an african missional community
cornerstone community ghana
On the edge of a dusty regional town two hours north of Accra, the capital of Ghana, there is a small, resilient, joyful, Christian community. Cornerstone Community Ghana is a 'locally-grown' ministry focused on training and mobilising young Ghanaian men and women into fruitful, missional lifestyles in their own country and cultures. It operates independently, though Cornerstone in Australia proactively offers fellowship and support as we are able.
Kwadwo Oduro (a graduate of Cornerstone Community in Australia in 1990) with his wife Julie, established this disciple-making, missional community in 2000, and has been sending out trained mission teams into regional Ghana each year since then.
Emmanuel Otu (a graduate of Cornerstone Community Ghana in 2004) recently completed further training in Christian studies and leadership with Cornerstone Community in Australia, and has returned to Ghana to join with the Oduros in training, leading and sending out committed and competent missional Christians.
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Kwadwo Oduro was born in Ghana, West Africa, into a large, poor family (15 children) with little Christian contact or example. He lived a colourful life, moving to the Middle East in his late twenties. He was surviving by trading in the black market when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in Syria, quite literally on the road to Damascus!
Kwadwo then spent three years in Australia training with Cornerstone Community, deepening his understanding of the Bible and its implications for us today. A legacy of his time here are several songs he passed onto us, including one co-written with Colin Buchanan, a fellow student at Cornerstone Community and now a popular Australian entertainer.
Kwadwo then returned home to Ghana with a heart to help his people. As he put it, Ghanaian Christianity is so often 'a mile wide and an inch deep'. He saw a great need for the deeper personal discipleship and fresh understanding of the story and Gospel of Jesus Christ he had received while in Australia. He was particularly excited about the relevance of the whole-of-life, incarnational, community-based evangelism and discipleship he had experienced.
From the outset, Kwadwo was committed to a self-supporting ministry, as a significant rejection of the 'prosperity gospel' and extravagant lifestyles fostered by recent Western influences and vocally promoted by many 'village' and church ministers in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.
In the early years, it was a real struggle. He took on quite 'lowly' work at times to cover costs, and even resorted at one stage to selling his soccer ball for food. As time went on, however, Kwadwo developed a significant ministry, establishing and strengthening Christian churches in the poor areas of his town and the nearby villages. Along the way, he was given the nicknames of “poor pastor” and “angel pastor” because, unlike other pastors, he didn’t accept payment for his preaching and teaching.
As the ministry grew, Kwadwo saw the need to train and mobilise other Ghanaian Christians into missional lifestyles. In 1999, he with his wife, Julie, took a step of faith and began building a training centre they would call Cornerstone Community Ghana. The Oduros received some help from Australia to build the infrastructure, and they have been taking in new groups of trainees every January since 2000.
The trainees spend most of the first year in and around the centre, completing a challenging course of lectures, personal studies, work and mission while being discipled by mature mentors. Then from December to the next April, they live as self-supporting mission teams in regional towns or villages, working in partnership with local churches to reach the unchurched and the alienated with a fresh expression of the message and love of Christ through their words and lifestyles.
Many of his graduates have then gone on themselves to establish very fruitful ministries as self-supporting church planters and incarnational mission-ers in a number of regions, including the more remote Muslim area in the north of the country. A number have also remained involved directly with the training centre community, providing much-needed support to Kwadwo and Julie with the many practical and spiritual challenges involved.All this has been achieved at great personal effort and sacrifice by Kwadwo over many years. He recently visited Australia with his family to attend our annual conference or 'Muster', and mentioned it was his first holiday in almost 20 years! However his vision and sacrifice have been used by God to establish a ministry that is recognised by national leaders there as critical to Christian spirituality and mission in Ghana.
“This mission is sent from God to help Ghana when it needs it most”
Walter Pimpong, Director of International Needs in Ghana
In the subsistence economy of regional Ghana, with no government-paid welfare or healthcare services, a self-supporting approach for one family in ministry meant hard work and sacrifice. Making ends meet with a larger community of trainers and trainees, as well as the mission teams, has been an even larger challenge!
Since 2000, Kwadwo and the community have started and operated several enterprises to generate enough income each year to cover living and ministry expenses while leaving enough time for the training and mission of the community. They began with farming pineapples and citrus trees, then developed more urban businesses that have included a 'business communications service', a public toilet and shower facility, and a car wash. They have experimented with raising 'grass-cutters' for meat export (imagine a fierce, over-sized guinea pig with razor sharp teeth!), and are currently exploring possibilities for a gym facility and a mobile phone service business.Through innovation and hard work, Kwadwo and his trainees have managed to cover the majority of operating costs of this ministry for the last 10 years. We here at Cornerstone Community in Australia are committed to helping cover the 'gaps' from time to time, and especially to help with developments that have the potential to increase their capacity to be self-sustaining in the long-term.
The Oduros, Emmanuel and their teams are far more effective missionaries in their own culture than we could ever provide from the West, and they serve Jesus at significant personal cost and with very little 'margin'. They are training and mobilising their own people into mission, and they are developing long-term strategies to become a completely self-supporting mission in a much tougher context than any Western Christian faces.
Would you help us take some of the financial strain off them as they work towards these goals?
Even small gifts from countries like Australia can make a huge difference, as an encouragement as well as a practical help to keep the lights on or the businesses operating through 'low' times.
Cornerstone Community here in Australia collects gifts on behalf of Cornerstone Community Ghana, and then transfer the funds to Kwadwo every few months (to minimise transfer fees). Every now and then we also let interested supporters know about specific needs or opportunities that come up.