My acquaintance with Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah spans 37 years now. At that time little did we know that our paths were divinely set to intersect at various points, and to beautifully play out in an alternating manner in some of the highest echelons of leadership positions in the Church of Pentecost.
It was in 1980, in CoP Tamale, Ghana’s Northern Regional capital. He was the Regional Leader of the Witness Movement (now Evangelism Ministry), while I was in Yendi as a school teacher and District Leader of that wing of the Church.
What first attracted me to him was his age. Being in his mid-twenties, he was the very youngest pastor of the Church I had ever seen, but what endeared him to me was his delivery of the word of God. His sermons transmitted knowledge which was then hammered down as truth and presented as wisdom to be applied for fruitful Christian living. He challenged people to live and work for God. One day he jokingly told us young leaders of the Church to buy for ourselves second-hand suits in preparation for pastoral ministry.
I admired him. I wished I could be close to him to receive more. I wanted to be like him. Thankfully those wishes were just a couple of years away for their realisation.
Thus, even from these earliest stages, he was my “boss”
Under his ministerial tutelage
In 1984, I was called into the full-time pastoral ministry and posted to Tamale. A year later I was transferred to Krachi-Nkwanta District. Meanwhile he had previously been appointed Area Head for Volta Region with Krachi-Nkwanta (my district) as one of the component districts under him. The closer I got to him the more I admired him. At this level, what I admired most about him were:
- He loved the Lord and lived close to Him. He would spend many hours in prayer every morning. Once I asked him why he spent so much time in prayer, he responded, “There’s much to be done. We need the strength and direction from the Lord to do it all; prayer is the means to receiving all these.”
- He loved the ministers under him and promoted their welfare. Consequently many of the younger ministers who worked under him quickly came to the limelight in ministry.
- He is apt to spot the talents and giftings of ministers and had the rare ability to groom, develop, and use them. On one occasion he told me privately to prepare and teach on a certain topic during a forthcoming Church convention (he knew that the area of ministration was one of my strongest areas of ability) even though there were senior ministers around.
- He is very innovative, pushing the boundaries, doing old things in new ways. One time he held an “Executive Crusade” in Ho (the Volta regional capital) where everybody attending the crusade had to dress official, that is, wearing suits or high class traditional outfits. The outcome was fantastic. It brought in many converts of high profile personalities.
Soon, however, we had to part company. He left for further studies in England (1986) and I, for the missions field in Liberia (1988).
Thus, in my second station as pastor in the Church, he was my “boss”.
Under HIS MISSIONARY DIRECTORSHIP: Parting in 1986, our paths went divergent until in 1991 when we re-converged. Here, I had been called into the apostleship and sent as a missionary to Ivory Coast as National Head of the Church. He had been elected International Missions Director. Here too, he was my “boss.”
His qualities were even more revealing:
- High level of concern for people. In Ivory Coast, my wife and I were involved in a debilitating road accident. My wife suffered three fractures on her collar bone. While I thought I had escaped unscathed but later events show that it was the root cause of my current paralysis, as soon as the information reached him, he flew down to Abidjan to visit us and to assess our situation.
- Despite his position he brought me around himself and handled me as a colleague, not as a subordinate, a pivotal leadership principle which I learnt from him. Surely it has impacted my leadership role since then. On one occasion I joined him on a missionary trip to the Republic of Mali (the Church in Cote d’Ivoire pioneered the Church in Mali in 1993). Temperatures peaked around 40° Celsius. I checked him into an air-conditioned room. Later he accompanied me to my room. When he realized that my room was without, (we did not have the money to book two air conditioned rooms) he insisted that I join him in his room. Well, I obliged.
- Readiness to help. If anything was within his power he was ready to help. In 1992 for example while serving as missionary in Ivory Coast our family was faced with the difficulty of finding a place to keep our six-year old son, Samuel Ansong, (named after the venerable apostle). His godfather with whom he was living had been transferred to USA. We could not bring our son along with us because of the language factor (the official language of Ivory Coast is French). When I mentioned this to him in a private conversation, Apostle Onyinah surprised me by saying, “Can we help you by taking Samuel in?” Samuel eventually lived with them as a family member from 1992 until 1997.
Thus when we met at the missions level, he was my boss.
A change in game plan, the Chairmanship factor : In 1998, I was elected Chairman of the Church to take over from Prophet Martinson Kwadwo Yeboah.
A Chairman and his student
Since the Chairman is like the “CEO” of the Church and takes precedence over all its officers and members, Apostle Dr Onyinah, still pursuing his PhD studies, had now to look to me for the sponsorship and direction of his studies. Now, I was his boss.
A Chairman and his rector
When Apostle Dr Onyinah completed his studies and returned to Ghana the Executive Council, headed by myself, had to decide on his role in the Church. One day when he was invited to appear before the Council for deliberations, we asked him not to “panic” reminding him that most of us serving on the Council had once served under him at various levels. To this he replied,”You cannot always be sure of what is in store for you when you are summoned before your big men”. Oh, what a mark of respect; what a demonstration of honouring of leaders!!
Subsequently he was appointed Rector of Pentecost University College.
I was his boss.
A Chancellor and his Rector
When Dr Onyinah was appointed Rector of the university, in my capacity as Chairman, I was the Chancellor of the university. This implied that he was responsible to me in many of his administrative duties. I was his boss
A Chairman and his executive Council member
During meetings of the council he would, like others often say, “Chairman, we have shared our ideas and opinions on this issue, but you have the last word”. Here, I was his boss.
Throughout my years in office as Chairman, I further got the opportunity to closely observe him from the other side of the table.
- During his student days in U.K. he wrote an article for publication in the Church’s official magazine, Pentecost Fire. However he wanted to seek my opinion about it. When I advised him against it, he accepted it in good faith. That was humility.
- As Rector of the university, he worked very hard, pushing boundaries and breaking grounds for the institution’s advancement. He kept the line of communication very open, consulting me whenever the need arose. That was good teamwork.
- When I assumed office as Chairman, Dr. Onyinah accorded me his full support and backing. He is a believer in the saying, “God can use anyone for anything at anytime.” He did not, like others, despise my youthfulness.
- In all these he demonstrated the good, old saying that, “To be a good leader, you must first learn to be a good follower”, and that “Leadership is given, not taken.”
Another change in roles: A Chairman and his former Chairman: Time flies: Within ten years, (1998-2008), I had completed the two maximum terms of office as Chairman. Little did anyone know that there was going to be another beautiful intersection of the ministerial paths of Dr Opoku Onyinah and I. Guess who was going to succeed me as Chairman of the Church? It was none other than my former “boss” who, in turn, had humbly played the role of “follower” for ten years when I was his “boss”. Now he is my boss.
- What kind of relationship? I completed my tenure of office when I was aged 50. Choosing not to retire from active ministry at that young age (ministers retire at 65) implied that there was going to be, for the first time in the Church’s history, a former Chairman still in active service under an incumbent. What was the relationship going to be? Was there going to be some sort of “witch-hunting” as is often the case in political activism? Was there going to be a denigration of our modest contributions (by the grace of God) to the life and development of our dear Church?
On my part, in 1998 when I assumed office as Chairman I had asked the Lord to grant me the grace to finish my mandate and come out the same person, which means that the office I had occupied would not have negatively changed me.
I strongly purposed in my heart to reckon him as my boss; to cherish and honour him in all things. My logic was simple: Even if he, had been able to humbly submit to my leadership, how much more should I, his son in the Lord, not submit to his leadership?
But there was nothing to worry about at all. We knew each other and knew that our relationship was going to be a replica for governments, other churches, and surely to CoP for many generations to come.
This new level of our relationship further brought forth some of his most sterling qualities.
- He honours leadership for its own sake, knowing that “The leader who dishonours his predecessor dishonours himself.” Often people would call me on phone with remarks such as, “Apostle Ntumy, Chairman Opoku Onyinah has visited our Area/Nation. He spoke very highly of you…”
- He loves the bond of unity. Despite his numerous activities we are closely in touch in both official and personal matters. Sometimes we exchanged about three or four emails in a day, as well as regular phone calls.
- He demonstrates a high level of compassion and sympathy. In 2009 I underwent a surgery on my spine which has confined me into a wheelchair. Apostle Professor Onyinah has shown unparalleled compassion and sympathy towards me. When the outcome of the surgery was relayed to him, he flew to Paris to visit me in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. He prayed intensely for me. I gave him my “last word for himself and for the Church” (I knew I was going die). The Lord intervened and snatched me from death. I was discharged and flown back to Hamburg.
Since then we have lost count of the number of times he has visited us in Germany, and also in USA after having sought medical attention over there.
- He is bold in his convictions: Once he is convinced of a line of action, he would pursue it to the very end. For example, when I became handicapped, I raised the issue of my early retirement before him several times in private. He repeatedly said, “Apostle, just leave this with me. I am convinced that God is up to something. There’s still much for you to do”.
- Anybody could be useful in spite of their circumstances: Knowing the talent and skills God has given me, he has strongly maintained that there is much for me to do in the full-time ministry despite my handicapped situation.
Consequently a special position has been created for me as Director of Pentecost Literary Works, charged with publishing books and other materials for the Church. This consideration was not for me alone but for some others as well. For example, under his chairmanship the Church has established a ministry for the deaf and dumb, with one deaf and dumb young man having been ordained a pastor.
- He is very generous. In all his visits to us in Germany, he has presented us with various sums of money, both from himself and from the Headquarters of the Church. The same is done for us during our officials visits to Ghana.
An Accomplished Scholar
Dr. Onyinah entered the full-time ministry of the Church when he had only an academic certificate from a second-cycle institution. Despite the hectic demands of his apostolic ministry, in less than thirty years he had a PhD from a world-class university. Capping it all was his recent promotion to the Professorial rank.
Blending spirituality with intellectuality
It is often said that many people enter into Bible College as Christians but graduate as apostates; as people on fire for God, but graduate as cold Christians; as standing firm but graduate as backsliders. Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah did not fall victim to his own success. He knows the secret of what I have called, “Walking on both legs”, that is, combining sound theological knowledge with deep spirituality.
My word to my Chairman
My dear Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah, my model in Tamale, my mentor in Krachi-Nkwanta, my encourager in missionary work, my supporter when I was Chairman, and now my beloved Chairman, my compassionate “boss”, soon you will become “the former Chairman” while I become “a former Chairman”. I could write a whole book about you, but you have already written your own, I could provide statistical data to portray your huge contributions to the growth and development of our beloved Church, to Ghana and global Christianity, but these would be provided by higher authorities.
However in my own little way, as you now retire from the full-time ministry after 42 years of dedicated service, I join the multitudes of others to celebrate God’s faithfulness to you and your family, and to the entire CoP family. You have creditably served your God, your Church, your nation and the world at large.
You have impacted your generation. Your legacy will endure for many generations to come.
May the Lord refresh you in your retirement and may you continue to bear fruit even in your old age. #WellDoneOpokuOnyinah
By: Apostle Ntumy