OM owes much of its presence in Ghana to another indigenous mission that is pioneering effective strategies.
OM is a rapidly expanding presence in the continent of Africa, merging with indigenous ministries in several countries. One of those places is the West African nation of Ghana.
Christian Insaidoo started Rural Evangelism Crusaders (REC) in 1996 and registered the mission in 2001. “Francois Vosloo first approached me in 2003 when an OM ship visited Ghana, and during the next years we developed a close working relationship with OM Africa. By 2009 REC was already considering expanding into more of West Africa; we realised the need to work together with OM since we had the same objectives.” It was during a second ship visit in 2010 that REC changed its name to OM Ghana. As Chris points out, “We couldn’t have gone to Muslims with the word ‘crusaders,’ anyway, or worked in cities with the word ‘rural’.”
OM Ghana’s ministry is multi-faceted, but one key aspect is helping children and youth, particularly those caught up in internal child trafficking. The UN reports that thousands of boys and girls are taken from the less-developed northern villages to provide cheap labour in the south. Many are used in the fishing industry on Lake Volta, one of the world's largest artificial lakes. Sometimes they are required to dive to disentangle fish nets from the numerous tree stumps under the lake. This dangerous job can result in infecting them with water-based diseases, or even drowning.
Other children are exploited as domestic servants, street vendors, or forced into the sex trade. Says Chris, “Since 2007 we’ve done education and prevention, giving talks in schools and urging community leaders to oppose the practice. Some parents willingly let their kids go but don’t understand what will happen to them. Other children are abused at home or their friends urge them to leave. We are involved in rescuing kids, but find that some don’t want to go back home. So we have to find ways they can go to school, or provide skilled training so they can bring in some income.”
Obaatan Anidaso—the Hope of Mothers—is OM Ghana’s initiative to relieve the difficult lives of so many widows, orphans, single mothers and destitute women in Ghana.
Just one example of what they face, says Chris, is that women in the north who serve a chicken for their husbands’ meal, he says, may not be allowed to eat any of it themselves. Widows, in particular, are often subjected to abuse and humiliation. Their husband’s relatives may disinherit them and their children, even prevent them from normal economic activities, which leads to hardship.
He and his wife, a teacher, began by helping one distressed widow become self-sustaining. This number has grown to eleven, providing basic food and the means to farm, plus school uniforms for their children. Widows and other marginalised people facing severe poverty are grateful for OM’s community development efforts and small loans that finance income-generation.
In December 2006 Chris and his small team were shocked to discover small villages in his country that had never before heard of Jesus. They began making “Hope Visits” at Christmas time.
He relates, “We usually bring some food items to distribute, and once we brought a cake.” --It turned out that these villagers had never before seen a cake, either! They sacrificed the little food that they had to their gods. When they heard about Jesus, they were cautious.
“Will we have to sacrifice our fowls to this Jesus?” they wanted to know.
“No,” Chris assured the people. “In fact, He sacrificed Himself for you!” –and joyfully shared the liberating truth of the gospel.
Another annual outreach takes place during the Easter holidays, “Mission Beyond,” and “True Freedom” evangelism mobilises believers to share their faith on the anniversary of Ghanaian independence, March 6th. The team also operates a mobile Christian bookshop and film project that reaches people in deprived areas.
Recognising that a large number of the country’s 15 million Christians are nominal, OM in Ghana—as it does in Malawi and Tanzania--offers twice-a-year “LIFE Development” discipleship training to strengthen church leadership. “Mission Discipleship Training” (MDT) is another programme, designed to recruit, prepare and send workers to the fields. This coming September, Chris is hoping to have one or two believers from the spiritually needy nation of Chad in the MDT training.
The team’s six multicultural members are mostly supported by their churches. Unfortunately, Chris’s own church doesn’t view him as a missionary because he works in Ghana and the church doesn’t actually “own” the mission; so he also serves part time with another Christian organisation as a means of support. But nothing has slowed his driving passion to build God’s kingdom in both his own and neighbouring countries.
“Ghana has become very influential in West Africa because of its stability,” he notes. “But it is sitting on a time bomb.—So many pastors are involved in occultism. And Islam is growing. Mosques are being built everywhere. West Africa is going to be in trouble if we don’t do something, soon!”