Interview With Pastor Fred Tete Obuobi
Aging comes with its own challenges. These challenges are mainly as a result of physiological changes and general loss of strength. Hence, at age 70, most people become bedridden whilst others hardly see or speak audibly, let alone string sentences together.
Yet, Pastor Fred Tete Obuobi (FO), a retired minister of The Church of Pentecost, can still afford to crack jokes at the ripe age of 92 years. Pastor Obuobi, together with his wife, Mrs Gladys Dansoa Obuobi, 83, served in the full-time ministry of The Church of Pentecost for 33 years and ended their ministerial service in 1994. Since then the couple has been staying in their retirement home in Koforidua.
As one of the few ministers who were present during the infamous split between The Church of Pentecost and Apostolic Church, Pastor Obuobi, takes Pentecost Fire (PF) on a journey down memory lane in this revealing interview.
PF: Tell us about yourself. Who is Pastor Fred Tete Obuobi?
FO: I was born at Adukrom-Akuapem on July 27, 1927, to Mr Donkor Obuobi, a Cocoa Farmer and Madam Abena Oye. My father was a nomadic farmer so we usually moved around in search of places where cocoa yields were relatively high. In 1936, we moved to Addo Nkwanta, a small town between Kukurantumi and Asafo, where I began basic education. After three years I joined my father who had then moved to Koforidua. There, I enrolled in the Presbyterian School from 1939 to 1944. At school, I was quite clever so I sailed through successfully and gained admission into the Phoenix College founded by Mr Fred D. Addae. At the time, it was one of the best schools in the region, however, the proprietor, Mr Addae, had a few challenges which affected enrollment in the school. Consequently, the school collapsed. So, I enrolled in the Abuakwa State College for my final year. Unfortunately for me, for lack of finances, I had to drop out of school. My grandfather offered me a job at a drinking spot. After working there for a short while, I resigned and returned to Koforidua. On my return, I met a member of The Church of Pentecost and he offered me a job as a Literate Helper at the then Cocoa Station. However, after passing my examination with distinction, I was made a Propagator Learner instead. After spending some time on the field, I wrote a promotional examination and rose to the rank of a Full Propagator. As propagators, our primary job was to nurse cocoa plants. Later, a friend introduced me to the timber business. I did that for a while, but after some time it was no longer profitable.
By then, I was married and needed a stable job that could enable me to provide for my family. So, I went back to the Cocoa Station, but I was told to start all over again from the rank of a Probationary Field Assistant. But by the grace of God, within 3 years, I rose through the ranks to become a Full Propagator.
I was subsequently transferred to Suhum where I became an active member of The Church of Pentecost. I sacrificed my time and resources in the service of the Lord. It was in Suhum that I first encountered Pastor Fred Stephen Safo when he was posted to the Suhum District.
One morning, I was told that Pastor Safo had requested my presence. When I went, he told me he was recommending me for full-time ministry. I was taken aback because at the time I was only a member of the church. However, I accepted the call. So, my name was part of the list of ministers that was released by Pastor James McKeown (the then Chairman and founder of the church). I was posted to Asiakwa to take oversight responsibility of the church there in 1961. Apostle Fred Safo later became first African Chairman of The Church of Pentecost. To the glory of God, I served for 33 years and retired from active service at Akropong in 1994.
I am married to Mrs Gladys Obuobi. We have been married for 61 years and been blessed with two children; Samuel and Oye.
PF: Tell us about your Christian life, how did it all start?
FO: That is quite a funny story [laughs]. It happened in 1947 at Suhum. There was a man called Mr Fred B. Addae, who was a member of The Church of Pentecost at Suhum. He was very eloquent and had a very good command over the English language. So, when my friends and I heard that he would be preaching during a four-day crusade of the church, we decided to go and admire his oratory prowess. We did that for the first three days, but on the fourth day, we decided that this time, we would listen to the sermon and not just admire his English. As fate would have it, on that day, he spoke about the blood of Jesus that atones for the sins of all humanity. I was moved by the message and decided to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal saviour.
PF: Tell us about your time as a full-time minister?
FO: As I earlier said, my first station was Asiakwa. At the time, ministry work was very difficult for me for various reasons. The first being that I was only a member before I was called into the full-time ministry. Unlike what we have today, in our days, ministers were not given any form of training; you were only prayed for and dispatched to go to your station to commence work. It was quite difficult, especially for those of us with no experience as officers. I remember one instance when an old lady passed on in the church just after my arrival at Asiakwa and I was required to conduct her burial. It was a big headache for me because I had never done that before. Thankfully, Pastor Safo came to the funeral and performed the rites. So, I watched keenly as he did it and then afterwards, I was able to do it myself.
Another major challenge we faced was that, at the time, the split between the Apostolic Church and the “McKeown faction” had just taken place. After the court ruling which went against the McKeown faction, the Apostolic church took over all the properties and we were left with nothing. To add insult to injury, we were also persecuted and ridiculed. People referred to us as the “Mate Me Ho Fo)” (Translated: The Revolters). In fact, the Chief of Asiakwa at the time also called us the Revolters and was opposed to everything we did. In fact, it was so bad that even some Pastors of the church later resigned and joined the Apostolic church because of the unsavoury treatment that was meted out to those of us who took Pastor McKeown’s side.
So, it was not easy, but we continued to be steadfast in prayer and the Lord gave us a great victory. Since the church buildings were all taken over by the Apostolic Church, we had to resort to classrooms and cocoa sheds for our prayer meetings; and mostly when we were praying people came around to laugh at us, but we never gave up. We remained steadfast in the Lord and the church continued to grow. During our rallies and crusades, my wife, who was and is still a very good singer, will sing songs to attract onlookers, and when they came, we preached the gospel to them and we won many for Christ. Gradually, the church began to grow and many others joined.
Asiakwa District, at the time, comprised Bunso, Kwabeng, Tafo and Kibi. In those times, the members were small but the districts covered wide areas and we did not have the benefit of cars, so we had to trek long distances on foot. But to the glory of God, we did the best we could and the church witnessed many signs and wonders and more souls were won for Christ.
From Asiakwa we were transferred to Adeiso also in the Eastrern Region. We ministered in Adeiso for 4 years. God gave us a successful ministry there also. When we were about leaving Adeiso on transfer, I organized my final prayer meeting for the district before our departure. During the meeting, we heard a loud noise of a young girl crying from the back. So, my wife and some elders rushed to see what was happening. However, after a while, I could still hear the sound, so I decided to go and see what was happening. Apparantly the girl had just received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. When I got there and laid my hand on her, the girl, who was about 12 years old, said to me that I was going to give birth to a baby boy and that I should give him the name Samuel. At the time, my wife and I were married for 12 years without an issue. We left Adeiso just after this incidence for our next duty post, Shama in the Western Region.
True to His word, when we got to Shama, God blessed us with a son and we named him Samuel Kwabena Nyamekye Gyau Obuobi. Samuel is now an Apostle of The Church of Pentecost and the Resident Minister of Pentecost International Worship Centre, Atomic. We served at Shama for two years and were transferred to Prestea.
At Prestea, we faced difficult challenges in the ministry. At the time, the place was not so open, hence the only areas to plant churches were in the hinterlands. So, we had to trek long distances to plant churches and we did this on foot. I would usually go on these treks with some of the officers, where we trekked on foot from Prestea to Nsuta, which is about 7 miles, then from there to Kwasikrom, which is also about 12 miles. In some cases, we walked for 18 miles to open new assemblies and to strengthen the existing ones. Sometimes, we had to cross River Ankobra to the other side to visit an assembly we had planted. After 8 years of service, I was reassigned to Asante Effiduase for 2 years and later to Asante Mampong. The Asante Mampong District, however, was so big; it stretched all the way from Kofiase to Atonsu, and we still had to trek on foot. But we did the best we could and God used us to bring great revival in the church during our 5-year stay there.
From Asante Mampong we were transferred to Saltpond. Honestly, I did not receive the news of the Saltpond posting very well. This was because of the minister whom I was going to replace. My predecessor was a Fante and his wife was a teacher and a native of Saltpond. In addition, he was very eloquent and this was always evident when he made his contributions during General Council Meetings. So, I was quite intimidated and felt that I would not be able to measure up to his qualities. I was also concerned as to whether the people would accept my wife and I because we were not natives of the land. But I can say to the glory of God that all our fears came to nothing because throughout our ministry, Saltpond turned out to be a blessing. We had a very fruitful ministry there and made great friendships which we have sustained till date.
We served at Saltpond for 4 years, spent a year at Aburi and finally ended up at Akropong. We served at Akropong for 3 years and retired from the full-time ministry on August 21, 1994.
PF: What do you miss most about the active ministry?
FO: Well, when we retired from the ministry, we were still very fit. So, Pastors P. B. Appiah Adu (now Prophet and retired) and A. A. Dicka (now retired) who served as District Ministers at Koforidua where we are residing gave us the opportunity to serve even in retirement. We were, therefore, still very active although we were on retirement. We were given the opportunity to minister during crusades, conventions, etc.
Pastor Appiah Adu, for instance, gave me oversight responsibility for an assembly that was located close to my residence. So, we did not really miss it, because we were still very active.
In fact, the then International Missions Director (IMD), Apostle B. K. Arthur (of blessed memory) once joked that he would ask the leadership of the church to recall us back into the full-time ministry because we were unwilling to go on retirement [laughs].
So, I was quite active in retirement until about 5 years ago when I became a bit incapacitated.
PF: Do you look back with fond memories when you reflect on ministry life?
FO: Yes, I do. To the glory of God, many of the assemblies that we started have grown to become full-fledged districts of the church. It gives me so much joy to see that the seed we sowed is bearing much fruit. So, it gives me a lot of satisfaction and I always give glory to God for what He has done.
PF: Your advice to active ministers.
FO: Anytime I watch Pent TV, I see the great work they are doing. The other time I saw a video of some pastors of the church baptizing souls they had won in some remote parts of the country. We are doing very well in reaching out to the unsaved and winning them for Christ. However, I would humbly appeal to them to emphasize on Holy Spirit baptism and insist that the new converts yearn and receive Holy Spirit baptism. This is very important; we must not just be happy about filling our auditoriums with souls but we must ensure that they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The strength of the Church is the Holy Spirit so we must sustain Him in the church else we would raise a generation of members who are carnal and are not spirit-led.
Also, knowledge acquisition in the contemporary world is key. However, knowledge should not be a substitute for the Holy Spirit. No! At best, they should balance the Spirit with the knowledge they have gained.
PF: Your advice to ministers who are due for retirement.
FO: The truth is when you go on retirement and you do not have a place to lay your head it is quite worrying. So, I would advise them to quickly find a place. It should not necessarily be a big house or a mansion, but a place where you can have your peace of mind. This was a piece of advice that Prophet M. K. Yeboah gave to us and it has really helped us.
PF: Sir, we are very grateful for your time.
FO: You are most welcome.