things including language, we have the most important thing in common: our great love of God.
They have been raising money for a building, and after church we got a tour. The thing that struck me most was that they are building that church with the purpose of spreading the Gospel worldwide. There were a few rooms for preachers-in-training, who could live at the building while studying to go out and spread the Word. There were kitchen areas and storage rooms to prepare supplies to send out in cases of disaster relief as well.
After the tour, Sam invited us to go to a birthday party for one of his friends who was turning 70. During the party, he stood up to thank several people there. He looked over in our direction, and he recognized Ben and me. He told a story about how he was the government accountant for the relief efforts during Ghana’s famine back in 1981, and he saw how much our church helped out his people. Even though Ben and I were still in diapers at the time, he thanked us as representatives of WFR Relief and for carrying on the legacy through One Kingdom. What a special honor that was.
Today was our last full day in Ghana. A cloud started moving in and it looked as though there was a huge dust storm coming. We learned this was called Harmattan. It’s a short season that occurs at this time of year where northern winds blow dust from the Sahara Desert into West Africa. While it was a little dusty, it also cooled the 90+ degree temps just enough for us to get some relief from the West African heat.
We spent some time with Sam at Heritage talking about the future of HCC. We have such high hopes for this school as it continues to impact young people in Ghana who are learning so much about who God is. We talked about new programs for the school, the building plans for the future and even a succession plan for Sam as he continues to disciple his staff and the ones who will someday replace him. I’m so impressed at what a humble, authentic leader Sam is. I feel blessed to call him a friend.
We spent our last night in Sam’s house eating dinner and then watching a soccer match with Sam and his son Kwame. While I’m not the biggest soccer fan, I have to admit that watching a game with the guys felt a little like home.
We left early that morning to catch our flight from Accra to Monrovia, Liberia. We arrived in Monrovia that afternoon and were greeted by Emmanuel, one of Isaac’s drivers. He picked us up in a moving truck, and we headed towards Isaac’s house which was on
the other side of Monrovia. My first impression of Liberia—really the only word that came to mind—was lush. It was so beautiful and green. With a country ravished in poverty, it was quite shocking to see what fertile ground they lived on.
As we left the airport, Emmanuel turned on the radio which happened to be playing Christmas music. We passed through downtown Monrovia and you could still see the after-effects of the civil war that took place not too long ago. Vacant buildings, roads destroyed, a cemetery ravaged by grave robbery during the war, with the bodies used for food and the graves used for shelter. It was quite shocking. Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” played on the radio. I have to say, it was an odd feeling listening to that song as we passed through the city. I couldn’t help but think, back home everybody’s Christmas shopping, hanging decorations, going to parties, and gearing up for Christmas. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all in that truck. I didn’t really miss all of the hoopla that I assumed was going on back home. It may be a little cliché to say, but riding through one of the most impoverished cities in the world listening to an American Christmas classic will change your perspective on how you celebrate Christmas.
As we passed through the city, we stopped to pick up Bill and Kay Orange who were working at a free clinic they had set up that morning. Bill, an agriculture instructor at Restoration Bible and Agriculture Institute, and Kay, a registered nurse, are Tennessee natives who have been working in Liberia for over 30 years. We also picked up four students who were working the clinic with them.
Night fell as we approached Isaac’s house. It was unbelievably dark. There was no electricity in this area, another sign of war-torn Liberia. We finally got to the house and saw our brother Isaac and his wife, Fatu. We shared a meal and celebrated being together again.
I awoke to a familiar voice: Alan and Lisa Robertson had arrived late last night and were joining us for this leg of the trip. As friends and supporters of Isaac and RBAI, Alan and Lisa were not going to miss such a momentous event as the school’s first graduation.
After a short breakfast, we ventured out to the school. I was so thrilled to finally see the campus of RBAI, a school we’ve been praying over for years. While Ben had seen it many times, this was my first time getting to tour the campus.
The first thing that sticks out about the school is that it’s in the middle of the bush. There was nothing in the area before they broke ground, which is symbolic of the nature of the school. The Restoration Bible and Agriculture Institute is one part school of preaching/one part school of farming. RBAI teaches students the Gospel and how to make disciples, as well as how to farm the land around you using Biblical principles. God can restore Liberia into prosperity and He can use even you.
Another moving part of the Restoration campus is the radio station. For years, One Kingdom Ambassador Isaac Daye has been a World Radio speaker. He has given countless teachings through a weekly radio show on Magic FM in Monrovia. When the owner of Magic FM decided he wanted to sell the radio station, he gave Isaac first rights of refusal, because he had been so impacted by Isaac over the years. Isaac leapt at the opportunity, and with the help of One Kingdom and its partners, Magic FM has been transformed into Restoration FM with the studio and radio tower on RBAI’s campus. Now, instead of a weekly radio show, Isaac and his team are bringing eight hours of Gospel-centered programming every day.
Ben and I got a chance to meet with the station manager and DJ, David Kohn. We spent about an hour live on Restoration FM talking about One Kingdom and the impact the gospel is having on Liberia. David is a special man with many talents; he loves Liberia and he is passionate about bringing the Word to his native land.
Today we looked at the garri processing facility which is being built on campus. Of everything going on in West Africa, this is perhaps the project I am most excited about. Garri is a floury starch made from cassava, which is one of Liberia’s most fruitful crops. It is used in most meal preparations in Liberia. Isaac’s vision is to start producing garri at their campus facility. As graduates of the RBAI program go back to their tribes and start farming cassava on their land, they will have a local buyer that will in turn sell the garri produced to the local community and beyond. Currently, there are no garri producers in Liberia. All garri is imported from Nigeria,
which makes this one of the most important projects in all of Liberia. This not only will help the graduates continue farming in their respective communities, but it will also create jobs locally in Monrovia. The profits will go to support the Restoration school. These are the kinds of ideas that transform nations.
Graduation Day in Liberia. We all gathered at the school for the first-ever graduation. Just like in Accra, families poured in to watch their sons receive their diplomas and be honored for two years of hard work. About half of the men had wives and children who they had only seen on weekends or school breaks for the past two years. It was quite a sight to see the jubilation.
During the ceremony, the graduating class unveiled a monument they had built in front of the school, commemorating the first graduating class and the faculty. It brought a moment of thankfulness and hope as we all envisioned looking back at this monument 10, 20, or even 30 years down the road and celebrating the progress of the school.
Ben and Alan both spoke, giving charges to the men who were about to go back to their tribes and villages to lead their families and communities. The whole day was a celebration. Families danced, mother’s cried, sons embraced their fathers—it truly was a magical day. We visited with many of the grads, exchanging information to keep in touch with their new ventures.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring stories was that of Amara Kamara. Amara came to the RBAI as a Muslim hoping just to learn about agriculture—but curious about Jesus. He studied with Isaac for a while and became more and more passionate about God. After Isaac baptized him, he went home to see his family. They denounced him as their son, burned all of his clothes and possessions, and he was told never to return. Amara had lost his family, but had gained everything. He told me that story, and I could see how zealous he was for Christ. None of his hardship had deterred him and his passion for sharing God’s love. Amara’s plan is to seek Muslims and tell them the story of Jesus. He’s already baptized a couple of men from his community, and I expect big things will be done through Amara.
The graduation ended and we all retired back to Isaac’s house to eat and rest and reflect on such a great day for the Kingdom.
We woke up, said our goodbyes, and headed to the airport in Monrovia. On our way back home, I began reflecting on what an unbelievable two weeks it had been. I loved so much seeing and strengthening relationships with my brothers Sam and Isaac. These are two of the best men I know on this planet who work tirelessly so that more people can truly know who God is and that God Himself can be glorified. I’m happy about the new friends I made such as Sackey, David, and Emmanuel. And I’m hopeful about what God has in store for men like Theophilus and Amara.
More than that, I’m so thankful for how God is moving in West Africa. He is showing His people there is a life to be lived while we are here. We’re not meant to stay in poverty or brokenness. While money can help, you cannot change a nation with only money. Real change begins in your mind. Seeing who you are as God has designed you to be will be the true catalyst in changing a nation. I’ve seen that in Ghana and Liberia, and it gives me so much joy.
As we board the plane, I have two overwhelming feelings: I can’t wait to get home and see my family. But, I can’t wait to come back.