A GNA Feature by, James Amoh Jnr.
Bolgatanga, May 9, GNA - The morning sun had just set in and bright lights were gradually replacing the darkness, albeit gracefully. The hubbub on the streets of the capital of the Upper East Region, Bolgatanga, was getting unusually louder by the minute with uncontrolled sobs and wails.
“Something strange must have happened,” those were the indistinct murmurs of residents. Others were somewhat incredulous of what had befallen the region and the church.
The Right Reverend Doctor Jacob Kofi Ayeebo, Anglican Bishop of Tamale, had passed on peacefully in his ADDRO office in Bolgatanga.
Professor Kofi Awoonor’s “Songs of Sorrow”, perhaps set a better pace for this tragic occurrence when he said “what is the wailing for? Somebody is dead, Agosu himself.
Alas! A snake has bitten me, my right arm is broken, and the tree on which I lean is fallen.”
To his four children, “February 12, 2019 was the darkest day in our lives; the day our world turned upside down, the day we felt thousand stabs in our hearts, the day we died a million times, the day we wished never came.”
Ms Hilda Awintoi Ayeebo, his first born, on behalf of her three siblings, mourned desperately by saying, “You were the pillar we leaned on, the one God ordained on earth to protect us. You were a role model we looked up to, the one who was always proud of us; our one true hero.”
Indeed, just like the widow, Mother Rita, many have been plunged into illimitable and immense sadness, learning of the passing of a man full of passion and vitality, one who underpinned an array of interventions integral to life and general Christian living. Even more telling was his gift to the Diocese - a striking new identity.
For a lot more people, it was extremely startling also that a man full of life and committed to sharing the message of Christ in words and deeds, could be called to a greater service so soon, leaving a big void to be filled. Bishop Ayeebo’s enthusiasm was always contagious and his energy was never-ending as was his faith which drew believers closer to him and through him to God. What an enormous loss!
CLERICAL LIFE AND WORKS
A man of untainted reputation, he was credible, energetic and faith-filled in every aspect of his life, and was influential as a leader in his mission and evangelization throughout the diocese. All those who knew him admired and appreciated his genuine faith.
His passing is a sense of great loss to the church, but it is comforting that he is sharing in the fullness of God’s celestial love.
Throughout his ministry, many developed personal and friendly relationship with him.
The unforgettable but joyful and dedicated way in which he lived, his generosity of service to the Diocese, his dedication to the Internal Province of Ghana as Head of the Economic Desk and Fund Raising Desk, and the Anglican Communion as a whole was, but admirable. His, was a rather fierce and unparalleled loyalty to the Church.
Bishop Ayeebo’s purposeful life and distinguished three decade clerical career has inspired many and through his passionate mission – which has a manifestly wide appeal – will be perpetually remembered in the annals of the Anglican Diocese of Tamale. Many of the fruits of his works are yet to be realized.
Following his ordination on December 26, 1989, at the St. John’s Anglican Church in Yelwoko in the Upper East Region, by the then Diocesan Bishop of Sunyani and Tamale, the Rt. Rev’d Joseph Kwabina Dadson, Bishop Ayeebo laboured tirelessly, spreading the Gospel of Christ and improving the lives of the people in the diocese and beyond.
His long sojourn and administration in Yelwoko, witnessed the transformation of the church from a provisional parish to a full parish status by the diocesan synod.
His enthronement as the second Diocesan Bishop, after the retirement of the Rt. Rev’d Emmanuel Arongo, on January 22, 2012 at the Cathedral Church of Bishop Anglionby Memorial in Tamale, saw the transformation of the Diocese in diverse ways.
Indeed, he served his faith, his people and his conscience with determination, honesty, openness, dignity, collegiality, and he demonstrated all these qualities with good humour. An outstanding trait he had was his ability to combine mutual respect and trust in his relationship with the clergy in the diocese. His disposition – albeit rare - was that, everyone should have a spoon in the soup.
That was a man who saw the bigger picture and envisioned greatness for the diocese of Tamale.
In all the parishes he ministered, Bishop Jacob inspired, equipped and empowered members to live their baptismal covenant by praying, worshiping and studying scriptures. Through his ministry, which influenced and touched many lives, many more people were brought into divine ministry.
Instrumentally, and as part of his vision, he trained and commissioned several diocesan clergy and catechists to further exercise their discipleship in the world. Undoubtedly, no figure in our generation in the diocese has done more than what Bishop Ayeebo did. Whatever he did was with every ounce of himself, giving out his best, and that was what many would remember him for.
The Tamale Diocesan Council of the Anglican Young’s People Association (AYPA) remember, with nostalgia, how he inspired the youth to take up roles in the service of Christ and the church which ultimately culminated in the training of a number of youth in divine ministry.
His maiden diocesan “1000 youth conference” in September 2015 on the theme: “Arise and build: The role of the youth in the mission of the church and nation building”, sought to empower the youth as disciples of Jesus Christ and draw them to responsibly participate in the life and mission of the church and the nation.
“In a clear and tangible way, Bishop saw love and service to the youth as service to God. Barely a week before his passing, he had disclosed, in a conversation with me, his plans for the youth and his readiness to organize an even bigger and spirit-filled 2000 plus youth conference this year”, Sylvester Ayelgum, Diocesan President of the AYPA said mournfully, and added that, “Bishop’s support to the youth was outstanding in so many ways and we will miss him dearly.”
Due to his never-ending thirst for the Lord’s work, Bishop Ayeebo abandoned his ambition to become a mechanical engineer after secondary education at the Navrongo Secondary School, as he worked for the Church as a catechist for two during which period he responded to his calling to the ordained ministry, gaining admission to the St. Nicholas Theological College in 1985 and graduating with a Licentiate of Theology (L.Th) with distinction.
He was a man of copious knowledge and intellectual brilliance; his extraordinary depth of theology was amazing. He had deep love for the Bible and his sense and knowledge of the faith was spell-binding. But along with all these, he was passionate about his calling and his teachings dripped with commitment and conviction.
To fulfill his desire to acquire more knowledge, Bishop Ayeebo was awarded a scholarship enabling him to pursue further studies in Theology at the Ripton College, Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK). He further pursued a Diploma in Counselling at the Institute of Counselling, Glasgow in the UK. Again, Bishop Ayeebo was awarded a scholarship for further academic studies at the University of Durham, UK, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theology and Ministry in 1998.
In 2002, he was awarded a Master of Arts in Mission Studies by the University of Sheffield in the UK. Besides these qualifications, and after three years of intensive research work in 2007, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Jacob Kofi Ayeebo was conferred a degree, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Missiology by the North-West University, South Africa.
For a man who believed that ministry was about service and transformation of lives, it was unsurprising that under his dynamic leadership as the Executive Director of the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organisation (ADDRO), his immense contribution saw the expansion of that outfit in the reduction of poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, malaria, water related diseases and gender-based discrimination as well as sight impairment.
His proactiveness and commitment in transforming lives, upholding human dignity and justice to all people was unwavering as he built a strong partnership with the Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD), the development agency of the US-based Episcopal church, in that regard.
It was unsurprising that he passed on peacefully in his ADDRO office where he was gearing up for the day’s work in transforming the lives not only in the regions of the north, but nationwide.
He had a strong conviction that the passive position of some believers and churches in matters relating to politics is unreflective of the churches’ mission and task. Thus, Hon. Ayeebo was actively involved in political activities and was elected Presiding Member (PM) of the Bawku District Assembly.
His role in governance as a Member of the Council of State, an official body which exists to advise the country’s President, from February 2009 and January 2017, deserved some commendation. For him, service to country, was service to God.
Former President John Dramani Mahama, in whose presidency Bishop Ayeebo served as an adviser, signing a book of condolence to commiserate with his family in Tamale, described him as a mentor and counsellor.
“Words cannot describe my shock and sadness at your passing. You were always a mentor and counsellor throughout my political career. May God grant you rest and sincerest condolence to the dear ones you have left behind,” the Former President said rather dolefully.
The Diocese and Anglican Communion is profoundly thankful to God for your remarkable ministry and leadership. Your legacy will continue, not because of you – extraordinary as you were – but because of what you believed and taught – TRUTH.
Your family; the Church, the community, and at home, heartbroken as they all are, would continue to miss your love and benignity.
Steadily but surely, it will be dawn soon and when the dawn breaks on the day of your interment on May 18, may God, by his unfailing love, grant you an entrance into the land of light and joy in fellowship with the saints, and may the Church you loved and the diocese you served diligently, experience the joy of the resurrection.