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Samuel Dankwa
1903 to 1958
Ossa-Madih Church
Ghana

His Early Life

Samuel Dankwa, the founder and first head prophet of the Ossa-Madih Church, was born at Gomoa Oguan in the central region of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) in 1903. He was the last of five children born to Opanin Kwame Dankwa and Maame Esi Etuaa. Neither his brothers nor his sister received formal schooling because their father, a wealthy cocoa farmer, did not see any need to educate his children.

At twelve, Dankwa longed to go to school. Too old for primary school, he began to attend adult education classes. He took his studies very seriously and soon he was able to read and write in the Fanti language. He was a clever young man and, after one year of classes, he was able to help those around him, teaching the older ones to read and write. This earned him the title "teacher." He was quick to learn how to drive a car and was driving a few months after he began.

Not much is known about Dankwa's conversion story. His parents were raised with traditional, indigenous beliefs. By the time Dankwa was in school, he was a staunch Methodist. He read the Bible in order to understand for himself the stories that preachers spoke about in church services. When he was about fifteen, he took an interest in evangelism. His zeal for sharing his faith took many by surprise. He had a deep understanding of Scripture and was able to bring his parents into the Methodist church.

Dankwa married Ama Buafi, the daughter of Nana Kojo Nkum, the paramount chief of the Gomua traditional area at that time. Popularly known as Nana Baa (grandmother), Buafi is, at the time of writing (2007), still alive and very active. Dankwa later preached on the practice of polygamy and married over ten wives. He had many children.

Samuel Dankwa and Methodist Church

Dankwa was a very active member of the Methodist church at Gomua Oguan, serving as a driver and an active evangelist. With his ability to read and write, he founded a prayer and Bible study group within the church. The group, mostly composed of the young adults within the congregation, committed themselves to study, evangelism, prayer, and fasting. The group achieved an official status within the local church as a branch for youth ministry.

In studying the Bible, Dankwa believed that the Holy Spirit would empower those who worked for the Lord. He also believed his group needed more space and uninterrupted time to focus, pray, and feel the power of the Spirit. Speaking with his colleagues, he decided to find a place on the outskirts of town where they could worship and seek the face of God. They founded "The Camp" where Christians could participate in Bible study, prayer and fasting, activities which were combined with praise and worship, known then as Abibidwom. Around 1918, during a usual morning prayer meeting, several members of the group were possessed by the Spirit and began speaking in tongues. Unfortunately, Dankwa was absent from the meeting, as his career as a driver kept him busy. He was later informed of the new phenomena.

At the next meeting, Dankwa was present and eagerly waited for prayer to begin. Group members were once again empowered by the Holy Spirit, and this time Dankwa was among them, speaking in tongues, and deeply possessed. Feeling the need to separate himself from the group he walked to a private place where he was encircled by a marvelous light and was visited by an angel of the Lord. Dankwa saw something like a moon descending upon him, so he fell to his knees. Others around the Camp witnessed the bright light and wondered what it could be. The angel told Dankwa many things and revealed to him that he was to be the final prophet of God, the one who would gather all the elect to God before the second coming of Jesus Christ. Following this vision, Dankwa began to prophesy, heal people, and cast out demons. The people of Gomua Oguan and neighboring areas called him a prophet.

Conflict with the Methodist Church

By 1920, two years after the initial vision, the Camp had attracted a large following. Dankwa renamed his ministry the Faith Society (Egyedzifo Kuw) and was still a part of the ministry of the local Methodist church. He began appointing leaders within the group to handle the number of growing responsibilities. The highest ranking leaders formed the Five Member Group (Beenumfo Kuw), the spiritual elite responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people. Dankwa himself was a member. They were followed by the Fathers' Group (Egyanomfo Kuw). These people worked for the social welfare of group members and offered counseling. The lowest ranking group within this hierarchy was the Soldiers' Group (Nsordafo Kuw) in charge of security.

In 1921, the leadership of the local and district Methodist church began to worry about certain elements of Dankwa's group. First, they worried about the rate at which the group was growing and how they and their prophet were gaining more respect day by day from the people in and around Gomua. Within the Faith Society, many believed that these fears were rooted in the fact that they garnered more respect than the local Methodist church: their name and activities were more popular and almost overshadowed those of the Methodist church at Gomua Oguan. Methodist church leaders were also concerned about some of the activities of the group, especially Spirit invocation (Sumsum Fre). Society members often went to the Camp to invoke the Spirit by singing Abibidwom and praying loudly. Their final concerns had to do with the healing and deliverance activities of the group.

The Faith Society continued to grow in its popularity. Eventually, their activities won the heart and support of the newly posted Methodist teacher and catechist, Master Kofi Appiah. A native of Abura Adumfa, Master Appiah had been transferred from Gomua Dunkwa to Gomua Oguan in May of 1920 to take charge of the local church. The Rev. Gaddiel Acquaah, the current leader of the Methodist church in Oguan, could not travel there very often. Master Appiah was posted there to enlighten church members against the activities of the Faith Society. Despite these intentions, Appiah found himself deeply involved in the Society.

In 1922, Rev. Acquaah tried to persuade Dankwa and his council to end the activities of the Society. He argued that what was happening in the Society was nothing less than occultism and Satanism and that the Society should be shut down. In response, Dankwa and his adherents expanded their activities even more. In 1923, after several attempts at persuasion, including some attacks, Rev. Acquaah ordered Master Appiah to move to Dwama (now Manford) to take charge of the branch there. After this, he dismissed Samuel Dankwa and his group from the Methodist church. However, Nana Kwadwo Nkum, the Omanhene (paramount chief), promised to protect the Society from harm.

In 1923 the Faith Society moved to Onyaa Wonsu where their membership flourished. Dankwa and his executives approached Nana Adam, the chief of Fomena, to request a piece of land for their growing community. For three pounds ten shillings, the chief sold them a section of land that the Society called Muzano, a name that they believed was revealed by God. Dankwa was recognized as the chief and the Society worked hard to develop the area. They moved officially on October 17, 1925.

Mission to chiefs and government officials

In 1926, Dankwa claimed that God had charged him to evangelize local chiefs who were offering human sacrifices and using human blood for purifications and other rituals. Mission efforts were to include the corrupt government officials who had allowed these rituals to take place. Such an outreach would be very risky, and executives of the Society worried that they might lose their heads if they were to obey God's command. However, Dankwa's faith bolstered their hope that God would be with them.

The mission sent Dankwa and the group of executives to the chiefs at Edwumako, Esikuma, Tarkwa, Achiase, and the Cape Coast. They also went to Assin Nuaem, Twifo Denkyira, and Akim with their message. On the final part of their journey, they spoke to Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh I. Their message was clear and they confronted the chiefs exhorting them to refrain from killing and to use their authority instead to protect life and solve chieftaincy disputes. Their mission was effective and many of the chiefs received the message gladly. At the Cape Coast, in particular, the regional commissioner was inspired to stop the chiefs from killing innocent people. None of the executives came to any harm. Dankwa and the group returned safely to Fomena.

Mission to the Brong People

In early 1929, Dankwa claimed that God had asked him and some elders to undertake another mission, this time to a place called Dormaa in the Bono and Ahafo traditional area, in the northwestern part of Ghana. They were to go with their wives. Neither Dankwa nor his elders were familiar with the area. Soon, however, the chosen group left on this journey.

Some of the members of the Faith Society resisted the decision to undertake the mission. As a result, these executives were left behind. They were led by Master Appiah and Hanna Barnes who later founded the Muzama Disco Kristo Church, of which Appiah became the head, taking the title Akaboha 1 (meaning "first king").

By late 1929, the group arrived at Abetifi where they were stranded because none of them knew where to go from there. In the midst of these uncertainties, Samuel Dankwa claimed that God had told him that five angels would appear in the form of crows to lead them until they finally arrive at their destination. It was revealed that they should be prepared to move when they would see these angelic birds in the sky and stop when they disappeared. It so happened that any time the crows disappeared they were in a particular town or village. The group finally arrived safely at Dormaa in 1930 after traveling on foot for almost a year.

At Dormaa, Nana Oppong Yaw Kuma, the paramount chief of the Dormaa traditional area gave them a warm reception and offered them a piece of land under the jurisdiction of one of the subchiefs at Ayinasu called Nana Kwame Kuma. Dankwa and his people established a village and named it Adomase ("under the grace"). In a very brief span of time Dankwa became very popular because of his healing abilities. The small cottage became a complete town that included his people and many others who joined Dankwa out of their own free will, as it had occurred in Oguan, Onyaa Wonsu, and Fomena.

The Birth of the Ossa-Madih Church

Until now Dankwa's group had maintained the status of a prayer center but a dream inspired him to transform this group into a church. In the dream, Dankwa was attracted by the beauty of jewelry beads sold by a certain woman whom he followed for a long time until they reached a palace. When she realized that Dankwa had been following her she asked him the reason why. He told her it was because of the beauty of the beads. At this point the chief in the palace asked the woman the name of the beads. She called them Ahondze pa (quality beads). She then gave Dankwa a seed to grow the beads and authorized him to plant it so that it would bear beads for him of the same quality and beauty. When he woke up and prayed for the meaning of the dream he was told that because of his commitment, dedication, and faithfulness to God his work was to establish a church.

After this dream, Dankwa engaged in forty days of prayer and fasting to seek the face of the Lord for the details of this church that God wanted him to establish. During this period of prayer and fasting, he also asked God for more power and strength to enable him to continue with the same momentum. In December 1931, after the fast, God asked him to name the church Ossa-Madih which means "Church of Light." He claimed God also gave him a new name, Ahassala-De-Amen, which implies that Dankwa was "the final prophet of the end times." God again named the village Adomase Yeema and the people Ark Salem. The Beenumfo Kuw or Five Member Group who accompanied Samuel from Oguan was renamed Etuhoakye Kuw, which means "the devoted ones." Samuel's new name and the new names of the church, the village, and the people are unknown names in any of the languages in Ghana.

From this point on, Ossa-Madih church started growing rapidly through healing and prophecy, with Samuel Dankwa leading as the full-time prophet-healer of the church. The church put down some strong roots in the Brong Ahafo Region and its surrounding areas. Dankwa became a popular prophet in Dormaa traditional area because of the miracles he performed. During one of the early Ossa-Madih conventions, he was said to have called down fire from heaven. Many of the elders who attended this convention claimed to have in their possession some of the ashes of this fire as a testimony for today's generation. As a result of Dankwa's popularity, the regional commissioner of Brong Ahafo visited him at Yeema and spent a night with him in 1938. In the morning he commented, "I really now believe that God lives in this town with you, because I really had a sound sleep this night." He testified about many other things and exhorted Dankwa and the church.

Dankwa became blind in the early 1940s. By that time, the Ossa-Madih Church had become deeply rooted in the Brong Ahafo Region, with more than fifty branches in the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, and Western Regions.

Chappess Congah--Proposed National Salem and Ossa-Madih Headquarters

In 1949, Dankwa claimed that God had directed him to build the headquarters of the church on a hill in the central region of Ghana where he had started his ministry. He said an angel would stand on the hill during the day of judgment and destroy the world. The angel would put one of his feet on that hill and another on the sea, as it is said in the Bible. It was revealed to Dankwa that every other place would be destroyed except the hill which was revealed to him as Chappess Congah ("the promised holy city of God"). After receiving this revelation, Dankwa, though blind, worked hard to make the revelation become a reality. He described the mountain to the elders, and showed them where they could find it. Again, he was able to show them the whole plan of the town and what the buildings should look like. He assembled some masons, carpenters, steel benders, and manual laborers to begin the work in the early fifties. According to Samuel, the plans were spiritual and for that reason no change should be effected without his prior notice. He appointed some elders to supervise the construction. This is the place where the church presently has its headquarters. The hill is situated on the Winneba Swedru road, a few kilometers from the Winneba junction.

Dankwa's death

Dankwa fell sick on September 14, 1958 and died two days later. The whole congregation believed he was not going to die because he was the "final prophet" of the last day from God and his miracles seemed to have attested to that fact. So, though worried by his illness, they were not expecting his death.

Notes on the Ossa-Madih tradition

Church administration

Dankwa, who had no formal education including theology, used the model of the chieftaincy administration that exists among the Akans, the largest ethnic group in Ghana, as a means of administering the church and his community of believers, while adding a few ecclesiastical elements. Adapting the chieftaincy administration was necessary to some extent because Dankwa did not separate the church from society. For example, while Yeema was a complete town (Salem community where common belief and focus prevails) it was also a church. The administration Dankwa established persists in all Ossa-Madih churches. Some of the key positions and their responsibilities are:
Odikro/Asorehene (Chief of the town/church)
The first and foremost function of this administration is that of the Odikro (chief of the town) or Asorehene (chief of the church). His responsibility is similar to that of any chief in Akan communities. One of his many basic functions is to settle disputes and to seek the common welfare of the people. The Odikro/Asorehene has all the regalia that any Akan chief has. He is carried in palanquin during conventions like the other chiefs during festivals. His home is considered a palace or ahenfie and he has elders with whom he works. Due to urbanization and the high cost of land it is becoming difficult to bring together all the church members in a common town (Salem). For this reason, the name Odikro is gradually fading away leaving behind the title Asorehene.

Okyeame (Linguist)
The person who occupies this office is the chief's spokesperson in all gatherings and on the church premises. He is the mediator between the community and the chief. Therefore, one does not ever see the chief without going through the Okyeame. Other functions of the Okyeame in the Ossa-Madih church/community are very close to those of his counterpart in Akan communities.

Asore Panyin/Oman Panyin (Church/community elder)
The functions of this office are similar to the functions of the Abusua Panyin (head of family) in the Akan social setting. He functions as the custodian of the Ossa-Madih Salem/Ossa-Madih church and for that matter is involved in all high level decision making at all times. The first person to occupy this office was Samuel's senior brother whose son succeeded him at the Ossa-Madih church headquarters. At a branch where Salem is not applicable the Asore Panyin title is maintained. In some instances there have been tensions between the Oman/Asore Panyin and the Asorehene concerning who has the higher authority.

Obaatan (Parent)
This office also functions like the office of the Dwantoahene (chief mediator) in the Akan chieftaincy setting. All appeals are directed to his office where there are misunderstandings or problems of some sort. The Dwantoahene offers counseling and help to people who have low self-esteem.

Nsamansaman (Sanitary officer)
Because the church adopted the way of staying together (Salem), the office of Nsamansaman became necessary and was in charge of cleanliness among community members. This office had been recommended several times at various levels by government official for its perfect work in the Salems. One branch of this office is that of the Asafo Panyin (community work officer) who is in charge of all community work in the Salem dwellings.

Asofo Kuw (The clergy)
Dankwa adapted the Akan social chieftaincy order, using some elements of the ecclesiastical order. First, the office of the clergy, headed by Osofo Panyin (referred to in English language as "high priest," is in charge of preaching, biblical education, baptism, weddings, and burials, among other things. This office is also responsible for church administration in consultation with the Ahassala-De-Amen. The high priest appoints church workers and moves them to other positions, as necessary.

Nkomhyefo Kuw (The company of prophets)
The Senior Prophet heads this office and he is in charge of all spiritual matters for Ossa-Madih Church/ Salem members. This is the most respected office because prophets are considered the protectors of life in the Ossa-Madih church, even now. Though Dankwa was very keen on evangelism initially, prophecy has been considered more important than evangelism. For example, those who came to the prophets for help in one way or the other later joined the church and, in some instances, brought their relatives. Thus, prophecy has become a means of evangelism.

Ayaresafo (Healers)
This office functions hand in hand with the office of the prophets. The healers are not prophets themselves but they follow the instructions of the prophets, yet they are not under the head prophet but the head healer.

Baasuonfo (Prayer warriors)
This group is the prayer engine of the church and works hand in hand first with the office of the prophets but also with all the other offices. This is because it is in charge of intercession and all the departments send in some requisitions for prayer support. Unlike the healers, this group works independently and only answers to the prophets.
Some of Samuel Dankwa's teachings [1]

Though Dankwa had no theological background he propounded some very interesting, challenging and thought provoking concepts about some of the doctrines of the church. The following are a few of his teachings:
Kiisott (Lucifer/Satan)

Dankwa taught that after God had finished creating everything in heaven and on earth, he decided to create someone he could love and have fellowship with. So God made a pond of blood from which he created the first man, Kiisott. Afterwards God put a sign in front of the blood pond warning him not to go near but Kiisott disregarded the caution and drank some of the blood in the pond. God cursed Kiisott for his disobedience.

According to Dankwa, God's anger at Kiisott is the origin of earthquakes and volcanic activity. God's curse on Kiisott took the form of an evil spirit who came to dwell in him. The spirit was naked, had long ears, horns, and protruding eyes, and called himself Satan and Lucifer. After this, Kiisott told God these names and words that would be associated with him and his work: drinker of blood, witchcraft, impurity, fornicator, murderer, litigator, drunkard, the enemy of truth, selfishness, thief, snake, evil, as well as many others. After Kiisott made these names known, he insisted that no created human being bear these names. If anyone earned any of these names because of his deeds that person would be at his side at the time of condemnation. God granted Kiisott's wish.

Creation

After God had lost Kiisott, he made Adam, the second man, from dust and blood from the pond and breathed into him. Then Adam tried to sit down but he could not because he was unbalanced. Consequently God put gold on one side of his buttocks and Adam was then able to sit down and walk properly. According to Dankwa, this is how money became an integral part of a human being. Without it man becomes unbalanced in life.

After this, God took Adam to the Garden of Eden to live. In the garden, Adam noticed that all the animals were in pairs except for him. Adam asked God why he was alone, and God told him that he was not made like an animal but rather had been created in God's image. But when Adam kept insisting, God made him a suitable companion from one of his ribs. Adam received his partner with gladness and named her Eve which means woman. Both were very good friends of God.

The Fall

When Kiisott, now Satan, saw that God was a very good friend of Adam, he became jealous. He therefore went to Eve in Adam's absence and had an affair with her. According to Dankwa, Kiisott's urine and sperm became blood from the day he drank the blood from the blood pond. When he had an affair with Eve, he transferred some of the blood to her. For this reason, whenever it came to the time of the month that Satan had the affair with Eve, she bled. This is the origin of menstruation and explains why God considers menstruation as unhygienic.

When Eve obtained full knowledge of sexual intercourse from Satan she taught it to Adam. However God had told Adam and Eve that the very day that they had intercourse they would lose their relationship with him and that would be the cause of their death and destruction. According to Dankwa, this was the origin of the fall of man. God therefore cursed Adam and Eve, and sent them out of the garden. Since then mankind has been dominated by sin and is entirely under the control of Satan. Dankwa emphasized that the tree in the center of the garden was symbolic. He explains that the garden is the woman and the tree refers to the vagina. According to him, the vagina is found in the center of the woman's body if she is measured from head to toe. As Satan had sexual access to Eve before her husband Adam so it is with every woman. Satan has to sleep with every woman in the spirit to awaken her to sexual intercourse, hence her menstruation and the subsequent menstruation of all her descendants.

For the sake of this disobedience and the fall, God had to send his son to come and die before Adam and his descendants could be restored to their original position.

Marriage/Polygamy/Divorce

Samuel Dankwa taught that marriage is a gift from God. A man has permission to marry as many women as he wishes, provided he can care for them. Marrying outside the church was, however, not allowed from the initial stages of the church. Here is a detailed explanation of Dankwa's teaching on this matter:

With regard to polygamy, Samuel developed the concept that a woman is a man's "possession - trunk" [a suitcase] in which he keeps his "'possession - strength," that is, his children. A barren woman in this case is a defective "trunk" [suitcase], which the man may discard, that is, divorce, or to which he may add another "trunk" [suitcase]. An aged woman who has stopped giving birth is a "trunk" [suitcase] which is out of use, and, therefore, needs to be replaced. (This concept has thus encouraged others into polygamous marriages, ranging from the clergy to the lay person.)" [2]

Frank Botchway


Notes:

1. Samuel Dankwa's teaching are recorded in: Prophet Ahassala-De-Amen, Ossa-Madih Asor Nwoma (N.pl.: Onyase Press, n.d) [26-68]. The writer translated it from the Fantse language.
2. Frank Botchway, Journal of African Christian Thought, 10.

Sources:

Adapted from Journal of African Christian Thought (Vol. 3, No. 2, December 2000): 2-15.

The writer of the article, Rev. Frank Botchway, was born and bred in the Ossa-Madih Church. The article was written in compliance with a graduation requirement by the academic committee of the Good News Theological College and Seminary, Accra, Ghana. It was later published in the Journal of African Christian Thought.