Emelia Amexo’s life has been transformed – as have the lives of many West African students and the members of two Mennonite churches in Pennsylvania.
With a lot of hard work and support from Maple Grove and University Mennonite churches in Pennsylvania and Mennonite Women USA, Amexo has become the first Ghanaian Mennonite woman to graduate from Good News Theological College and Seminary, Accra, Ghana. But there is even better news: she’s not the only one.
Good News offers theological education to all of West Africa: both men and women. And despite different settings, Mennonites from Ghana and Pennsylvania are uniting to reach a common goal: offering education to others. This happens in both the formal seminary setting, and informally, through a relational partnership between Good News, and Maple Grove and University Mennonite churches, in Pennsylvania.
In this partnership, Ghana is a common link.
Maple Grove Mennonite Church, nestled in the hills of in Belleville, Pa., is a rural town of 1,300 people. Blocks away from Penn State University sits University Mennonite Church, in State College, Pa., a city of almost 40,000.
A partnership with Good News is breaking down the rural and urban divide.
“We’re learning to appreciate each other,” said Liz Hunsberger, a member of University Mennonite Church.
The two congregations and the seminary exchange prayer concerns monthly, and twice a year the Pennsylvania churches gather to pray together. Thomas Oduro and Humphrey Akogyeram, two Good News faculty members, spoke at the annual joint service with Maple Grove and University Mennonite Churches.
In 2008, Maple Grove and University sent a joint delegation of eight people to Ghana, where they helped build a women’s dormitory at the seminary. The dormitory is named Erma Grove, after a mission worker who served for 26 years at the seminary, even when it meant giving up her basic needs for others.
Years before the Good News partnership materialized, both churches individually expressed interest in overseas relationships.
Each church contacted Mennonite Mission Network, who suggested that the two partner with Good News, Ghana Mennonite Church and Mission Network. A four-year covenant was established, acknowledging the “individual sacrifice as well as mutual benefit” that will result from the partnership.
In the Pennsylvania churches, each person does their part. Elementary-aged children in University Mennonite Church make and sell greeting cards to raise money for the seminary. The youth group contributes to the education of Akogyeram’s son in Ghana. At Maple Grove, money is raised primarily from mission offerings outside their regular budget, said Herb Zook, associate pastor.
Gifts from Ghana, Oduro and Akogyeram offer a wealth of spiritual encouragement and immense joy during their visits with the congregation.
Zook said the partnership has given him a better understanding of the global church and a greater awareness of Africa’s reality. Those who visited Good News in 2008 shared with their congregations of the interdependency of God’s people: some are blessed financially, others spiritually. But both gifts need to be shared to encourage the church.
Oduro summed up the partnership with a Ghanaian proverb: "For one to have a complete bath, the left hand must wash the right hand and the right hand must also wash the left hand." He believes that the partnership agreement between Pennsylvania and Good News affirms the truth of this proverb.
The Ghana/Pennsylvania partnership continues to strengthen, as each part works together. And as a result, Amexo can continue “dreaming big for the church.” Her desire to learn continues so that she may be better equipped to minister and plant churches.