PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA
AT A GLANCE
The Danish Governor,
Richelieu requested for missionaries from the Basel
Missionary Society in Switzerland to evangelise in the
then Gold Coast. Four young men ageing between 23 and
27 years accepted this challenge. They were:
Karl F. Salbach (27 years)
Gottieb Holzwath (26 years)
Johannes Gottlob Schmidt (24 years) and
Johannes Henke (23 years)
They arrived in Christianborg
in Accra by the 18th December, 1828 and had their first
Service at a place called Amanfon, near Osu on 28th
December, 1828. Sadly, eight months after their arrival
the poor climate claimed the lives of three, leaving
only Johannes Henke who also died in November 22, 1831.
A second batch of three missionaries made up of the
Rev. Andreas Riis, Rev. Peter Peterson Jager and Dr.
Christian Frederich Heinze arrived to continue the work.
Ironically, five weeks after their arrival, the medical
doctor who was supposed to take care of the health needs
of the other two missionaries died of malaria on April
26, 1832. In the helpless and hopeless health situation
that they found themselves Rev. P.P. Jager also died
on July 18, 1832.
ANDREAS RIIS, THE SYMBOL OF HOPE.
Rev. Andreas Riis who
was the only surviving missionary felt seriously sick,
but by divine intervention, he was saved by God through
a native herbalist who was introduced to him by his
European trader friend, George Luttrodt. After his recovery,
Luttrodt advised Riis to move to the Akwapim hills where
the weather was conducive to their health.
In January 1835, Riis and his friend were warmly received
by the then Omanhene of Akwapim Nana Addo Dankwa I.
They finally moved and settled at Akropong on the 26th
March, 1835. “Osiadan” as Riis was affectionately
called, used the natives to build his house made of
stones and timber.
After settling for a year, Riis arranged to get a wife
called Miss Anne Wulters a twenty year old Danish lady.
Among those who came with her were Andreas Stranger
and Johannes Murdter. Death once again had its toll.
Stranger died on Christmas Eve in 1837 and Murdter and
Riis’ own infant died at the close of 1838. Indeed
Rev. Riis became the symbol of hope for the evangelical
revival in the missionary work.
Riis’ poor health condition and the high rate
of death of the missionaries coupled with the slow pace
of the missionary work compelled the Basel Missionary
Society to abandon the work and recall Riis. After all,
for five years Riis was unable to convert a single soul
for Christ. Rev. Andreas Riis on his part traveled through
Akwamu, Shai, Kroboland, Akim Abuakwa, and Cape Coast
and arrived in Kumasi in 1840. Seeing that conditions
were too bad to contain, Riis was recalled and the mission
was to be closed. The Omanhene and his elders felt sorry
for the disappointment and in the Omanhene’s farewell
message said, “When God created the world He made
the Book (Bible) for the Whiteman and juju (fetish)
for the Blackman, but if you could show us some Blackmen
who could read the Whiteman’s Book (The Bible)
then we would surely follow you.
This philosophical and prophetic message had far reaching
repercussions, for it gave Riis and the Basel Missionary
Society food for thought. This message compelled the
Home Committee to recruit the West Indian-African Christian
Missionaries as a new missionary strategy. Riis brought
24 West Indian Missionaries to help establish the Basel
Mission in the Gold Coast. The team arrived in Christianborg
on Easter Day 16th April, 1843. Apart from the 24 West
Indian Missionaries, Riis also had Rev. J Widmann as
his assistant and also had donkeys, horses, mulls and
other animals and agricultural seeds and cuttings which
they were going to introduce to the Gold Coast economy.
Riis had to be everything: Pastor, Administrator, Bursar,
Accountant, Carpenter, Architect and a Public Relations
Officer between the Mission and the traditional rulers.
As more missionaries were recruited for the mission,
the burden of administrator increased. Riis was forced
by circumstances to trade and barter in order to get
money to buy food and other needs of his expanding mission
staff and local workers. One of the many charges leveled
against Riis by some unbelievers and unsympathizers
was that he had become a trader instead of a missionary.
Riis and his men started evangelizing to the rural people
around Akropong, so the Basel mission became what was
popularly called “Rural or Bush” church.
Riis wanted to tackle paganism inland and to learn the
Akan language spoken more widely in the Gold Coast.
Riis as a disciplinarian dismissed a West Indian Missionary
George Thompson who failed in his mission at Osu in
We must remember that the work Christ came to accomplish
meant toil, pain and death. The Rev. Andreas Riis is
remembered in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana for the
bold steps he took in his missionary work even in the
face of challenges and death. “Others have laboured
and we share the glory, Ours to do exploits and add
to their gain’. The glorious crown to gain.