Located in the sub-Saharan region of West Africa, between the Ivory Coast and Togo, Ghana obtained its independence in 1957. The country’s population is around 27,000, 57% of which is under the age of 25. Christianity accounts for 71.2% of religious affiliations, while Islam comes in second at 17.6%. English is the official language in the country, although there are 11 local languages also spoken there.
In 1958, LCMS missionaries established the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG), which became a sister/partner church of the LCMS in 1971. The ELCG is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The LCMS supports the work of the national church through seminary education and theological education by extension.
The LCMS began supporting agriculture projects in Ghana in 1984. This later grew into providing support for women’s literacy projects, agriculture classes, wells, ambulances, motorcycles for church workers, fire and flood response, substance abuse and addiction programming, goats for widows and orphans, and clinic/pharmacy support.
Meet the Erbers
Rev. David and Joyce Erber have served in Africa since 1986. They first served among the Bokyi people in the rainforest of Northern Cross River State, Nigeria. They arrived there shortly after the Bokyi Bible had been dedicated. David’s role was to work with Bokyi believers to proclaim the Gospel and establish Lutheran congregations in communities throughout Bokyiland. David also taught at the Lutheran seminary in Nigeria and served as area facilitator for English-speaking West Africa, caring for LCMS personnel serving there and supervising LCMS-sponsored programs in Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Before serving in Africa, David graduated from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. Joyce graduated from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind. In addition, during their time serving in Africa, David received his Ph.D. in Missiology from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, and Joyce received a master’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages from Regent University, Virginia Beach, Va. Together, the Erbers studied linguistics in Grand Forks, N.D., and Dallas. The Erbers’ three grown children, Luke, Jonathan, and Naomi, were born in Africa and presently go to school and work in the United States.
Through Rev. Erber, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana is equipping senior pastors for serving as the next generation of leaders for the church in Ghana. The church’s plans include placing a senior pastor in each of the ten regions of Ghana and possibly as instructors at the seminary in Saasabi, Ghana.
Throughout much of 2016, Rev. Erber met with Rev. Akon, Rev. Alale and Rev. Tito for Bible study, prayer, theological review, conversation about life and ministry, and the study of New Testament Greek. In late November, all three of these pastors passed the same Greek exam required of students entering the LCMS seminary in Ft. Wayne.
Rev. Erber also teamed up with Rev. Abang, a local pastor who served in a number of places where missionaries once served–churches that typically have a decline in membership once the missionaries leave. Rev. Abang found that young, inexperienced pastors and church leaders were interested in connecting with him in mentoring relationships so they could serve such churches. He and Rev. Erber developed a 3-month mentoring plan to help these young pastors continue Bible study and evangelism visits. After the 3-month period, church attendance had increased with both old members and new people. Rev. Erber and Rev. Abang hope to turn this experimental mentoring effort into a long-term ministry.
Please pray for the Erbers as they serve in Africa. Pray they are given strength to care for and support the other LCMS personnel serving there. Pray they are given guidance and wisdom working with partner churches and supervising LCMS-sponsored programs. Through these efforts, pray pastors will be trained, new congregations will be established, and outreach efforts will be strengthened so the people in Africa may come to believe and have a faith that gives them new and everlasting life. Let us give thanks that David and Joyce are serving in this part of the world.
You can support this family’s ministry by giving online.
Photos courtesy of Rev. Erber