One of the best things about attending each year’s annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance is that I get to spend a little time with Eddie Enim, an impressive pastor-leader who lives near the coast of southern Ghana.
I first met Eddie through the BWA’s “Emerging Leaders Network,” a program designed to encourage and cultivate younger pastors and other ministers. They meet for training and encouragement at the annual gathering, including some time with an assigned mentor.
I was assigned to serve as Eddie’s mentor, but so far I’ve learned much more from him than he has from me.
Eddie is not particularly young, unless 53 counts as young. Almost three decades ago he started a church in Winneba, on Ghana’s southern coast, and went on to develop a ministry called “Coast for Christ.” Through the years, the ministry has planted churches and ministries at a surprising pace, including 16 in the past year, some more than 100 miles away in Cote d’Ivoire.
There’s also a small hospital/clinic and several mobile clinics staffed by volunteers, an elementary-junior high school with 300 students, and a training school for future pastors.
Eddie is particularly concerned about assisting the poor villages in his part of the country with economic development. So, he started a fishing ministry, a sewing ministry, and a credit union that provides micro-loans to women who want to begin a small business. He also raises funds to drill wells, and advocates for small farmers to get government grants that allow them to move from subsistence farming to more profitable enterprises.
The fishing ministry, which now includes boats at four sites, has a particularly impressive impact. Eddie, who is a master of networking, raised funds to buy longboats similar to the ones pictured below that local men can use for fishing. Each boat carries 25 or more men, who paddle out to sea with nets in search of tuna, silverfish, snapper, mackerel, and herring. Shortly after clearing the shore, the men stop the boat and have a worship service. Eddie has made sure they have life jackets – the only boats around that are equipped – and the bright orange color attracts other boats to come and listen to the service.
After prayer, the men go fishing for many hours and bring their catch back to shore, where some of their wives, along with other women, purchase fish and resell them as a way of generating income. Since families have five to six children on average, Eddie estimates that each boat benefits more than 400 people.
As the Christian fishermen meet other fishermen at sea, they often speak of their faith, which has led new converts to ask for Eddie to send someone to plant a church in their community.
I’m particularly impressed by Eddie’s intuitive wisdom. He could have started more churches, he said, but he waits until leaders are developed and in place before beginning something new. He’ll even ask someone willing to donate the drilling of a well to hold off until he believes the recipient village is ready to appreciate it and take proper care of it. And, he won’t accept money for a project unless someone affiliated with the donor comes to participate in the implementation, so they’ll feel true ownership in the mission.
While many entrepreneurial ministers want to pile up numbers, Eddie is more interested in training leaders and starting ministers that can become self-sustaining. When I complimented his approach, he said “I spend a lot of time seeking the face of God and praying for discernment. I strive to be honest and faithful.”
Along with his busy ministry schedule, Eddie is also working on a Master of Theology degree from the University of Wales, most of which he can do online. My “mentoring” is largely limited to offering editorial suggestions for each chapter of his thesis, and giving him such encouragement as I can.
I hope you’ll pray for Eddie and his work. More than emerging, he’s a leader indeed.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.