Friday, August 29, 2008

Foundations for Parish Life in Africa

Friedrich Ramseyer and his wife Victoria, departed to become missionaries at Kumassi on the West Coast of Africa on this day in 1869. Because their preaching was perceived to be a threat to the Narideggi chieftain, Prempeh, and his hoard of witchdoctors, the couple was kidnapped after only a few months and then held in captivity for four years. Finally rescued in 1874, the Ramseyers left Africa to recover in England.

For the next twenty-two years, the Ramseyers prayed that God would provide a way for them to return. Meanwhile the denizens of Kumassi groaned under the oppression of their bloodthirsty king. Prempeh made a practice of killing a slave each night following a lavish feast, solely for his own perverse entertainment. Once a year during a "festival of yams," he immolated six hundred of his subjects in a grisly celebration. He had even gone so far as to slaughter four hundred virgins in order to give the walls of his palace a rich red color by mixing their innocent blood with the mortar.

Yielding to the Ramseyers' incessant lobbying and cajoling, the British imperial forces returned to the region in 1895. They immediately deposed the tyrant-king. Soon after, the residents of Kumassi welcomed the missionaries back as long-departed friends, where they worked for another twelve years restructuring the Narideggi society, establishing a foundation for covenant community, and developing an indigenous law code that would, at long last, fully respect the sanctity of life.

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