Who is Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah— with highlights on your childhood, academic journey and ministry?

My mother comes from Aduman. My father originally comes from Dwumakyi, but settled at Yamfo in the Ahafo Region. That was where I was brought up— in Yamfo. I attended Yamfo L/A Presbyterian Primary school and proceeded to the Catholic middle school, and so I had a bit of Presbyterian and Catholic training. After elementary school, I gained admission to the Sunyani Technical School. It was there I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Saviour, and that changed my life. I went on to do Carpentry and Joinery at Tamale Technical Institute. At Tamale, I had this friend, a Methodist, who once had a dream about me. In the dream, I was ordaining him a minister when both of us we only students at the time. I told him, “Look, you know, in future I will become a pastor, so maybe that is why you’ve had that dream”. In my third year at Tamale Technical School I became Secretary of our school’s chapter of Scripture Union. The following year, I became President.

By the age of 42, I had been a minister in the Church of Pentecost for close to 20 years, and was pursuing a PhD at the University of Birmingham. When I came back, I was asked to head the Pentecost Bible College. At the time, I recommended that the Bible College be upgraded into a University College. With a lot of hard work, we eventually did.

I have written a lot. It was thus not difficult for me to be promoted to the rank of associate professor when I submitted my application for review.

What has kept you going over the years?

I try to put everything I read and think is right into practice. I have read the Bible several times. This year for instance, I am on the book of Zechariah. When I read the Bible and discover what it says, I put it into practice. It’s that simple.

Once I have a conviction, I stand by it. Many people do not believe in what they do and what they say they will do. You take a decision, and people expect you to go round said decision instead of implementing it. And I think this is one of the main sources of Africa’s problems . . . Ghana’s problems. . . You hear many people talking on radio, TV . . . and they don’t put what they say into practice.

I know prayer is good and so I have prayed several times. I had not considered taking note of the number of hours I prayed for until one of my fathers— he was a friend and a father—one Apostle D. K. Annan of blessed memory, asked me about the longest stretch I had ever prayed for. I told him I had not considered this, save one holiday. I started praying at 12:00 midnight. The following morning around 8 o’clock I heard people knocking at my door, and calling out my name. ‘Mr. Poku, Mr. Poku. . .’ When I went out to attend to them, they asked whether I was not going to work that day. I responded that I wasn’t, and that it was a holiday only for me to realize the holiday was over and it was actually 8.00 the next morning. Following that conversation with Apostle D. K. Annan, I became more conscious of the number of hours I prayed for.

The word of God fuels my conviction, and that together with prayer has kept me going all these years. We are definitely not stopping now.

Wow . . . we are greatly inspired when we hear stories like this. Is it that they were easier to do them then or it has become increasingly difficult to do them now because of the many distractions we encounter as young people? What are some of the challenges young people today encounter in their pursuit of excellence?

I don’t think much has changed now. The key is simply putting into practice what you believe to be true. For instance, if the Bible says it is good to pray, that Jesus went to a place and prayed throughout the night, I’d want to practice that. What I would usually do is to set aside a few days for fasting and prayers. Out of say ten days, I would set one day aside solely to pray. I’d usually visit a Christian guesthouse on such occasions for solitude. The rest of the days, I’d dedicate my time to reading the Bible. When I get up, I’d read my bible for the day and then usher myself into special prayers.

It is a matter of determination and believing it is something that you have to do.

Most young people today have become too familiar with mediocrity in the name of ‘Christianity’. We are unwilling to give off our best in other areas like the field of academia, in our work places . . . What is the place of excellence in our Christian walk, first and foremost, and in the other things we do? For us as Christians, is excellence negotiable?

One of the bible verses that has influenced me a lot in my Christian journey is first Corinthians 14 verse 40. It says, ‘Let everything be done decently and in order’. All Christians should tow this line. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Once you want to do something, do it very well.

When I began my Christian walk, I adopted the motto ‘God for God, Satan for Satan’. If you want to worship God, worship Him. If you want to worship Satan, worship him. Don’t sit on the fence. Worship God sincerely, and diligently if you had to.

Again for me, studying went beyond simply acquiring a certificate. I wanted to become a master of whatever I studied. And so I really don’t get it when I hear news about examination malpractice, when students cheat in examinations and so forth. I never thought of doing that when I was studying at all.

What are some of the personal challenges you have had to face as a Christian and a leader in your pursuit of excellence?

One of the main challenges I have consistently encountered has to do with my convictions. In a bid to follow what I believed to be true, I had to become hard on the people who did not agree with it. I tried to put laid-down principles into action and people started complaining that I was too strict. And I was only applying what we had all collectively decided to do.

One key thing that stands out in your message is integrity. What is the place of integrity in our walk as Christians and in our pursuit of excellence? And what do you think about the state of our country now? According to statistics, we are predominantly Christian, but we also record very high incidences of bribery and corruption.

In the 50s, Professor Busia conducted a survey in the Sekondi area and part of the conclusion he drew at the end of his research was that the kind of Christianity we professed was veneer. It just covers the surface— it’s not deep. And I think that is the picture we are seeing in Ghana now— shallow Christianity. We do not have many real Disciples of Christ, and so people do not understand the cost of discipleship. A disciple should put the word of God into practice. Unless we are able to make many good Disciples of Christ, we will continue to suffer.

Integrity is simply putting the word of God into practice.

Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah, any final words for us as an upcoming generation, as Christian youth in our strife for excellence?

We need to rise up to do what is expected of us as Christians. Integrity should be part of the normal Christian life. Excellence should be part of living out the Christian life. People say I am courageous. Honestly, I do not consider myself courageous— I only try to put the word of God into practice. If somebody does something wrong, I tell him or her, ‘it’s not right according to the word of God’. If we really live the Christian life as is expected of us as disciples of Christ, excellence would automatically shine forth.

I am especially worried for Africans. All other races are making it, why are we not? We need to rise up. I believe that if we put in place proper governance and all of us come on board, we can change our nation with the resources we have.

This interview was first featured in the eleventh issue of our magazine.

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