I joined PIWC-Accra in 1997 at a time when Pastor Anthony Miah (later Apostle) had been transferred from PIWC-Accra to Gabon as the first Missionary of that country.
Within months, we received our new Resident Pastor, Julius Franklin Asante-Ayeh from Navrongo. From the word go, most of us the young people could sense that this was a minister who was very familiar with the terrain and would not countenance any misbehaviour. He had two young brothers (in my age range) and they easily became my friends with who we had a lot of discussions. Even those did not make my relationship with my Resident Pastor any easier until an incident or two.
As part of our preparations for the 1998 Easter Convention, the young people had been requested to assist in setting the car park of ATTC-Kokomlemle up by way of canopies, arrangement of plastic chairs, equipment, lighting, etc. Typical of the church, the numbers had dwindled by the time work was half-way. From no where, he went to buy packed food himself and got us to enjoy it so we will have energy to continue the work. We completed at about 9.00pm and Pastor Asante-Ayeh insisted on dropping off everyone of us young people at home. Two lived at Asylum Down with myself in Cantonments while three lived in Accra New Town. He dropped us all at home one by one. I had to this point never imagined a Resident Minister being that caring and the gesture so dumbfounded me and influenced my perception of Christian Ministry for good.
My second encounter with Pastor J.F. Asante-Ayeh was during the 1998 Inter-Tertiary (ITI) PENSA Conference at the University of Ghana, Legon. In those days, there were no youth camps so the church sponsored interested youth members to participate in that conference. Our Choreography Team had been slated to minister in one of the evening sessions. This was at a time the church frowned heavily on choreography performances and certain dance forms. In the absence of core youth executives on site, I appeared to him as a leader of the delegation in sight. Soon after our team had completed the ministration, Archibald Ayeh (incidentally brother of the Pastor), myself and one other person were summoned to the back by a member of the PIWC-Accra Executive Committee. He heavily scolded us and promised us further scolding by the Resident Pastor when we returned from the conference. All my excitement in that conference vanished thereafter. A few days after we had returned home, Pastor Asante-Ayeh, noticing that some of us were avoiding him, ‘cornered’ us at the ATTC pond after service one day and told us clearly that he was aware of the Legon incident but he was also aware that we were young people trying to explore. He had gone behind us to speak with some church leaders who were at the ministration and he had decided to allow the incident to slide. He then gave us lectures on the appropriateness of dress code for various kinds of ministrations. We were relieved and promised to always bear that in mind.
There is yet a third episode I encountered with my Resident Pastor, J.F. Asante-Ayeh was in May 1999. We were having our annual PENSA Handing-Over Ceremony and we had invited him as the guest speaker. The time had been set for 1.00pm and he had accepted our invitation.
Typical of students, we had taken our time to get the auditorium ready and adhering to the agreed time was not our topmost priority as much doing things our way. At about 12.30pm, I saw my Pastor’s car approach the auditorium and my heart missed a beat. The car pulled up and parked right behind the auditorium. For a moment, I thought Pastor Asante-Ayeh was going to wait in the car but no. He got out, locked the car and moved right into the auditorium. It had no member seated. We were now decorating the high table, doing final touches before these members (mostly executives would now go for a shower, dress up before returning). Being my pastor, I tried talking him into waiting in his air-conditioned car while we got ready but he had none of it. He sat in his seat on the stage in an empty auditorium while we frantically moved around the campus getting our members into the auditorium so we could start the service (Mind you cellular phones were yet to be introduced at the time). As I sat through the service as PENSA Secretary, I was extremely jittery about what comments my pastor would make about the incident earlier. Very fortunately for us, he made no comment about it and we had a very successful ceremony.
The lesson from the handing-over ceremony was however not lost on me. As young people, we needed to respect time as a critical element of our integrity and the illustration used by him was worth more than a whole chapter from any book. I have never forgotten it and my respect for time has been impeccable since then.
While serving as missionary of the church in Lesotho, my admiration for my now former Resident Pastor kept improving year after year as opportunities afforded us during his brief furloughs when we got to interact among others. During those brief encounters mostly in Labone, Amasaman, Yenkyerenuase and Dome, he will enquire about my various roles in church and the wider Christian body and use the opportunity to encourage me about the need to be diligent, maintain a strict sense of integrity, etc. Aps. Asante-Ayeh is a consummate minister who will not trade Christian discipline for anything else. Interestingly, it was rather at this time, that I got much more closer to him and the rest of the family which has since grown.
As Aps. J.F. Asante-Ayeh proceeds on retirement in a couple of weeks, I can only wish him the best of God’s blessings. I will not mind celebrating such a gem of minister of the gospel over and over. He has indeed served his due as a minister of God and needs a well-deserved rest. God bless him tremendously together with his wife, Mama Esther and the children – Priscilla, Benji, Stephen, Julius and Michael. Together with the bigger family (KB, Archie, the Larkai family, etc), I thank God for a great thriving relationship. God bless you all!
My dear friend,