Emmanuel Anukun Dabson was born in 1959 in a little village called Kopoase. His father was a fetish priest and had two wives and ten children. His parents and the whole community were ardent animists, worshippers of idols and ancestors. As a teenager, Emmanuel was invited to attend Scripture Union meetings several times. At first he refused, but finally relented at the insistence of his friends. After a few meetings, Emmanuel put his faith in Jesus. Receiving the call to full-time ministry, Emmanuel received his theology degree and later joined COF. Emmanuel served as COF’s Field Director overseeing COF’s church-planting work for many years. In 2006, he was promoted to National Director. Emmanuel and his wife Mercy have four children.
The vision of Christian Outreach Fellowship is to plant churches among the unreached people of Ghana and greater West Africa. Advantageously positioned to advance the Gospel throughout the entire region, COF has initiated church-planting ministry among the Muslim people of northern Ghana and neighboring countries. Since their founding, they have planted more than 400 churches.
One of the challenges COF missionary Alex Kipo faces is how to transform cultural practices that are tainted with idolatry. In spite of extreme poverty, when a person dies in Ghana, families often spend lots of money for an elaborate funeral. In their view, this is the best way to honor the dead. Unbelievers claimed that because Christians do not perform elaborate funerals, they are “buried like dogs.” But Alex proved them all wrong. When a memorial was held for a deceased believer, they followed the ceremony with an open-air celebration with music, dance, and preaching. Instead of the family spending lots of money on offerings, a love donation was given to the widow. Deeply impacted by this event, unbelievers testified that “it is more honorable to die a Christian,” and they are open to learning more about Jesus.
Over two decades ago evangelical leaders realized that something momentous had to be done if Ghana was ever to be completely evangelized for Christ. This was the beginning of a movement where Christians were recruited and trained as missionaries to reach the complex medley of tribal groups in northern Ghana that have scarcely been touched by the Gospel. Today, this movement is known as Christian Outreach Fellowship (COF), the largest, most successful, and most well-known church-planting agency in Ghana
While southern Ghana is predominately Christian, Islam continues to dominate the north. Islam was first introduced in Ghana primarily through the commercial activities of North African Muslims. It made its entry into the north of what is today Ghana around the fifteenth century. Estimates have shown that the Muslim population of Ghana has risen over the centuries, with the religion now penetrating south to the coast where the number of conversions continues to increase.
The ministry focuses on a four-fold strategy: church planting among unreached peoples, field-based leadership and training of church planters, holistic initiatives, and missionary support development.
Having already initiated church-planting work among many of the major unreached groups in Ghana, COF’s goal is to “finish the task” in Ghana and increase their presence in neighboring Burkina Faso, Togo, and Benin.
Sending Workers, COF
After much work and dedication by indigenous church planters and missionary groups, today Ghana is nearly 70 percent Christian. However, most of Ghana’s Christians are clustered in the South. COF is sending church planters to northern Ghana, the most underdeveloped area of Ghana, where many Muslim and animist peoples live. This area lags behind southern Ghana owing to anti-development colonial policies, bad weather, poor soil fertility, and detrimental cultural practices. COF’s strategy is to send a trained Ghanaian missionary couple to a needy area. This church planter then mobilizes local people to reach their own people for Christ. The current team of 107 COF missionaries have a goal to plant 25 new churches and 60 fellowships (groups on the way to becoming churches) in the coming year. Almost all of them have no buildings and meet simply under trees.
The COF worker is generally one of the most highly educated people in the area, and they are relied upon for everything—medical help, community development programs, job training, and advocacy for government services in the area. These efforts give credibility to believers and build bridges to the community, opening doors for a Christian witness. Partners’ goal is to aid in providing small living stipends for the church planters. Missionaries also raise support from their home churches in the South.
Training Workers, COF
Early in its operational history, COF realized that it was not effective to just train and send Ghanaian missionaries to witness in the field as church planters. Newly sent missionaries would plant several churches quickly, but then find that they did not have enough time to minister to the needs of each of these churches. These missionaries learned through personal experience that training others for leadership roles was the key to solving this problem.
COF has developed a multi-tiered training program through which their full-time missionaries, part-time field assistants, grassroots local church planters, and members of new congregations from across Ghana receive training. Groups of missionaries and their field assistants come to Accra four times a year for training in the Bible, church planting, and microenterprise. These five-day courses are participation-oriented with emphasis on solving practical problems that workers face in the field. They then return to the field where they immediately put into practice what they have learned by providing monthly training for grassroots church planters from among the local believers. Already, COF church planters have raised up almost 2,000 volunteer evangelists through their efforts. This training program will provide first-time or refresher training for 300 church planters, missionaries, and associated ministry workers, including their spouses. Your gift will help equip a leader with the tools and training they need to successfully share Christ in unreached areas.
Bullock and Plow for Income Generation, COF
Life is difficult in the unreached areas where COF church planters minister. Daily, these workers have people at their doors who have no food, are sick, or request other forms of help. But COF workers live in the same villages and experience the same financial hardships. Instead of providing permanent financial support, COF is resourcing them with the tools to become economically independent.
Providing two bulls, a plow, and seeds for each worker will allow them to cultivate a farm and generate income. It will also help them to feed and clothe their families, educate their children, and support their ministry efforts. This type of self-support is critical since COF hopes to increase their work force by at least five couples per year. Partners hopes to provide bulls, a plow, and seeds for five church planter families this year ($2,000 each).
Women's Entrepreneurial Development, COF
Women and children constitute more than 80 percent of church membership in Ghana. However, “ministry” is often perceived as a male-only vocation. As a result, women do not receive theological education or missionary training alongside their husbands. They also do not receive adequate spiritual care as very few women are trained to minister to other women. Ghana’s women believers remain a significant, untapped human resource of the church. COF wants to bridge this gap by providing vocational and ministry skills training to 30-40 missionary wives and other leading members of their churches in Accra in a one-week training event. With this training, these women will be able to generate income to supplement their husband’s income and also learn to be effective leaders to women and children in their churches. The women will be encouraged and equipped to share what they learned with women in their home areas.
Motorcycles & Bicycles, COF
COF’s evangelists and church planters serve at great personal sacrifice. They live in remote areas where public transport is nonexistent, unreliable, or highly inconvenient. Often their only option is to traverse difficult terrain in extreme heat that is sometimes in areas inhabited by snakes or scorpions. Supplying these dedicated workers with sturdy bicycles enables them to visit their areas of ministry more often, with greater safety and more cost efficiency.
Full-time missionaries who supervise large areas cannot cover the area by bicycle as some villages might be 5 to 15 miles apart. To have more ministry time than travel time, the ideal solution is a motorbike. You can expand the reach of one Ghanaian missionary by providing a bicycle or motorbike. Partners would like to raise a portion of the funds for the five motorbikes ($2,900) and 20 bicycles ($145 each) that are urgently needed.
Rehabilitation of Alleged Witches
In most rural communities in Ghana and especially northern Ghana, when someone dies the question asked is not what caused the death but who. Belief in witchcraft has been a part of African culture for centuries. Some people are believed to have spiritual powers that enable them to influence the actions or destiny of others, especially for evil purposes. Thus, when a death occurs, surviving family members feel they must “smoke out” the culprit through the art of divination. And, in most cases, impoverished widows become the victims of the witch hunt. These alleged witches are taken to isolated parts of towns or villages to live in areas designated as “witch camps.” This is after they have been separated from their families, beaten, disgraced, and exposed to public ridicule.
COF seeks to alleviate poverty among these women through income-generating activities and bring them together for fellowship and mutual support. COF is actively working to educate and persuade local leaders that this practice needs to change. In time, our hope is to witness the eradication of this destructive practice so that these women can be restored to their families and communities. Gifts to this project will provide food, soap, and other basic necessities to the women each month. Project leaders will also engage them in farming projects and help them register under the national health insurance program to ensure their medical needs are taken care of. Join the fight for justice for these accused witches by equipping COF to not only minister to the women’s physical and spiritual needs, but also to gather community support for ending the practice of witch-hunting.
Special Projects, COF
Though established more than 20 years ago, COF has never owned its own headquarters building, and as a result they have never been able to expand their ministry as hoped. In January 2011, Partners International began helping COF construct a four-story mission center. The foundation, concrete work, and roofing is complete. The remaining tasks includes the electrical work, plumbing, interior walls, and finishing work.
Once the first two floors are complete, COF will move into the new space. The building will be used as a headquarters office, research center, and base for outreach. Because COF does not currently have adequate space for holding large gatherings, a fourth use will be as a center to train groups of church planters, women leaders, and volunteers. A full kitchen, dining area, guestrooms, and large meeting space will make this a great place for conferences and retreats. Income from renting out the facility for events is expected to cover half of the operating costs. Due to inflation, materials costs are on the rise, thus Partners hopes to help complete this project as soon as possible. Your gifts toward this mission center will greatly enhance COF’s ministry capacity and provide a much-needed facility for Christian fellowship and training in Ghana.
COF is seeking to build schools or additional classrooms for two communities who desire to educate their children but simply don’t have an appropriate facility. Through this project, children will grow in literacy, have a brighter future, and avoid Islamic indoctrination in local Muslim schools.
As children receive a quality education, their lives will demonstrate the goodness of God. Christian workers will disciple the children in the school, equipping them to be agents of change in their families and communities.
Gifts In Kind Shipments, COF
Through our Gifts-in-Kind program, Partners International sends sea containers of goods to our partner ministries in Africa. Requested directly by the ministries’ field staff, these items range from medicines to clothes to office supplies. Shipments range in value from $300,000 up to $1,000,000. On average, the cost to Partners International for filling and shipping each container is just 2-3 percent of the value of the contents. Partners would like to send one shipment to COF with furniture and equipment for the new mission center.