LEOMINSTER, Mass.—When Doris Opoku and her family immigrated to the United States from Ghana in 2008, they had no idea what ministry opportunities God had in store for them.
Since that time, in addition to becoming U.S. citizens, Doris was elected Woman’s Missionary Union president for the six-state Baptist Convention of New England and her husband, Seth Opoku, was named president of the North American Baptist Association of the Ghana Baptist Convention, one of several ethnic fellowships affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Doris balances her WMU leadership responsibilities, including serving on the National WMU Executive Board, with her roles as a pastor’s wife, mother of five and a certified nursing assistant at a group home for the elderly.
Seth, a Baptist minister while in Ghana, was called as the first pastor of United Faith Baptist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, after arriving in the States. He currently is the bivocational pastor of LifeWay Baptist Church International in Leominster, Massachusetts.
During a Sunday morning message at LifeWay International’s small storefront sanctuary, Pastor Opoku reminded his congregation, “The choices you make today will determine your destiny tomorrow.” That is a truth that the Opokus have learned firsthand on their spiritual journey.
Affirming that “your destiny is in your hands,” he emphasized that the most significant decision is to “allow Jesus to be your Master and Savior for life.”
When the Opokus left their homeland to pursue the hope of greater opportunities in the U.S., “it was my husband who applied and went to school because he wanted to further his education,” Doris explained. He went on to earn his master’s degree from Clark University in Worcester.
More than a decade later, “the benefits are mostly for the kids,” she added. “There are more opportunities here, especially since education here is more advanced and very good for them.”
NAVIGATING CULTURAL CHALLENGES
Of course, relocating to a new country halfway around the world wasn’t without its challenges. Describing her family’s cultural transition as an enlightening experience, Doris said they quickly discovered that “things work differently in America – not like the way we were in Ghana.”
Following their arrival, she said it took several months to navigate such issues as renting an apartment, finding jobs, getting medical screenings and registering their children for school.
She said other adjustments ranged from coping with the extremely cold New England winters to building community with their new neighbors. “In Ghana, you can say hi to anybody and talk to anybody,” she reflected. By contrast, she said they found that in New England culture “you have to know your boundaries when you are talking to people in the community.”
That has been a particular hurdle as they have sought to invite families to visit LifeWay Church. “It’s very difficult to go into the communities and talk to people when it comes to spiritual work,” Doris noted. “Most of the times what we do is we use handouts. We go to apartments and put tracts in the people’s doors and see what response we get.”
As with most congregations, the coronavirus pandemic has made outreach efforts even more challenging. After holding online worship services for the past few months, LifeWay recently transitioned to a combination of in-person and online services. Even amid such setbacks, Doris said, “We pray that God will touch people.”
By Trennis Henderson, national WMU correspondent