By Abraham Amartey Laryea & Richard Amartei Laryea.
The start of the third decade of the 21st century was marked with reports of an outbreak of a virus in the world’s most populated country, China in Asia.
The virus was said to be very contagious and people who got infected risked dying as reports of death kept increasing. The city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China was declared the epicenter of infections.
These reports, to Ghanaians were categorized as international news with perhaps little impact on us in Sub-Saharan Africa. But in no time it was going to dominate our local news and wreak havoc in our social and economic life as over 8,000 infections will be recorded by the Ministry of Health.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Ghana’s first two case was announced on the night of March 12, 2020. Subsequently, the cases in the country kept increasing.
READ ALSO: Meet pretty & brilliant African lady who is a respected lawyer in the UK
As of the time of writing this thought on June 5, 2020, the case count in Ghana stood at 8,885 with 3,189 persons having recovered and sadly 38 deaths.
The effects of the pandemic had been very devastating globally, with Ghana being no exception. On March 15, 2020, the president of our republic, HE Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo Addo in his address to the nation on COVID-19 announced the following decisions as measures to curb the spread of the virus:
“All public gatherings including conferences, workshops funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious events such as services in churches and mosques have been suspended for the next four weeks”.
In addition, the president announced the closure of all schools in the country effective March 16, 2020 for four weeks.
A fortnight after these directives were issued, several municipalities and districts in the capital city, Accra, Kasoa and Greater Kumasi were partially locked down for three weeks.
These restrictions and directives were made with the aim of reducing human contacts. Indeed, the impact of this crisis had been ravaging to the nation’s economy and social life of the citizens.
READ ALSO: Meet the fresh KNUST graduate who started animal farm & now runs own food enterprise
The difficulties this health crisis has posed to the nation Ghana and the world at large have been dire and the church, the church of God, globally has witnessed perhaps the most challenging epoch ever since the era when it faced persecution in Jerusalem during the first century AD, which, however, led to its expansion through the Power of the Holy Spirit and the courage of the Apostles and Christians at that time. These events are recorded in Acts chapter 8 of the Holy Bible.
Since the March 15 announcement by the President, all churches in Ghana have been closed until June 7, 2020. Two notable reports of churches which held services during the era of restrictions, one in the Ashanti Region and the other in the Volta region, had their pastors arrested and prosecuted before the courts.
Following the March 15 announcement, most churches in Ghana led by the various Christian bodies welcomed the order and devised a means of holding services. This new way of conducting church services without congregating became known as “online services”.
This simply meant a virtual holding of church service were few people including the pastor meet to hold a service which is transmitted live on social media networks particularly Facebook.
Truly, for many well-resourced churches, hitherto, church services had always been streamed live via Facebook, YouTube and even telecasted on Television and so it was not novel.
READ ALSO: Top Ghanaian runner Joseph Amoah graduates with Accounting degree from US Varsity
It is significant to note that the annual Easter celebration to mark the death and resurrection of Christ, in the year 2020 was never held in the traditional manner it had always been. On Good Friday 10th April and Resurrection Sunday, April 12, 2020, churches were closed all over Ghana.
A very few unheard Christians have criticized the ban on church activities and these views have been hinged on the firm belief that if indeed the Power of God is more potent than anything, then a contagious disease or a virus cannot prevail in the House of God.
This view has been a very unpopular view in the wake of this pandemic. In Tanzania particularly, the President, John Magafuli has declared that churches remain open, stressing that coronavirus cannot survive in church.
On May 24, 2020, US president, Donald John Trump, declared churches as part of institutions that offer essential services and thus, announced that churches in America be opened. This gave hope to many church leaders especially in Ghana, who felt that the churches should be opened.
A week after the American announcement, the President of Ghana on 31st May in his 10th address to the nation on COVID-19 announced the reopening of religious activities but with strict adherence to rules including services not to be held for more than one hour and to have not more than one hundred persons.
The following day on Monday 1st June 2020, the Minister for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs addressed the public through a press briefing organized by the Ministry of Information.
In the press briefing, the minister outlined several measures to be adhered to by churches who commence services from June 7, 2020, including "no face mask no entry" into churches, no holding of Children service, use of thermometer guns to check members’ temperature before entry into the auditorium etc.
It is really necessary for the 21st-century Ghanaian follower of Christ to examine the history of the church as far as its arrival and presence in Ghana is concerned.
READ ALSO: 7 top American stars who have discovered their countries of origin in Africa
Ghana is regarded as a nation with an overwhelming majority being Christians. The impact of the church on the Ghanaian society cannot be underestimated.
From the numerous educational institutions to the shaping of the moral fiber of our society to the contributions to peace and tranquility in the context of our political polarization and ultimately the salvation of many, the church can be said to have been a tremendous blessing to our nation.
Many renowned servants of God have not only been great ambassadors of God but of our country to the world. Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills, Rev. Dr. Mensah Otabil, Bishop Charles Agyin Asare, Dr. Lawrence Tetteh, Rev. Eastwood Anaba, Apostle Opoku Onyina, ApostleMichael Ntumy, Rev. Prof. Stephen Asante of the National Peace Council, Cardinal Appiah Turkson among many others have wielded much prominence both locally and internationally, representing the course of Christ in our generation.
But how did Christianity and its numerous blessings reach our soil as a nation?
What were the circumstances of the gospel reaching the shores of our land and permeating through to as far as the north? What level of faith did the bearers of the gospel demonstrate in their time when they had to confront an entirely pagan society in Africa as far back as the 16th century?
Were there challenges faced by these missionaries and if there were, how dire were these challenges? Did the missionaries of old encounter emergency health crisis and if there were, how did they respond to it in the wake of spreading the gospel?
In the book titled GHANA: A HISTORICAL SURVEY, the author, Vincent Okyere from pages 32 to 52 sheds light on the Christian Missions, their arrival in then Gold Coast and the impact of their work. Page 41 of this book captures:
“Undoubtedly, the most serious problem faced by the missionaries was loss of human life due, mainly to the unfriendly tropical climate and its associated diseases, especially fever.
The early Missionaries suffered deaths in the pioneering and to some extent, the consolidation period. For instance, within a period of three years, all the four pioneer missionaries of the Basel Mission, namely: Reverend Salbach, Schmidt, Holzwarth and Henke had died.
Gain, the first Missionary of the Wesleyan Mission, Rev. J. Dunwell and the wife of Thomas Birch Freeman died only six months after they had arrived on the shores of Ghana.
The two families Rev. and Mrs. Harrop who followed Rev. Dunwell to re-start the work of the Mission (on the death of the latter in 1835), all died within a year of arrival in 1836. The Catholics were not spared as one of the pioneer missionaries, Father Murat, died on May 18, 1880 – three months after his arrival in the Gold Coast”.
It is worthy of note the relentlessness of the Missionaries of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries to send in more missionaries in the wake of the extreme difficulties at the time. Indeed, aside the health threats, the Missionaries who brought Christ to our part of the world faced hostilities from the indigenous people. It is captured in page 42 and 43 of GHANA: A HISTORICAL SURVEY, as follows:
READ ALSO: King Adedokun Abolarin provides free education, laptops, food for his people
“Yet another problem was the hostile attitude of the indigenous people. The four Catholic Augustinian missionaries who arrived at Elmina in 1572 to help educate and convert the people to the Christian faith were murdered.
Yet another act of hostility was not only the destruction of the Basel Mission’s property in Anum when the Asante invaded the town in 1869. Also the Wesleyan chapel at Dixcove and Sekondi were burnt down by pro-Dutch Ahanta when the English withdrew from the two towns after the exchange of forts with the Dutch in 1868.
Under the challenges of today in a Covid-19 ravaged era, it appears rather unfortunately, that the church has become not only cold but an institution being ridiculed and the power of the church, expressed through the Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, seem to have been downplayed if not sidelined. The faith of most Christians as seen through commentaries on social media appears to have relapsed.
The online services clearly benefit only the middle and upper class who can afford data and follow virtual services on Facebook live streaming.
Following the announcement that churches can open from June 7, 2020, most churches released directives to their congregations that their buildings remain closed. The reason for the strict rules given to the churches for their opening was to curb and prevent people from being infected with coronavirus while in church.
For this reason, services were to be held not more than an hour. Meanwhile Senior High Schools were to open for final years from 22nd June 2020 with teaching and learning take place for a period of four hours in a day.
Markets and shops apart from the period of the partial lockdown of parts of the country had been opened to the general public. It is worth asking where the over 8000 persons who as of 1st June, 2020 had contracted the virus, contracted them from, and why there are fears that in the HOUSE OF GOD, the very place where we believe a supernatural power operates: a power that is capable of healing the sick and raising the dead and bringing life, hope and comfort to all manner of persons, individuals will infect one another with a virus. Have we set aside these scriptures? “…by His stripes we were healed” [1 Peter 2:24] • “The Name of the Lord is a Strong Tower, the Righteous ran into it and they are saved” [Proverbs 18:10] • “I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord” [Psalm 122:1]
Now, we are not glad when they say unto us “Let us go into the House of the Lord”. Rather we fear we will catch a virus there. Why are we losing hope in the gathering of the saints despite the instruction of Hebrews 10:25 that we do not forsake the gathering of the saints?
Indeed, it is an important commandment that we as Christians obey authorities including political authorities and Jesus Christ Himself exemplified that.
But it is equally important to make that very firm position which we the writers of this article are stating boldly and unequivocally that in as much as we respect the directives on church closure and its reopening with strict measures, we disagree with them on the solid basis that the church, first of all, is not an ordinary gathering like gatherings in schools, beaches and entertainment centers but a place where God’s Power and Might prevails and that in such times as this, the church should rather be opened freely as we intercede in Prayer and present Salvation to all men. It will indeed take the Power of God to get rid of Covid-19.
The church must be inspired by the examples of men of faith like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, David, Abraham, Stephen and the Apostles. When Daniel was faced with the threat of ‘a coronavirus of lions’ in a den, he maintained his faith and when that faith demonstrated by him pleased God, he was not ‘infected’ when thrown into that den.
When David was confronted with a ‘coronavirus named Goliath’ he did not even protect himself with shields but faced the enemy boldly and when that faith of David pleased God, he rather defeated the ‘virus’(Goliath). These are the extent of faith at which hopefully, the church in Ghana can confront the crisis and rather than leaving an impression, and in fact, a false one for that matter, to both the believer and the unbeliever that the church can facilitate the spread of COVID-19.
Can we in a post-COVID-19 era boldly proclaim the Power of God through the demonstration of Miracles, Signs, Wonders, Healings, Teachings, Laying on of Hands? If we can, why have we coiled into our shells and succumbed to the less powerful threat of a virus in these times and unable to powerfully acclaim these beliefs at this time? Indeed, God is God, He is sovereign. He changeth not and He is omnipotent!
The church must notice the cunningness of the enemy and rise up to the occasion, against the ridicule it is being faced with, the gradual state of coldness it is sinking into and the fear it is entertaining amidst this crisis, for posterity will live to hear, read and watch how we conducted affairs in our era. Can we give them hope?
Will they be inspired by the level of faith we demonstrated? Thomas Birch Freeman and his contemporaries demonstrated great faith! David and Daniel did same! How about us in 2020 under COVID-19?
Authors: Abraham Amartey Laryea & Richard Amartei Laryea. Tel: 0241703605 Email: email@example.com
READ ALSO: Man proposes to girlfriend on the streets during Black Lives Matter protests
The success story of Rocky Dawuni | #Yencomgh
Get interactive via our Facebook page.