My parents relocated to Awoshie when I was still a child. I found myself attending Sunday school alone as a child from my family. Later my other siblings joined in. My dad and my mum were not attending church, although, at the time, they claimed to be Anglicans. My dad would often drop us for Sunday school but come home to “chill” with my mum and their friends. This was the “religious context” at home, which God has now transformed to His glory.
I was very committed to Sunday school with the then Emmanuel Assembly which later became Emmanuel Worship Center and is now Pentecost International Worship Center (PIWC), Odorkor. I married in this same place while it was Emmanuel Worship Center with the then Overseer (now, Apostle) Samuel Gyau Obuobi (our current General Secretary) as our Resident Minister. The Sunday school teachers at the time took so much interest in me. They would visit me at home, to follow up on me and also to greet my parents. Among the teachers who touched my life are Teachers Ruth, Olivia, Adom, Ofosuhene, Lydia etc.
There were countless number of times that Sunday female teachers will pick me up especially on weekends to go round the homes of other Sunday school kids to visit them. One Teacher Ruth would buy biscuits and carry along as we went on visitation. In the homes of the kids, Teacher Ruth would share a word, ask how kids are doing, follow up on their parents, pray with us and then we move to another house. This built in me the desire to care for others and the drive for visitation in the local church.
It was through Teacher Ruth that I received baptism with the Holy Spirit with evidence in speaking in tongues. Anytime there was prayer session for baptism with the Holy Spirit, I would not receive and went back disappointed. After completing Junior Seconday School (JSS) and awaiting to enter Senior Secondary School (SSS), on one occassion, while on home visitation with Teacher Ruth, we were in the same area where our church building was so my teacher requested we go and pray in the church. No sooner had we started praying than I received the Holy Spirit baptism with evidence in speaking tongues; I received the gift there and then with my teacher alone; the Holy Spirit was there too.
I must add that, as a child in Sunday school without my parents, I sometimes felt very lonely because after church many of the adults would focus on checking up with children whose parents were known in the local church especially as leaders. I also wanted this interaction but hardly found it. However, some adults, aside my Sunday school teachers took notice of me and took interest in me to ensure that they showed me care and attention. Even into my youthful year, leaders such as Elder Ben Donkor (the former Area Deacon for Odorkor Area), Elder Emmanuel Eyison (current Area Deacon for Ablekuma), among others have continued to follow up on me, until today and supported me in sundry ways.
At one point as a Sunday school child, I did not go to church for two Sundays. Then, I found my Sunday school teachers in my house on visitation. They asked my reason for not coming to church. I told them. Few days earlier, a group of people in our neighbourhood who believe that “the Holy Spirit is just a force and not a person and that there is no such thing as speaking in tongues” had ambushed me and confused me. They had seen my zeal for the Lord and possibly wanted to win me over to their end. My teachers took time to open the bible verse by verse to clear my confusion. If not, I would be lost.
All this while, with my awareness of the love of God and His grace that brings salvation unto all, I was disturbed that my parents are not saved. I prayed for their salvation even as I entered my teenage years. At one time while on vacation from SSS, I went to preach the gospel to my Dad. He told me he can’t attend a church he is older than, at least within the community. He warned me not to share the gospel with him again. The interesting thing is that, he never opposed our going to church and would even drive us to church anytime and everytime. This rejection of my sharing the gospel with him really broke my heart.
Fast forward, I had gotten into the university. I loved to visit members of Pentecost Students and Associates ( PENSA) with some of my friends. If I did not see someone in church service, we would go and visit them. It was through one such visit that I met Seth Kwame Fianko-Larbi and the rest, it is said, is history. During these days in the university, we as PENSA were praying, preparing and planning to go for vacation time evangelistic outreach to a village. During the prayer times, I asked the Lord to touch my parents and save them through any means as He was also using me to go and save others. I had the Damascus encounter of Saul in mind as I prayed.
I came home from the “Village Crusade”, as we called it. When I attended my local church, many people were excited to meet me. Many of them were telling me, “I saw your Mum and Dad in church last Sunday.” I did not think they were talking about my biological parents. I thought they were referring to some of the adults in church, many of whom had become my “Mum and Dad” at the time. So I went home after church and asked my parents if they were in church last week. Here was the shocker!
Apparently on the next Saturday following the day I prayed to God to save my parents, my Dad said he felt a strong urge to go to church so he told my Mum who also agreed to go with him. They went to church and when the altar call was made, both of them came forward and that same day both of them were baptised in water. They have since remained steadfast in their faith the Lord Jesus Christ and their commitment to the local church.
The care I received from my childhood Sunday school teachers seems to have birthed in my heart the desire for children and teenage ministry. When we served as Missionaries in Seychelles, being pioneer missions work, I spent nearly all my Sundays in the entire 5 years running Sunday school for the children and training Sunday school leaders in order to allow parents space to join the adult service for discipleship. The story isn’t different in the Kenya missions where we established teenage ministry in Nairobi Metropolis on our arrival in late 2019; a ministry which is a key driver for our city church model.
I wish to pay glowing tribute to my Sunday school teachers and the many adults in my childhood local church – Emmanuel Assembly – now, PIWC Odorkor, who helped to shape my life with the Word of God, prayer and care even when my parents were neither saved nor part of the local church. I also want to encourage children who are currently in the state I found myself and their Sunday school teachers for their labor. I pray that their labor will never be in vain. It is working. God is up to something great. Hallelujah
Written by Dr. Theresah Fianko-Larbi (The Church of Pentecost, Kenya)