GERING — Godson Akushie, a third generation minister from the Republic of Ghana in west Africa, is spending his sabbatical far from home in western Nebraska.
Until later this month, Akushie is being hosted by the family of Seth Leypoldt, senior pastor at Gering United Methodist Church.
Leypoldt was pastoring in Chadron in 2005 and was looking for a mission opportunity for children to raised funds for a children’s ministry in Ghana. A Chadron State student from Ghana got them in touch with his home pastor.
“Communication was difficult back then, especially over the phone,” Leypoldt said. “When Godson became their pastor a couple of years later, we became friends via Facebook.”
In about 2010, Akushie invited members of Seth’s church in Chadron to visit his church in Ghana. So in 2011, Leypoldt and four college students from his church made the trip.
“We had such a great time, I told Godson I’d like to come back with another group of students,” he said. “So the next year, we returned.”
The pair later lost touch as Leypoldt left the ministry for a job in the financial sector. Godson moved around to different churches in Ghana.
“In 2015 I was back and became the pastor here at Gering,” Leypoldth said. “We had an official church relationship in Chadron, but here it’s more informal. And that led us to inviting Godson to visit us.”
Akushie followed his grandfather and father into ministry. Fifteen years later, he’s currently the senior pastor at the Rev. Peter Kwei Dagadu Memorial Methodist Church in Ghana’s capital city of Accra.
“We were born into ministry and by grace we knew what the church was about, with all its pros and cons,” Akushie said. “People have asked me why I wanted to become a minister and I always tell them that’s where I feel called.”
Akushie said the Methodists have a common liturgy and a common prayer book to follow during Sunday services. In addition to traditional worship services, the Methodist Church in Ghana has recently been experiencing a Pentecostal movement, what they call charismatic, among the church’s young people.
To meet the need, churches have added a contemporary service with praise songs in the local dialect, although English remains Ghana’s official language.
“For the Methodists, the formal service every Sunday in in more than one language, especially the sermon,” Akushie said. “Ga is our native language, so services are in English with a member of the congregation interpreting into Ga. If the preacher is bilingual, he does it all.”
Another feature of the Methodist Church in Ghana is they retain the tradition of circuit riders. The country is divided into five primary areas, called stations, and preachers will preach in a church in another station perhaps one or two times a month.
“With our itinerant preaching plan, we don’t preach at our stations alone,” Akushie said. “Within a month, preachers might be visiting two other places. Sometimes we also have lay preachers come in.”
That’s a different system than in the United States, where preachers are assigned to lead a single church, with an associate pastor preaching at smaller churches affiliated with the main church.
For clarification, the Methodist Church worldwide is two different denominations. The United Methodist Church has a worldwide presence in western Africa. The Methodist Church in Ghana is part of the World Methodist Council, although it’s a separate denomination.
“I’ve preached in some of the United Methodist churches,” Akushie said. “We’re quite similar, but there are also differences, such has how the preachers are assigned.”
During his stay, Akushie will learn about the area’s history, help deliver Meals on Wheels, meet with members of the congregation and also lead the worship service on Sunday, Sept. 15 at both 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services.
Akushie said while he and Leypoldt were driving up from Denver, his first reaction was the vastness and the beauty of the area. Later the architecture and overall serenity of the community also made lasting impressions.
“It was all so different from where I live that I had to calm myself down at first,” he said. “I’m trusting God to have a good time.”