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Raising Up Indigenous Leaders

By Rich Kopp

Rich Kopp and Kofi Gyansah.

One of the great blessings of the Church Planters Academy of West Africa is the development of leaders who will not only fill the role we as outside missionaries fill in their countries but will also exceed our abilities to get the job done. Kofi Gyansah is one such leader. He has taken the mantle I formerly had as the Director of the Church Planters Training Academy of Ghana.  

Having already graduated from the University of Science and Technology in Ghana, Kofi was one of the very first recruits for our initial academy in Ghana in 2016. In addition to taking classes, each recruit was paired with a partner who would help plant a church. Kofi and his co-planter, Dominic Darkwa, graduated first in the class!  

Nick Muhabir with Ashanti jewelry.

The next year I appointed Kofi to teach the class in Church Planting Strategies and Techniques alongside my missionary partner and fellow teacher, Nick Mahabir, and me. Because it was obvious that Kofi was a leader and that the other recruits looked up to him, I chose him as my successor. The third year I became a teacher and he became both a teacher and the director. It was a wonderful experience, to say the least!  

Nick Mahabir and I believe it is important that we raise up leaders – in many cases, leaders who will replace us. That is why one of the four core dynamics that we insist be taught at the Academy is leadership.  

The king of the Ashanti region.

Training leaders who are indigenous (native to the country in which we are serving) to replace us is a practical move because indigenous leaders don’t have the barriers to overcome that foreign missionaries such as I do. For example, Ghana’s indigenous leaders like Kofi have natural immunities to diseases endemic to Ghana. Kofi speaks the language and knows places that are safe and places to avoid. He knows the best way to get around the country, and unlike me, is willing to use their bus system (inside joke here). Kofi can drink the water and likes fufu and a host of other dishes to which my stomach is unaccustomed. 

Every country has its pitfalls for the foreigner. (I know; I’ve fallen into a few.) Kofi instinctively knows what things to say and not to say, what things to avoid doing and what things should be done. When I first visited Ghana in 1985, I was introduced to the King of the Ashanti region – a large and influential region in Ghana. Prior to meeting I was given very specific protocols that had to be followed, and fortunately I was well coached. I cannot imagine the uncomfortable feelings or even severed relationships I might have caused had I acted in the king’s presence as I would have acted with an American dignitary.  

A fairly typical transport in Ghana.

The value of developing indigenous leaders is difficult to overstate. One of the goals of the Church Planters Training Academy of Ghana is to replicate this practice of raising up local leaders who will perpetuate church planting academies in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. In effect, we want to reproduce ourselves in those countries but with a better and more effective “self.”  

Because of the COVID virus, our plans to start a Church Planters Academy in Liberia this past summer have been postponed until the spring of 2021. We are also planning to start another one in Sierra Leone in 2021. We believe that training indigenous pastors to go out and plant churches is both biblical and effective. Our desire is to graduate enough church planters to plant five new churches in Liberia and five in Sierra Leone. Our long-term goal is to plant as many academies around the world as God allows.

(Left to right) Kofi Gyansah, Rich Kopp, and Nick Mahabir.

About the Author


Rich Kopp is a retired pastor and former law enforcement official. He and his wife, Patti, serve as Open Bible missionaries-at-large to Africa. They live in Colorado where they enjoy the great outdoors and their love of travel. 

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