It is the 13th of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1884.
First, can we go back to 1453? Quick, this is the year that Constantinople becomes Istanbul. This would have implications for a far-reaching crowd. You might remember that medieval Slavic peoples were often known as good cheap labor. So cheap, they were called slaves.
When Eastern Europe goes under the Ottoman Empire's sway, all those good slaves were redirected towards service in Muslim dominated areas and caliphates. Western Europe, bereft of good Easter European slaves, decided to look to the south, where the Muslim populations had found their previous slaves. Europe was introduced to African slavery on a scale not seen previously.
This is important for many reasons but for our purposes today. It is crucial for the challenges that led to the rebirth of the African church. As we have noted many times on this show, Africa was one of the most important centers for the Christian church in the church's first centuries.
A map of Africa in 1884 would look quite unlike the map in the following century. From 1453 to 1884, you would find many kingdoms and city-states from the populous north to the barren south. Morocco and Egypt would become centers of Ottoman and Islamic trade. In contrast, the West Coast would become a haven for would-be pirates, transatlantic slave traders, and bands of foreign explorers looking for new land to conquer.
But the 19th century in Africa and beyond was not just about colonizing. It was also a time of increased missionary work. With new divisions in the Protestant church beginning to mark off the "conservative" and "liberal" camps, both groups pushed out missionaries in the hopes of winning souls for their respective interpretation of Christianity. It wasn't all in bad faith, of course, but the confusions between kingdoms could lead to stories of struggle, despair, and even martyrdom for Christians in Africa at this time. On this, the 13th of November, we remember an African prince turned ambassador for the Ashanti, turned ambassador for Christ: Prince Owusu-Ansa of Asante died on this day in 1884.
Owusu-Ansa was probably born in 1823 to the King of the Asante people, in what is today Ghana. He and a cousin, who was also a prince, were given to an English Governor as hostages. This was to show their good faith and hopefully train the men in British ways to become ambassadors between the British and the Asante people.
In 1836 Owusu-Ansa and his cousin studied with British tutors and lived for a time in Britain where they were schooled, paraded about, and taken for a private audience with Queen Victoria. Most importantly, though, for Owusu-Ansa was his baptism and membership in the Methodist church.
In 1841 he left Britain with a delegation to become Methodist missionaries on the Gold Coast while still serving as an ambassador between European and African peoples. However, the people's tension led many Africans to distrust Christianity and shunned their own who had converted. When British/Asante relations soured, Owusu-Ansa worked almost singlehandedly while under suspicion.
Owusu-Ansa did not himself suffer martyrdom for his faith, but many associated with him did. Many in his household were kidnapped and beheaded. Owusu-Ansa spent much of his later life hiding while continuing his missionary work, working with local schools, and working as an ambassador to the British. Unfortunately, he was neither fish nor fowl. A man without a home amongst European Christians or his native Asante, Owusu-Ansa, the prince who gave up his shot at temporal authority to serve an eternal one, died on this, the 13th of November 1884.
The reading for today on the current topic comes from Thomas C. Oden and his book, "How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity."
"Cut Africa out of the Bible and Christian memory, and you have misplaced many pivotal scenes of salvation history. It is the story of the children of Abraham in Africa; Joseph in Africa; Moses in Africa; Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Africa; and shortly thereafter Mark and Perpetua and Athanasius and Augustine in Africa."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a fan of the famed Ghanaian Dancing pallbearers, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.