After Francis I. U. Dolphijn’s conversion at Apam, Ghana in January 1888, marking the offical beginning of Seventh-Day Adventism in the country, the next prominent Ghanaian to play a key role in the development of Adventism was Christian Abraham Ackah.
Christian A. Ackah was born about 1884 and was a native of Kikam in the Nzema area on the western shores of Ghana. He married a Cape Coast woman, a sister of the Reverend Frank Osam Pinanko of the African Methodist Episcopal (A. M. E. Zion) Church.
Though from Kikam, Christian A. Ackah lived at Cape Coast at the beginning of the 20th century. It was here that he was evidently converted to Adventism in 1903 by James Hyatt, an African-American missionary who worked for the SDA Church in Ghana.
Ackah founded a school which was called the “Ackah School” at Cape Coast in 1907. However, in 1908, he transferred the school to Kikam, his home town. His primary aim was to train and educate young people to support church work as teachers and evangelists.
Not long after the transfer of the school to Kikam in 1908, Christian Ackah, a lay person keen on education as well as on evangelism through education, invited John Kwabena Kaipro Garbrah of Shama near Sekondi, a teacher, to join his teaching staff at the Kikam SDA School. John Garbrah was converted and later became the first ordained minister of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Ghana in May 1921.
In 1908, in addition to opening schools and churches at Axim, Atuabo and other places, Ackah also converted a number of citizens at Kikam to the Adventist faith. Some of the pioneer students at the Kikam SDA School who later became renowned and influential ministers of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church were S. B. Essien, J. M. Arloo, and I. A. Benson.
Earlier, in 1905, the SDA Church headquarters in Washington D.C., USA, had sent David Caldwell Babcock, a missionary based in Sierra Leone, to oversee the work in West Africa. In 1909, Christian A. Ackah, who had founded, supported, and cared for the church at Kikam single-handedly with his personal means and efforts as a lay person, invited David Babcock to Kikam and handed over the Kikam SDA School to him to be run by the Adventist Church.
On his arrival in October 1909, David Babcock was amazed at the great work done by Ackah. On October 19th, 1909, he started the Kikam SDA Church which became the first Seventh-Day Adventist Church to be organized in Ghana. On October 23rd, 1909, the Axim SDA Church was the second to be organized in Ghana by Babcock before he returned to Sierra Leone.
In 1911, Christian A. Ackah set out for the General Conference headquarters of the world church in Washington D. C., hoping to discuss the progress of the church work in Ghana and to make suggestions on how to improve it. But while in transit in Britain, he died there of tuberculosis on April 25, 1912, at the age of 28.
His death, however, did not stop the spread of the work of Adventism he had started. The human investment he made for the SDA Church later on bore greater fruits as some of the people he had trained in his school became ministers, teachers, and teacher-evangelists who greatly influenced the spread of the work in the Western Region and particularly Asante, the major stronghold of Seventh-Day Adventism in Ghana today. Some of these persons were John Garbrah, the first Ghanaian to be ordained as a Seventh-Day Adventist minister (1921), S. B. Essien, J. M. Arloo, and I. A. Benson, all of whom were Nzemas, except for Garbrah, an Ahanta.
As these and other trainees worked tirelessly with missionaries such as William Lewis, Jesse Clifford, J. J. Hyde, F. L. Stokes, T. H. Fielding, and Jesse Gibson, these Nzema ministers also took on some “boys” to assist them in their work.
Some of these also became SDA teachers and ministers. Among them were C. B. Mensah who became the first Ghanaian President of the Ghana Mission of Seventh-Day Adventists, J. K. Amoah, who became the second Ghanaian President of the Church, A. A. Agyei, who retired as the Ghana Mission Youth Director, A. B. Mensah, D. K. Ofori and R. K. Antwi. The last three all worked as teachers for the SDA Church in Ghana for many years.
One of Christian A. Ackah’s nephews, William Brandford Ackah, later became an ordained minister of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. W. B. Ackah rose to the position of departmental director for youth in the West African Union Mission with headquarters in Accra. He also served as president of the Sierra Leone Mission and the North Nigeria Mission of his church before his death in 1983.
One of Christian A. Ackah’s children, Dr. Christian A. Ackah, Jr. became the first Ghanaian Principal (now referred to as Vice-Chancellor) of Cape Coast University during the Kwame Nkrumah regime in modern Ghana’s political history.
In the laying of the foundations of Seventh-Day Adventism in Ghana, Christian A. Ackah of Kikam stands tall in the eyes of both God and man as the chief catalyst even though his 28 years on earth were very short.
K. Owusu-Mensa, Ghana Seventh-Day Adventism: A History, (Accra: The Advent Press, forthcoming).
——–, Saturday God and Adventism in Ghana (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 1993).
This article, received in 2001, was researched and written by Dr. Kofi Owusu-Mensa, Professor of History and DACB Liaison Coordinator at Valley View University, Oyibi, a DACB Participating Institution in Accra, Ghana.