In the early 1960, while studying in Britain, a young Ghanaian Christian learned of the work of an organization of Bible translators and entreated them to send translators to his country.
The translation organization he heard about was Wycliffe Bible Translators and the people he spoke with was the British Wycliffe Council. Affectionately called “Uncle”, the late John Agamah made a surprising entry to this meeting with a plea that was simple but laden with compassion “Please send translators to my country…there are people in my country without the word of God, they cannot read Gods message, they do not have the Bible, not even the New Testament, not even one Gospel.”
The immediate answer was, “I’m sorry, we have no plans for Africa right now.” But the matter was firmly noted. Not long after this encounter, the director of the British SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics), John Bendor -Samuel was sent to West Africa to assess the situation.
Uncle John, a native of Leklebi in the Volta region knew that his own ethnic group the Ewes had the New Testament. But there were many other Ghanaian language groups which did not have even their languages written. If these missionaries could go elsewhere to translate the Bible into local dialect why could they not come to Ghana? That bold step of Uncle John and his pioneering role led to GILLBT’s ministry in linguistics, literacy and Bible translation. He could be called the father of GILLBT as the organization started and continues to exist through his vision and foresight.
Indeed, Uncle John had a strong passion for God’s word in the local languages, and therefore in spite of his busy schedule as an Assistant Superintendent of Police, he always found time to visit and encourage GILLBT translation and literacy project staff. A good thing done in the name of the Lord is like the sweet aroma of perfume whose scent spreads without ceasing. Uncle John’s aroma-his memorable Christian influence which he bequeathed to us far exceed his pioneering work in GILLBT.
In his church and in several other Christian organizations, he is fondly remembered as a supporting pillar whose contribution helped build the faith of its members. He is acknowledged as the first person to begin Home Bible Study Fellowship in Ghana. His involvement with the late William Ofori Atta (Uncle Paa Willie) resulted in setting up the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship.
He was once the Head of the Christian Services Committee of the Ghana Christian Council and a pioneering member of Korle-Bu Fellowship, as well as founding member of the Accra Chapel (Now Korle-Bu Community Church) and the Accra Police Church. Uncle John was truly a great man. His greatness lay in his love for and service to the kingdom of God.
By -Michael Serchie- GILLBT