Ghanian church puts down roots in Charlotte

The story of the Ghana-based Church of Pentecost is one of near constant growth.

The church traces its beginnings to 1931, when a group of Christians at a prayer revival in Asamankese, Gold Coast (now Ghana), reported experiencing a prophecy that God would raise up a church in the Gold Coast that would spread throughout the world.

Over the next few years, European Pentecostal missionairies visited periodically. In 1937, Rev. James McKeown was sent from Bradford Apostolic Faith Church, England, in response to the community’s request for a resident missionary. McKeown eventually formed the Asamankese group into the independent Gold Coast Apostolic Church, which in 1962 took its current name as Church of Pentecost.

The International Church of Pentecost now has branches in about 85 countries, with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana’s capital. The Church of Pentecost USA started in 1987 and has churches in about 33 states with more than 22,000 members. The U.S. headquarters and largest assembly is in Bronx, N.Y. The majority of U.S. members are African immigrants.

North Carolina’s first Church of Pentecost started in 1995 in Greensboro. The Charlotte church traces its beginning to 2000, with a prayer group in Ghanian immigrant Yaa Ankamah’s living room. As it grew, the group met at a YMCA; purchased a building on Cullman Road; and purchased land to build its current brick church on Nations Road, completed in 2008.

The Carolina District has six churches: in Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro, Gastonia and Charlotte. Last year, the rapidly expanding district split into two: Rev. Foday Kaba Dumbuya leads the assembly in Gastonia and the two in Charlotte. “Though most of our members are Ghanians,” he says, “we have some African-Americans, too, and we also have some people from the Ivory Coast and other West African countries.”

Some time next year, he says, the larger Central congregation – which conducts services partly in the Twi dialect – plans to build its own separate church on Freedom Drive.

Worship Leader: Foday Kaba Dumbuya, 46, grew up in northern Sierra Leone and majored in chemistry at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone. Dumbuya was a Church of Pentecost elder – though not a pastor – in his home country. He arrived in New York in 1999, lived in Austin, Texas, for six years and was a pastor in Sacramento, Calif. He was transferred to Charlotte in 2010. He lives with his wife, Martha, and their four children. “We are proud of the growth of the church,” he says. “We thank God that we’re able to reach out to as many people as possible.”

Ghanians in Charlotte: Kofi Antwi, president of Charlotte’s Ghana Association, estimates there are 2,500 people in the Ghanian community in the Charlotte area. Since 1995, Charlotte has had a sister city relationship with Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city, sharing cultural exchange and communication. Christians make up 71.2 percent of Ghana’s population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians are the largest group (28.3 percent). The Ghanian constitution provides for freedom of religion.

Point of Pride: The Nations Ford Church of Pentecost boasts its own Ghanian chief. “We have an association – it’s called the Ashanti association,” says Dumbuya. Ashanti is “the largest tribe in Ghana.” The people appointed church member Sampson Akuto as their Ashanti chief, to dress like the Ashanti king at special ceremonies. In his role, he wears a kente (ceremonial garment made from brightly colored, patterned cloth) along with gold chains and bangles.