Mennonite Mission Network/Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
In mid-February, Thomas Oduro, president of Good News Theological College and Seminary in Accra, Ghana, brought gospel messages from Africa as he preached and taught in northern Indiana Mennonite agencies and congregations. “Celebrate what God is doing for you,” he encouraged a mission focus group at Clinton Frame Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.
Oduro described worship in his homeland of Ghana that is so alive and compelling that people stand up and shout “hallelujah” to affirm a preacher’s sermon, or pay for the opportunity to spend a night dancing to praise music in rented theaters. People pack out church services until there is standing room only, and think nothing of engaging in worship for seven hours.
“The whole congregation is preaching. That’s why it takes so long … but people aren’t sleeping,” Oduro said.
He expanded academia’s definition of worship, faithful preaching of God’s word and administration of the sacraments, to include “celebrating the goodness of God.”
At Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Oduro preached about mission using Matthew 10 as his text. He encouraged Christians to move out of their comfort zones to every town and city, even dangerous places. He noted that Jesus’ ministry is like a three-legged stool, employing teaching, preaching and healing to communicate the good news of his salvation. If one of the legs is missing, the stool will not be stable, or very useful.
“Has Jesus stopped healing?” Oduro, asked. When listeners remained silent, unlike Ghanaian congregations, Oduro answered his own question.
“I tell you, Jesus Christ is still in the healing business,” Oduro said.
In a land of subsistence agriculture, harvesting when the fields are ready is as urgent for life as evacuating people when a house is on fire. Jesus calls us with that kind of urgency and compassion, Oduro said.
Oduro, who has experienced the entire ecumenical spectrum within his own spiritual pilgrimage, advises learning about successful mission by studying African Initiated Churches, who have led the way in the explosion of Christianity in Africa. According to David Barrett’s research that provided figures to the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Conn., there were less than nine million Christians on the African continent at the turn of the 20th century, about 9 percent of the population. In 2000, there were 335 million African Christians, or about 45 percent of the population.
Oduro was baptized as an infant in his parents’ Presbyterian church. However, he began attending a Methodist church when he went to live with his grandparents, but needed to become Catholic in order to attend junior high school. When he was 12 years old, Oduro and his parents became members of an African Initiated Church, Church of the Lord (Aladura).
It was here that he met his first Mennonite, Erma Grove, who was a teacher and director of Good News Training Institute. Grove served from 1957-1983 with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network and one of the leaders in ministry with African Initiated Churches.
Grove was speaking in African Initiated Churches about the importance of biblical understanding, and inviting congregations to send students to the school that was to become Good News Theological College and Seminary. Oduro caught the vision, enrolled in the school, and graduated in 1983. Now, 30 years later, as president of one of his alma maters, Oduro continues the ministry begun by Grove.
“I am an example of the contribution of Mennonites to African Christianity,” Oduro said. “I have come to pay my debt.”
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Grove insisted that all her students read the Bible cover-to-cover. It seemed like an impossible task, Oduro said, but Grove, a passionate and challenging teacher, found ways to make it interesting, like counting the number of times Mark used “immediately” in his gospel and then asking, “Why?”
“It was a joy to be in her class. Because many of us attended evening classes, coming directly from work, Erma brought food. Not only was she a director and lecturer, she was a mother to us,” Oduro said.
Since his student days at Good News, Oduro has been part of two additional denominations – Calvary Baptist and Christ Holy Church International, where he is currently a member. Because Good News Theological College and Seminary has been a collaborative ministry among African Initiated Churches, Mennonites and Lutherans, Oduro obtained his Master’s degree and his doctorate at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
Oduro holds office in several international ecumenical organizations and has authored or coauthored numerous books. He was jointly hosted in Indiana by Mennonite Mission Network and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. His February visit was part of a nine-month sabbatical at Overseas Ministries Study Center, as Good News released him to complete a book on evangelism, to rest, and to visit sponsors of the college and seminary.
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Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact Andrew Clouse at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-523-3024 or 866-866-2872, ext. 23024.