Thursday, November 20, 2008

Milestones in the Life of the Very Reverend Felix Kwasi Mensah Akyea

Thanksgiving Statement: An attestation of God’s Mercy on the 90th Birthday Anniversary.

By Ms. Atawa Dzabea Akyea

1. Parentage, Birth and Childhood

The union of a farmer and stool carver, Julius Nkunu Kofi Komi of the Mordey family of the Leme clan in Avetile and the beautiful farm girl and trader Elizabeth Akosua Kwasibea Afram from the Asuo family of the Vusorfome clan also of Peki-Avetile yielded, among others, a son who was named Felix Mensah Komi Kwasi. He was born on 1st August, 1915 not in Avetile Peki but far away in a village called Mangoase near Akuwapim Mampong.

It was then usual to find many people, especially the the adventurous ones from the Peki area, to travel to those rich cocoa growing areas to the west in the then Gold Coast rather than to the traditionally common eastern parts of Volta Region in the Kadjebi and Ahamansu areas.

Kwasi Mensah’s parents however, soon returned home to Avetile-Peki and Kwasi Mensah was sent to live with his Uncle Akyirefi, as the little boy appeared increasingly too active and a bit boisterous for them to handle. At 6 years old he was baptized by the Rev. Joseph E. Allotey-Pappoe into the Methodist faith. It is significant to note that the Methodist Church here in Avetile was established by a group of young upstarts most of whom had worked in the Eastern Province and were led by Mensah’s uncle old Emmanuel Kwasi Affram.

2. Schooling

Mensah started kindergarten at 6 in 1921. When he was in Standard 1, his father insisted and withdrew him from the Methodist (Wesley) School (which reached only Standard 5 at the time and was also a private one) to the local then Ewe Presbyterian (EP) School. The little Mensah rebelled and in protest stayed away from school for one year. His reason….? He wanted to continue school at the Methodist School where his friends were and they spoke English often.

Mensah’s mother finally sent him back to the Methodist School against the father’s advice and in standard 3, he was appointed to be the School Prefect. In the same year the school was absorbed by the government and at a ceremony to mark the occasion in Diega’s (The Paramount Chief of Peki) Palace, Mensah was the one selected by his school to receive the symbolic Union Jack (British Flag) from Diega in 1928.

Then, things started moving rapidly against the young Mensah. Julius Nkunu Kofi Komi his father, died in January of 1930 when he was in Standard 5. He was not getting much support from other family members and heard that with luck, one could achieve a lot in Accra, the big commercial city which the British had just designated as the capital of the Gold Coast which today remains the capital of independent Ghana.

Young Mensah took the second most important step in h is life; against all advice to quit school and farm, he insisted that his father wanted him to go to the school by all means so he left for Accra hardly knowing what was ahead.

To complete the rebellion and the remake of himself, he chose the little known family nickname (Ahanonko) given to one of his grand-uncles, Atsia, as his surname. Even this, he was to change the spelling to the more common Akan medium Akyea later in his life.

He enrolled in Accra Royal School to attend Standards 6 and 7. To pay his way through school, he did many different odd jobs and ran errands for various people usually for free. Among some of the colorful people he served include: a Hausa woman, Lawson from Aneho, Inua from Kano, and a Sierra Leonean called Davidson. He performed all these services usually in return for food, board and lodgings.

At a point he was serving three “masters” none of whom he knew before as at an early age he demonstrated his will for hard work and service to other people. It seems as though his mantra in life was in agreement with the sage that “to do good, is a duty we owe towards our fellow creatures.”

In June 1932 when his mother Maame Kwasibea died as he completed school, all he wanted to be independent and live his live on his own terms. He turned down exhortations and invitations to finish school for and opportunity to pursue honorable professions of the day, such as teaching and working in government office. This was to haunt him later.

3. The Commercial Experience

Early in 1933 he found work with Mr. G. K. Kanda (aka Agbo Donko) from Avetile as a shop assistant in his United African Company (U.A.C.) store at Bisa. He took on the job with Atubra Koku and Kwamivivie Ernest. He proved himself as an astute and smart young man who learned the trade quickly. Things moved fairly rapidly until the outbreak of the 2nd World War when the shops were transferred to Asesewa.

Before long, Kwasi Mensah Akyea, got a better paying job with the French Commerical firm SCOA and transferred to Koforidua. After about two years he had an offer to be a full-fledged franchise owner and store keeper of his own SCOA store if he could produce the one hundred pound Sterling deposit required.

On account of his honest and diligent service, the manager, a Frenchman, not only waved the deposit but also sent the company’s artisans with materials to complete a building he had identified in Larteh, Akwapim for a shop. The shop commenced business in September 1936.

The business blossomed to be the biggest general in Larteh. He expanded and invested into ownership of Shell Petrol Filling Stations at Larteh Ayikuma and Dodowa. Mensah Akyea was the one who developed and managed the first Shell Petrol Station at Atimpoku, when the bridge across the Volta was being built. The station at Atimpoku supplied all the fuel for the construction of the Adomi bridge near Akosombo.

He also dabbled in the transport business, encouraged by his friend George Kofi Odum in Larteh. Mensah Akyea managed two vehicles for haulage and the head of the motor union of Larteh and its environs. It is therefore not surprising that he became the Chairman of the Peki Chapter of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union of Peki after his retirement from the ministry.

In all these, Mensah Akyea and his wife were active members of the Larteh Methodist Church. They served in the Choir and later became the Choir master. They were also dynamic in the Guild and Youth Fellowship. They not only sponsored the Church groups in their activities but also represented them at numerous meetings, retreats, conferences, and Synods. It is on record that Mensah Akyea played a big part in the building of present Methodist Junior Secondary School at Larteh.

As he got more involved in God’s work and got closer to the pastors, especially Rev. Charles C. Ohene and Rev. James E. Yarquah, Mensah Akyea started giving serious thought about working in the ministry.

4. The Call and the Preparation

Mensah Akyea had attended many Synods of the Church and followed the proceedings carefully. He had been particularly interested in issues from the Volta section of the church to the annoyance of some of his colleagues. He worried especially because it was clear that after Rev. J.E. Allotey-Pappoe was transferred from Peki, his home town under strange circumstances in 1925, no replacement were made. This worried him greatly.

He was worried because the first fully-fledged Methodist Society across the Volta, spawned out of Aburi Kemp experiences that had even evangelized Awudome, Ho, Adidome were constantly being denied a pastor.

At the Synod in Sekondi Mensah Akyea, now popularly called Felix, gathered courage and put a question to Synod. “Why did Synod not post a Minister to Peki Society?” he asked. Rev. J.E. Clegg wondered why Felix was so interested in Peki issues since he represented Larteh at the Synod. If Rev. Clegg further clarified that if Mensah Akyea cared to know, the Church did not have anybody to post to that place.

He later recounted to his family that it was at that point he heard the still small voice in me say to him: “Send me, I will go to Peki.”

From that point onwards his half-hearted approach to the Church, and church related work or activities, and his business changed. He started to seriously prepare himself to be a candidate for the Ministry of the Methodist Church of Ghana.

He sold the Petrol Filling Stations at Ayikuma, Dodowa, and Atimpoku! Next to follow were the vehicles. Only the shop was kept on a scaled-down level. But a shocker was to come.

Felix was told in no uncertain terms that inspite of his self-tuition preparation and all, only trained teacher who had gone through the teacher training program in institutions like Wesley College and catechists were preferred. But of course he had been moved, motivated and wanted to work in the Lord’s Vineyard so badly that, no price was too much to be paid for that. Felix decided and paid his way through Freeman College, the Catechists’ training institution then located at Akim Swedru.

When after that training there were still objections to his suitability on a so-called academic basis and perhaps age, it asked for the intervention of the then British Chairman and General Superintendent Rev. G. Tharkry Eddy to overrule the objection. He was determined to succeed, when he was finally accepted and gained admission for the courses at Trinity College then situated at Kumasi. He studied together with and was tutored by the Rt. Rev. Dr. John K. Agbeti also from Peki.

Not being a tacher, and having left a host of children on the shoulders of his wife Rosa back at Larteh, the going was rough. William Cooper’s hymn was always his solace:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

And, indeed God did it. God took care of the family; God took care of Him; and, Felix Mensah Akyea passed out with his colleagues Agbeti, Andoh, Rockson and Yankey to be commissioned 1957 and ordained in 1961. Praise the Lord.

5. Service in the Vineyard

After 21 years in the private commercial sector in Larteh, Rev. Akyea was posted to……his first station Peki Avetile Society. When in the confusion he wondered why he was being sent to his home-town to begin his stewardship, he was reminded of his public decision to be trained for the church at home town.

a. 1957 - 1959: Peki-Avetile Circuit
First Pastor since 1925. Rebuilding the Society almost from scratch was a monumental Evangelistic work from Tsibu, Hohoe, Dzake through to Kpando. He proved himself squarely to the task and in addition, set up a branch of the Peki Methodist ChurchSociety in Accra. He initiated work on translating Methodist hymn book to Ewe.

b. 1959 - 1963: Abura Dunkwa Circuit
Rev Akyea visited all societies to minister. He conducted great revivals in the big circuit now serviced by seven priests initiated plans for a new church building.

c. 1963 - 1969: Breman Asikuma Circuit
Rev. Akyea revived the membership and societies in the entire circuit. He worked with the Omanhene, the late Nana Amoakwa Buadu to establish the Breman Asikuma Secondary School for the Methodist Church. Today, there is a statute of Rev Akyea on the campus of Breman Asikuma Seconday School as well as a building in the school named after him. His community services did not end there as he worked with the Ghana Commercial Bank to establish one of their first branches in the Asikumah-Ajumaku-Brkwa district. Again, he initiated long-term plans for church building.

d. 1969 - 1971: Peki Avetile Circuit
Second tour of duty to the Peki circuit this time as a full Superintendent. He continued his work in the revival and growth into a circuit status and strengthened the societies.

e. 1971 - 19769: Somanya Circuit
Growth of the large circuit into manageable circuits. Rev Akyea again demonstrated his fondness to build and oversaw the renovation of mission house and rescidence.

f. 1976 - 1978: Akim Swedru
Re-organization of societies in strong units. His wife Rosa Akyea passes on.

g. 1978 - 1983: Larteh Circuit
Return to Larteh after 21 years work in the Lord’s Vineyard. Strengthening societies into circuits. Married his present wife Mrs. Mary Yawa Kyei.

h. 1983 - 1985: Peki-Avetile Circuit
Third tour of service in his home town. Strengthen circuit.

5. Conclusion

While thanking all for support especially the family and you here gathered, we shall invite all in saying always as expressed in Psalm 121:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
From whence cometh my help?
My help comes from the lord…..
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from
This time forth and for evermore.”

Finally, let us always also remember that our stations in life are meaningless unless they are used to help the less privileged.

Thank you and AMEN!