In Ghana — a nation of 25 million people designated as the most religious country in the world by a survey from the Pew Educational Trust in Philadelphia — the holiday tradition of Christmas caroling was imported by LDS Missionaries and carried into the new year.
|Missionaries from the Ghana Accra West Mission carol in the mall on New Years Day, Jan. 1, 2015.|
“While Ghanaians enjoy music, no one has gone house to house before singing Christmas carols until now,” said Daniel Abeo, Stake President for the Accra Tesano Stake. “It is surprising to people here. It is so unusual to see anyone going round singing on street corners, in housing compounds, or on city streets. People stop and listen. Sometimes they join in. Sometimes they want to have their photos taken with the missionaries. Often they want to know more about this gospel.”
On Christmas Eve and again on New Year's Day, the missionaries from the Odorkor Zone gathered together at the mall, not knowing exactly what to expect. The mall was filled with shoppers. They started at opposite ends of the mall and began singing as they walked toward the mall entrance. Some people followed them; others stopped and looked over the handrail from the upper floor. Families gathered around them as they arrived at the entrance.
“The look on people’s faces was amazing," said Elder Henry Bwamble from Masaka, Uganda. “I was not on a mission last year and no one sings Christmas songs in public places like this back home so I was a little nervous about it all. I did not need to be worried. Sometimes people would stop and just admire what we were doing. At times, little children would come to hold our hands or just stand beside us. We all had kindhearted feelings that are hard to put into words, but we knew it was the Spirit of the Lord. In our mission, we have missionaries from 24 different countries so when a zone with 20 of us gets together; we are already an unusual sight. “
The missionaries did some things to appeal to the local audience that gathered as well. “I brought a locally made drum to play when we sang ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ " said Elder Kade Kochevar from Henderson, Nevada. ”There is a different beat that is used here and I seem to have picked it up rhythmically so it really shows that we understand the local culture. Then, we close by singing ‘How Great Thou Art' in Twi, a local language spoken in this part of Ghana,” he said.
With the closing song in a local language sung together by white and African missionaries from countries outside Ghana, the spectators spontaneously broke into applause and rushed the missionaries, shaking their hands, congratulating them, and asking questions about what they were doing in Ghana. Some thought they were professional musicians hired by the mall. Others made appointments to find out more about the gospel message. All had a great time.