Accra, Ghana — Evans Lartey, director of Heritage Bible Institute (HBI), has a winning smile. It’s a soul-winning smile. It’s what he’s all about.
Lartey laughs often, too—not just with the happiness that seems to come naturally to him and his countrymen but also with the deep joy he feels to be a Christian.
And by the way, his first name is pronounced “ay-VAHNS,” with the emphasis on the second syllable. It’s not the usual way to say “Evans,” at least not in ordinary English, but the stronger pronunciation seems to suit him—a man energized by his mission.
Evans Lartey and his colleagues still hear the Macedonian call (Acts 16:6-10)—not literally from the old Roman province of Bible times but from all corners of modern-day Ghana and beyond, especially from the regions north and west of Accra.
And just as Macedonia became a gateway for the spread of the Gospel into Europe in the time of the Apostle Paul, so Ghana itself is proving to be a gateway for carrying the Gospel of Jesus across Africa. Still a mission field in one sense (as is every place on the globe), Accra, capital city of Ghana, shines with the light of the Gospel and sends the light to other parts of what was once called the “Dark Continent.” Critical to the cause is HBI and its students.
“We have around ten countries where graduates are,” Lartey said. “Within our own country, they are working in all ten regions.”
They preach and they minister, spreading the Gospel of Jesus in both word and deed.
“Our students are working in hospitals, preaching at the hospitals,” Lartey said. “They go in and pray for those who are sick. They go to the prisons to preach to the inmates. The students also do regular ministry. Also radio.”
Christians come up against different belief systems in Ghana. In many places animism holds sway. In other areas, Islam prevails. But Christianity is making a difference everywhere. Lartey and his colleagues see God’s hand in it all.
Sometimes there’s no other explanation.
Lartey tells one story of a pregnant woman in a place without a hospital where the go-to person for prenatal care was the local fetish priest, a traditional mediator between the living and the spirit world in Ghana and other parts of West Africa.
“When a woman gets pregnant, that woman has to go to a fetish priest for help for medicines and everything a woman needs during the pregnancy,” Lartey said. “When the child is born, she has to take the baby to the fetish priest. He gives the baby a name.”
When the woman’s child was born, she followed the prescribed routine and took the baby to the priest. But instead of naming the child, he told her to go elsewhere.
“The fetish priest told her that she should take the child to the Church of Christ minister for a name,” Lartey said.
The baby was a girl. The minister did not name the child but instead he gave the mother some choices.
“He wrote names on a paper,” Lartey said. “The name the woman selected was ‘Mary.’ Since then the mother and child and siblings are all attending the Church of Christ.”
Why would a fetish priest refer anyone to Christianity?
“We don’t understand,” Lartey said. “We think that is God’s intervention.”
It’s the sort of event that boosts the faith of Lartey and others working to spread the Gospel message in Africa. He would like to see no call for God’s Word go unanswered. But some of the paths can be rough—less accommodating than some of the well-built Roman roads in the time of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. The roughest of ways to remote places in Ghana and neighboring countries require a sturdy vehicle.
“One of our biggest challenges is having a vehicle—a strong one to go to the north,” Lartey said. “Some of our graduates are working in remote areas of the country. They need other people to visit them and to help them… to come with current students to help them when we get these Macedonian calls.”
But even when he expresses needs and concerns, Lartey is still smiling. It’s part of his faith in a powerful God who answers prayers and sometimes even works through a fetish priest to make something good happen.