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From Idol Worship to Christian Ministry

After growing up hungry and poor in a pagan society in Ghana, this BGC Scholar will soon begin equipping Christian leaders in West Africa. by Andrew Thompson ’13

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sam-boateng-wheaton-ghana“Lord Jesus, I am so sorry for all the stealing I’ve done. I was so hungry, and I wanted to feed my family. Would you please forgive me and come and live in my heart?”

Sam Boateng, M.A. ’14, prayed these words after hearing God’s call on his young life through a street evangelist in Ghana. 

“My family lived in one small room. We cooked in that room, and we all slept on the floor in that one room. I slept there for over 20 years. That night I went home, with no food, and lay down in my usual spot. The next day, I began to talk to people about Christ,” he says.

Few people move so quickly from conversion to proclamation, but Sam’s story stands out for other reasons as well. A descendant of the Akan tribe, Sam grew up in a starkly pagan society.

“We literally worshipped idols. We had an idol in my room. We worshipped it and it got us nowhere. I became a Christian, and the first-ever person in my family to embrace Christian ministry!”

The recipient of a BGC scholarship, Sam came to Wheaton to pursue studies in historical theology, with the goal of returning to his roots in Ghana as a Christian pastor and leader. He is now one of 1,000 international students, furloughing missionaries, pre-field missionaries, and urban/ethnic ministry workers who have received advanced degree training through the Billy Graham Center Scholarship Program, founded in 1975.

Paul Bowers ’98 and BGC Scholar Femi Adeleye M.A. ’86 encouraged Sam to apply to Wheaton’s program. Femi mentored Sam while they worked as pastors at Akuapem Ridge Interdenominational Church, an hour east of Accra, Ghana’s capital. Because of Femi’s formative Wheaton experience and Sam’s passion for ministry, Femi and his wife parted with the little money they had to send Sam to Wheaton.

“I expect the relationships he nurtures at Wheaton to make him a bridge builder for the benefit of the church in Ghana, Africa, and the wider world,” says Femi.

Leaving his wife, Gifty, and his three-year-old daughter, Naana, behind, Sam began his 22-hour journey to Chicago in the summer of 2012. His family joined him six months later, in the middle of Chicago’s winter. It was a tough adjustment for Gifty to leave Accra, a city with a historical record low of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, but Naana loved the snow from the start.

At Wheaton, Sam has been exposed to teaching from professors he describes as humble and brilliant.

“Studying how the church of Jesus Christ across the centuries has engaged with the theological, political, and social issues thrown at her has equipped me to be able to think theologically about the context of Africa and the issues that face the African church,” Sam says.

This May, Sam will return to Ghana to pastor a growing evangelical church, and to lead an initiative to equip other Christian leaders in Ghana and in the West African sub-region for church leadership.

“Wheaton continues to make a massive impact on the lives of not just American students, but on the lives of many like myself from obscure places in Ghana,” Sam says. “I want to encourage Wheaton alumni that the flame that was lit in 1860 continues to burn for Christ and His Kingdom!”

Faculty Voice: Dr. Shawn Okpebholo >

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