What if you’d never seen a grape?

      Comments Off on What if you’d never seen a grape?

The plan, several months in the making, was for Brother John Morris, and I to travel to West Africa and meet with disciples in Ghana who identify themselves as “the Christians.” We hoped to learn about their beliefs and practices firsthand, determining also whether we could and how we should be of assistance to them and whether we might be able to teach something that would be of benefit to them. Bureaucratic red tape (or foot dragging) resulted in a delay of John’s visa, and so on March 20, 2000 I boarded a 747 in Los Angeles to fly to Amsterdam, en route to Ghana, arriving Tuesday evening, March 21 in Accra. The trip was funded by the church of Christ in Anaheim, CA (1759 W. Orange). John worked through the visa problems and set out for Ghana separately two days later, arriving in Accra on Thursday evening, March 23. Upon my arrival I was met outside the terminal by Jude Bibo Belija and Thomas Ehgan, along with two other disciples. Bibo and Thomas were to be our hosts in Ghana, and they brought me again to Accra on Thursday to pick up John when he arrived.

In several ways Ghana is like the Philippines, in terms of the level of development, the widespread poverty, the multitude of languages, the tribal history and traditions of the people, multitude of imported churches and the combative spirit of religious discussion. At the same time, Ghana, and particularly the disciples calling themselves the Christians of Ghana has unique distinctions and a different history and some different needs and opportunities.

Jude Bibo Belija is a Ghanaian man now 56 years old who in about 1978 was injured and hospitalized. During his recuperation in the hospital Bibo engaged in religious discussions with a man who asked, “If there is only one Bible and one Jesus, why are there so many churches?” Upon his release from the hospital, Bibo set out to find the answer to that question, which led him to another question, “Where can I find the church that Jesus Christ built?” Bibo went from church to church, leader to leader, asking questions. He also read his Bible, and read all the relevant books he could get his hands on. He has a remarkable memory and a keen intellect. In 1986 a copy of the Gospel Message came into his hands while riding on a bus, and he wrote letters to the author of an article, Bob Murry, and the editor, Thomas Dennis. Bibo and Bob began and continue a long distance friendship by mail, with regular correspondence and exchange of thoughts.

In the mid-1980s Bibo began to act in earnest upon his conviction that the Bible is the sole source of divine revelation and sufficient as a guide for the church, and he began public preaching. He was and is willing to confront anything that he sees in religion that he hasn’t seen in the Bible. Thankfully he is also willing to consider and study, not concluding that he has found all of the answers. During our visit and studies together we found much to admire among these disciples who seek to go “back to the Bible” and live as Christians only. They have been earnest in public preaching and have grown in the Kumasi area to a group of perhaps 600 or more, with a few other smaller groups in other cities. “The Christians” of Ghana are a restoration movement in progress, understanding from the scriptures the means of salvation, working through questions of application, trying to set in place effective Biblical elders and evangelists, working on the elements of assembly.

As an example of some of the challenges faced by a remote church group trying to follow the scriptures on their own, up until this time they have not been observing the Lord’s Supper in their assemblies, because they want to be sure they do it right before they begin to do it. The brethren take the warnings of 1 Cor. 11:27-32 very seriously. Discussing the “true vine” and the “fruit of the vine” Bibo disclosed that the local Bible translation refers to a particular kind of palm tree where the English has “vine” and that various churches in Ghana use orange juice, or other juice squeezed from fruit, or other products for the table. He said, “I have never in my life seen a grape.” There seemed to be a willingness, a desire, to follow the scriptures once understanding is clear and the elements are available. This is an area where further teaching about the simple mechanics of the Lord’s table, and making sure the fruit of the vine is available, would seem to be a service we can render. There are other challenges in leadership and organization that we may be able to help with.

There is much that is exciting and refreshing and inspirational about the seeking and sharing taking place among the Christians of Ghana, and we hope that the attitude of seeking Bible truth will continue and prevail, and that we can be a help to those who genuinely desire to know what God wants and to do it. Perhaps we can also be reminded by them of the great need to stand for truth, without embarrassment, and openly tell people what the Bible says.

Share this article: