Our congregation’s outreach to the West African nation of Ghana began in 1991, in response to an invitation from Frank Abror, a Ghanaian master’s degree student at WMU from 1989-1991. He was a graduate student in the Rehabilitation of the Blind program at WMU that would prepare him to assist adults in Ghana, who experience major vision loss, as he, himself, had experienced a few years earlier. At the completion of his studies at WMU in 1991, he returned to Ghana, but was not able to find a position that would allow him to do what he was trained to do.
He shared his disappointment with the officials in the Blindness Rehabilitation Center in York, Pennsylvania, where he had interned during his master’s degree program. The center immediately offered him a position. He accepted the offer and immigrated to America with his family to work in the center in York. During his studies at WMU, Frank had regularly attended our church, making many friends. Before leaving Kalamazoo in 1991, he invited his friends to visit Ghana. This resulted in the establishment of our outreach program to Ghana. Over the years, 57 members from our church and from our Presbytery have traveled to Ghana on one or more of nine mission trips to visit Presbyterian partners in the Volta Region of Ghana.
In addition, we have hosted small groups of Ghanaian partners here in Michigan on several occasions. Originally, the partnership was established between our church and Frank’s home Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the rural village of Sokode Bagble. Our church’s outreach to Ghana was lifted to the Presbytery level in April, 2005, after a partnership agreement was made between the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, PC(USA), and the Ho-East Presbytery, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.
From the beginning, our outreach to Ghana has included financial support of a Scholarship Project that provides scholarships for youths unable to afford the tuition and expenses of continuing their education through senior secondary school. Recently, the Presbytery of Lake Michigan has extended this Scholarship Project to include several other rural villages in the Ho-East Presbytery. Local committees in Ghana promote and oversee the Scholarship Project. One highlight of our trips to Ghana has been meeting with scholarship recipients and learning about their educational experiences and career plans. The latest undertaking in Ghana has been the Beekeeping Project, a self-development project that places beehives in a few rural villages and trains the beekeepers. The goal of this project is to generate sufficient income from selling honey that some of the income may be used to place additional beehives in other villages each year. The Beekeeping Project is supported by the Cents-ability offerings, which are now being collected in our congregation.
The Rev. Joshua Heikkila, PC(USA) West Africa Mission Coordinator, made a brief visit to Michigan, June 10-12. He met with several Ghana Partnership Committee members at Benton Harbor First on Sunday, June 10, and at the Presbytery meeting in Edwardsburg on June 12. John Petro took Rev. Heikkila to Tillers International on June 11 to visit the Tillers staff. Ray Wicks represented our congregation, and Rev. Doug Petersen, retired pastor from Benton Harbor First, represented our Presbytery at the 17th Ghana Mission Network meeting, held September 20-22, 2018, at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York.
Early in 2018, the Outreach Committee approved a grant of $1,260 for Rev. Josh Heikkila’s New Vehicle Fund. We were pleased to learn that the new vehicle was purchased the in late summer of 2018. In early fall, the Outreach Committee approved a grant of $3,550 to continue the Scholarship Project at the Sokode Bagble Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Frank Abror retired from his position in York, Pennsylvania, in 2017. In February, 2018, he returned to Kalamazoo to consult with faculty at the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies. On Sunday, February18, Frank and his wife, Vicentia, attended our church. It was a homecoming for Frank. He enjoyed visiting with friends in our church whom he remembered from his student days at WMU, many years earlier.
From 2018 Annual Report