Samson Oppong (variant spellings: Oppon
or Opon) was a Gold Coast prophet-preacher. He was born in
Brong Ahafo (now in Ghana) in a slave family originating in
Gurunsi (now in Burkina Faso). He became an itinerant laborer,
and, instructed by his uncle, practiced magic enthusiastically.
While he was in prison for embezzlement in Ivory Coast (c.
1913), a prophetic dream instructed him to burn his fetishes.
He resisted this and other admonitory experiences over several
years, during which he prospered through sorcery. He had various
contacts with Christian but no sustained church exposure.
After a particularly vivid vision about 1917, he began itinerant
preaching, calling for destruction of fetishes and abandonment
of magic and witchcraft. He seems to have been by an American
Methodist Episcopal minister, but he worked independently
of the missions, drawing vast crowds in Ashanti where Christianity
had made little progress despite a long presence. He confronted
powerful chiefs and disturbed the colonial authorities. Illiterate,
he was believed to learn Bible texts from a stone he carried
(he identified it with the stone of Revelation 2:17). The
Basel Mission ignored him, but in 1920, a Wesleyan Methodist
missionary, W. G. Waterworth, met and traveled with him, and
from then on Oppong worked with the British Methodist mission.
Ten thousand baptisms followed in two years, and the Methodist
structures could not cope with thousands more seeking Christian
instruction. By 1923, 20,000 new converts were in pastoral
care. Soon, however, Oppong's uncle got him drinking again,
and he became alienated from his church, whose southern Fante
ministers he resented. He lost his electrifying preaching
powers, could no longer "read" the stone, and in 1929 was
convicted of a sexual offense in a traditional court. His
later life was spent farming, though he was eventually restored
to church membership and preached in his locality.
Oppong's ministry, which transformed Methodist growth in Ashanti,
recalls that of his better known contemporary W.
W. Harris, but no direct connection between them has been
Andrew F. Walls
H. Debrunner, The Story of Sampson Oppong (1967) and History of Christianity in Ghana (1965); G. M. Haliburton, "The Calling of a Prophet: Sampson Oppong," Bulletin of the Society for African Church History 2, no. 1 (1965): 84-96, and "The Late Sampson Oppong," West African Religion 5 (1966): 1-2; A. E. Southon, Gold Coast Methodism (1934).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.