Mom used to hold my hand as we walked by open sewage and streets covered by feces to get to church every Sunday morning. I was three or four years old at the time and that is one of my earliest memories from my life in Ghana. I remember that mom and I walked from our home in Accra to our church in North Kaneshie. But I didn’t remember that it took us an hour to walk to church and an hour to walk back home. And I didn’t know that mom traveled to church in the same manner before I could walk, before I was born.
Mom used to walk an hour to church every Sunday while she was pregnant with me. And when I was born, mom didn’t stop what she was accustomed to doing on Sunday mornings. When I was a baby, mom would wrap me safely around her back every Sunday morning and walk to church.
I was raised in a home where I understood from an early age that though the man of the house had abandoned us, the God of the world hadn’t abandoned us. I understood that though mom wasn’t married anymore, she had a bridegroom named Jesus. I learned that he was faithful to mom, he was good to mom. I understood that though I was fatherless, if I became born-again, I would be adopted by God. I learned that God is good and faithful. Mom taught me that.
I was raised in an Assemblies of God church in North Kaneshie, where mom tirelessly served, and where I tirelessly caused trouble. But though it probably didn’t look like it most of the time, I always listened intently to what the Sunday school teachers and the preachers from the pulpit were saying. By the time I was 3 or 4 years old, I knew I was a desperate sinner and that unless I became born-again, I would perish in hell. But even though I tried to be a good child, I always failed.
Mom and I moved to Canada, where she married a Ghanaian in Montreal. But he bruised mom’s face and threatened to do worse to her, so we moved from Montreal to Toronto to protect ourselves from him.
The next Sunday after our move to Toronto, we visited a Ghanaian Pentecostal church. Mom became a faithful member of the church. I didn’t become a member of the church until I was 16 years old, when one of the church leaders convinced me to get baptized―though I wasn’t born-again.
I was a member of a local church, though I wasn’t a member of the universal church. I was an unrepentant sinner, and it terrified me. One of my high-school teachers took me aside to ask me if I was okay. She told me that I looked like I had the whole world on my shoulders. She was half-right: all of my sins were on my shoulders, not Christ’s, and I was afraid I would perish in hell.
Jesus was my mother’s God. Pornography and sexual sin was mine. Jesus was my mother’s hope. I had no hope. I didn’t want to live and I didn’t want to die. I was hopeless and I was miserable.
When I was 19, a woman named Gloria invited me to our church’s youth retreat. I refused. The following week, she asked me again, and I refused again. That became the norm all summer. I was stubborn, but she was even more stubborn, blessedly stubborn. And I am thankful for that.
I eventually signed up for the youth retreat so she would finally leave me alone. At the youth retreat that summer, God used a poor presentation of the gospel to show me that he is rich in mercy. The gospel wasn’t new to me, but it felt new―I felt new. I became born-again. I hated sin and I loved Jesus. I was full of faith and full of hope. I knew Jesus was faithful and good.
God saved me that summer and he reformed me the following year. I left the Pentecostal church the next year, and I eventually got re-baptized at a Baptist church, where my friend Gloria and I are fellow members again.
I was born in Ghana and I was born-again in Canada. Mom and I used to walk through difficult streets to get to church every Sunday morning because my father abandoned us. But God used that for good. God orchestrated the worst thing that happened to me to do the best thing that happened to me.
If I knew my father in Ghana, I probably wouldn’t know my father in heaven. If my father hadn’t abandoned mom and I in Ghana, we wouldn’t have moved to Canada, where I became born-again.