Paul Adu was born Kwabena Mensah on September 21, 1915, at Kintampo to Opanyin Kwame Adu of Obo and Obaapayin Akosua Oweridua of the Krontihene family of Mpreaso, Kwahu Traditional Area. The parents had moved to this area to worship a local divinity Jaama Ntoa, in Jaama village, ten miles from Kintampo in search of a solution to the problem of child mortality that had troubled them for many years. Nurtured in this environment, the boy Kwabena, the second of six siblings, was introduced to the worship of this divinity at an early age.
However, around 1922, a Methodist missionary from Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana preached the gospel in Kintampo. About this time, Paul Adu, began his elementary education and he was in his first year at school when his elder brother, Jacob Adu, converted to Christianity. They joined the church’s singing band. But their father was angry with them, especially the elder son, for converting to Christianity. His attempt to withdraw them from the church was restrained by the timely counsel of the priest in charge of the Jaama cult. He advised their father to allow the boys to continue in their new faith because he perceived a spirit in them greater that his. Kwabena was subsequently baptized and adopted the name Paul. Later, when it became necessary for the father to return south in 1930, he found it expedient to place Paul in the care of Rev. Debrah, a Methodist minister in Osiam, in the eastern part of the country. Before he died, in 1944, he too converted to Christianity.
Following the recommendation of Rev. C. C. Ohene, the Methodist superintendent minister of Koforidua, Paul Adu enrolled at Wesley College, Kumasi, in 1937 and finished in 1939 as a teacher-catechist. As a lay Christian, he worked at Atebubu in northern Ashanti where he founded a school and a church. At Yeji, he founded more churches along the Volta River, one of these at Kwadwo-Bofokrom.
At Yeji in 1946, Rev. Ernest Sawyer, secretary of the Methodist synod at that time, encouraged Paul to sit for the entrance examinations to Trinity College for ministerial training into Methodist ministry. Paul enrolled that year and completed his studies in 1949, after which he was posted to Agona-Swedru in 1950. In 1953, the year of his ordination, Paul Adu was appointed to a five-member commission of the Gold Coast Synod of the Methodist Church to study the situation in the north with the aim of starting a mission there. Two years later, the church decided to extend its ministries there, and Paul Adu was selected as the first African missionary of the church to begin work in what is today northern Ghana.
The Ghana Methodist Church had initially considered beginning a ministry of evangelization among the people of the north, beyond the Ashanti midlands, in 1911, but the effort soon met with difficulties from the colonial government. Cecil Hamilton Armitage, the colonial chief commissioner, placed difficult restrictions on the movements of the Methodist missionaries sent there. He held the view that protestant missionaries were difficult to control, unlike their catholic counterparts who “were much more amenable and law abiding.” His position, therefore, gave the Catholics freer rein in evangelizing northern Ghana. He also argued that since Wa was a Muslim stronghold, it would be unwise to disturb its stability and suggested to the Wesleyans that they first put their house in order before undertaking missionary work in the north. The colonial administration’s unfavorable attitude was further compounded with poor logistics and the problem of malaria fever for expatriate missionaries who made the initial attempt. Due to all these obstacles the work was abandoned in 1915.
Paul Edu was chosen to reopen the work, almost forty years after the first attempt. Although Tamale was predominantly a Muslim city, most probably hostile to the Christian message, Paul Adu was not discouraged from starting a mission work there. He began by organizing worship services with some local Akan-speaking people and this resulted in the establishment of the Tamale United Methodist Church. His success resulted from patient labor and tact in relating with the people, as he held a sympathetic view towards Islam and relentlessly encouraged Christians to live at peace with Muslims. This wise attitude was key to the success of the mission. After spending only a year in Tamale, he was posted to Wa where his missionary work also proved successful. Unfortunately, however, the church did not respond promptly to some of his other initiatives, resulting in the loss to other denominations of the cell groups he started through his initial contacts at Yendi, Bolgatanga and Bawku.
Paul Edu was not only a church planter, he also put his linguistic versatility to good use. A polyglot, he was conversant in most of the languages of northern Ghana. He was fluent in Dagarti, Walla, Dagbani and Hausa. This became a great asset to his mission work as it facilitated his communication with indigenous peoples. He translated the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed, and some hymns and choruses into Walla. One of the choruses is:
*Yesu Christo wanna,
i wanna kusinti.*
Jesus Christ is coming,
and He will soon come.
At a time where many in northern Ghana suffered from river blindness, Paul Adu thought that one of the ways to win the victims to Christ was to offer blind children education. So he founded the Wa School for the Blind and, with the help of volunteer teachers, he offered them free tuition. In addition, he made available free health services and, as a result of personal efforts, obtained basic medicines for these services. Still, in his tenacious commitment to mission, Paul Adu began a night school to meet the needs of the people of Wa. As farmers worked all day doing farm work, he set up night schools to serve interested participants. In every way, he shared in the common life of the people, and gained their confidence. In response to his identification with them, the people began to develop a serious interest in the gospel he was preaching. The success in Wa led to the extension of the message to the adjacent towns of Vieri, Mangu, Kaleo, Swala and Bole, along with the establishment of nine primary and middle schools. In response to the educational needs of the children who were not on the farms with their parents, Paul Adu built schools where they learned reading, writing, arithmetic and had religious instruction. Some of these pupils were won over to the Christian faith. With the establishment of a school and a health center at Lawra, the town became a significant mission outpost for the Methodist Church.
In all, his ministry took him to Yeji-Atebubu as teacher/catechist (1939-1946), Agona-Swedru (1949-1954), Tamale (1954-1955), Wa (1955-1965), Bekwai-Ashanti (1965-1966), and Dunkwa-on-Offin (1966-1970) as well as Tarkwa (1970-1976) and Effiduase-Ashanti (1976-1981). Also among the fruits of his evangelistic work in northern Ghana were those converts who later took up the call to the ministry in the Methodist Church Ghana. Among them were Edison Tinsari, Peter Bakpanla, Nathan Samwini, Edward Diuri and Iddi Musa. Others he influenced were Ampiah Addison, John Ackeifi and Thomas Effah-Qauyson.
Paul Adu had a trying family life. He lost his first wife, Comfort, in 1942 before entering the ministry. His second wife, Eleanor, became terminally ill and had an unsuccessful surgery in Sheffield, United Kingdom, in 1964. Returning to Ghana in September 1965, she died on December 3 that year. He also lost a son while serving in northern Ghana in 1956. In 1967 he married for the third time. From these marriages he had four daughters and six sons. He retired in 1981. An energetic preacher with a strong sense of financial stewardship, he passed away in 1991, having served the Methodist Church Ghana for forty-two years.
Paul Adu, Jr., interview by author, 7 January 1999, Cape Coast, Ghana.
Paul Adu, Jr., interview.
F. L. Bartels, The Roots of Ghana Methodism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965): 261, 263.
J. Kofi Agbeti, West African Church History, Vol.1 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986): 54.
Methodist Church Ghana, Foundation Conference (1961) (Cape Coast: Methodist Book Deport, n.d.): 38.
Paul Adu, Jr., interview.
Methodist Church Ghana, Tenth Annual Conference Handbook (Accra: Ghana Publishing Corporation. 1971): 95.
Adu, Paul (Jr.). Interview by author, 7 January 1999, Cape Coast, Ghana.
Agbeti, J. Kofi. West African Church History, Vol. 1. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986.
Bartels, F. L. The Roots of Ghana Methodism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.
Edusa-Eyison, Joseph M. Y. “Native Initiative in the Planting of Christianity in Ghana–1835-1961 (Private) The Methodist Contribution.” Trinity Journal of Church and Theology 11, no. 2 (July 1999): 40-54.
Methodist Church Ghana, Foundation Conference (1961), Cape Coast: Methodist Book Depot, n.d.
Methodist Church Ghana, Tribute to the Late Rev. Paul Adu, 1915-1991. Accra: Commercial Associates, n.d.
Methodist Church Ghana, Tenth Annual Conference Handbook. Accra: Ghana Publishing Corporation, 1971.
This story, received in 2003, was written and researched by Joseph Edusa-Eyison, who teaches West African Church History and is liaison coordinator at Trinity Theological Seminary, a DACB participating institution in Legon, Ghana.