Yaw Opam, Solomon Enoch
The Christian pilgrimage story of Solomon Enoch Yaw Opam is a significant illustration of courage, determination to live and die for Christ, and a decision to set a shining example for later generations in spiritual things that matter to God. He fell a little short of the biblical three score and ten years on this earth, nevertheless he worked hard and faithfully for his God on the principle of Bible truth. His funeral in Kumase, Ghana in 1993 told the whole story in brief, but clearly to the whole world.
Solomon Enoch Yow Opam was born on January 8, 1925 at Bodada (also spelled Broda) in the Buem-Akan District of the Volta Region in Ghana. His parents were Ruben Kwame-Kuma Opam (1896-1982) and Carolina Anto Opam (died in 1978). His paternal heritage was with the Opamua clan (“the builder’s clan”) that constituted the royal or kingmakers’ family of the Buem traditional area with Bodada as the traditional capital. Solomon was the first of ten siblings of his parents.
Opam was evidently raised up as a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian (E.P.) Church at home and went through the same environments in his primary school education. In 1940 he entered the Presbyterian Teacher Training College at Akropon, Akuapem, Ghana for a future teaching career in the Ghana education system. An encounter with one Mr. Forson at Broda and some reading of a Seventh-Day Adventist literature changed things for him in his Christian pilgrimage. The Bible convinced Opam that God expects all mankind to respect and worship Him on His ordained Holy Sabbath day, Saturday, rather than Sunday which has no “thus saith the Lord” biblical support as the Lord’s Sabbath day. All this came to Opam as a student at Akropon. Several conferences and dialogues with his church leaders and teachers there at the training college failed to dissuade Opam from his new-found conviction of the Bible truth. Consequently he was expelled from the Sunday-keeping training college in 1945. He then traveled to Bekwae, Asante, Ghana to seek fellowship with his new Christian brethren, the Seventh-day Adventists (SDA), under the leadership of Jesse Clifford, a British missionary in Ghana.
Here was a Christian gentleman determined to live for his convictions in God’s eternal truth and suffer the consequences for that, no matter what man would do to him. He was sending a clear and unambiguous message to all mankind that God’s truth must be upheld by all men under all circumstances since it is He, not man, that will eventually judge all men for eternal life or eternal destruction at Christ’s second coming.
For over half a century from his expulsion from the Akropon school, Opam lived and worked with his brothers and sisters of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, marrying his wife, Victoria and producing six children with her, four girls and two boys: Esther, Ellen, Samuel, John, Lucy, and Ruth. Pastor Jesse Clifford helped Opam to eventually complete his training college education at the Achimota Training College in Accra, Ghana in 1946 and from then on became a teacher and an educationist for the SDA Church, Ghana, and Christ the rest of his life. He was a teacher and general manager of the SDA schools in Ghana for many years, working at places like Ntonso, Asaaman, Agona, and Bekwae. He also earned the bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana in 1969.
As a firm believer in sound Christian health principles, Solomon Enoch Yaw Opam (popularly known in Ghana SDA circles as “Elder S.E. Opam”) promoted the vegetarian diet style in his practical life, encouraging his family and others to emulate him and other seasoned vegetarians for better health in living and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world. He lived that noble lifestyle for half a century from the late 1940s.
Opam’s Christian impact was also felt in his extra-curricular work and activities for his church. He found time out to preach the gospel and conduct evangelistic crusades, leading to the conversion and baptism of many people into the Christian faith, in places like Toaase, Nkaawee, Mpasaatia in the Atwima District in Asante, Ghana in the 1960s.
Another great contribution Opam made toward the growth and development of the SDA Church in Ghana related to his skills and talents in music and the Akan language. For many years he was the key translator of the English versions of the regular SDA Sabbath School Lesson Studies into the Akan-Twi language in Ghana. He also started, led, and operated many SDA Church choirs in schools and churches in Ghana during his lifetime, playing the piano and teaching many songs and musical skills to many people in the process. Many SDA leaders like Pastors Jesse Clifford and John Kenneth Amoah, gave their support and encouragement to him in his endeavors for his church and his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
One experience of Opam that made him an enviable godly man, committed to Christ and Christ alone, was his decision to also forego earth honors and fame for Christ’s kingdom and its future glory in relation to his royal heritage in Buem-Akan, Votta Region, Ghana. In the mid-fifties when his people made every attempt to make him the Omanhene (King) of Buem-Akan in succession to a deceased King, Opam virtually “ran away” from his pursuers who wanted to forcibly put him on the throne against his will. Not only did he object to certain practices and customs relating to the kingship system there as against his Christian principles and faith, like his Lord and Master Himself, Opam firmly told his admirers that “his kingdom was not of this world.” (John 18:36). That was a shining example Opam left many a Christian man and the man of today faced with choosing between what this temporary world offers and the eternal glories Christ has promised his faithful followers at His second coming.
“Elder S.E. Opam” retired from the SDA education system at Bekwae, Asante, Ghana in the early nineties. He never became an ordained minister in the SDA organization– that was evidently not his calling– but his grandson, Joshua Gebu who died in February 2006 at the youthful age of 33, was a functioning pastor of the SDA Church in Ghana at the time of his death, sadly buried a day after his ordination was scheduled to take place.
When this writer interviewed Opam at the SDA Secondary School, Bekwae, Asante, Ghana, June 10, 1979, he sounded extremely happy and satisfied with the decision he made for Christ and His Bible truth in 1945, saying he had no regrets whatsoever and the he would remain faithful to Him and His cause to the end and he kept his promise. He slept in the Lord cooly and manfully on a bright Sabbath day, March 6, 1993 at Bekwae, Asante, Ghana, interestingly enough, on a day when Ghana was celebrating her thirty-sixth freedom day. His funeral service, at the Amakom SDA Church in Kumase, Ghana on April 11, 1993, and his burial at the Old Tafo Cemetary in the city, several hundred kilometers from his birthplace, told a unique story of a man of God whose character, lifestyle, and services to God and man many envy and would like to emulate.
Opam, Solomon Enoch Yaw. Interview by author, June 10, 1979, Bekwae, Asante, Ghana.
This article, received in 2006, 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.