It was late afternoon at the Mawuli School in Ho way back in the mid-sixties. Student Jude Hama was walking to the dormitory when he heard it.
Floating on the wind was the melodious singing coming from the direction of the teachers’ quarters. He listened carefully and picked the lyrics of the song—What a friend we have in Jesus / All our sins and griefs to bear / What a privilege to carry / Everything to God in prayer. The voices of a group of students unified in passion and vim.
The song moved Hama and convicted him, finally leading him to join the Scripture Union group in the school. The rest is history, for young Jude Hama openly professed his faith in Christ and became personally committed in the ways of the Lord—all on the strength of a song.
Wings of song
Fast-forward after school, further education and training, Jude Hama settled into full-time Christian service, including becoming the General Director/CEO of Scripture Union Ghana—all on the wings of a song.
Has a gospel song ever touched you so deeply you shed tears and bowed in humble adoration and genuine worship? True worshippers testify that the pleasure of Christian music is a taste of heaven on earth!
If Ghana were to count our blessings, would we list gospel music as one of the enduring blessings of our nation? Yet from before independence till this day, gospel music has been a major source of hope and encouragement in the lives of individuals and families. Even on our political journey, gospel music has been used to send out messages.
Music is food for the soul and a companion on life’s journeys. While that is undisputable, I like to think that different types of food do different things to the body.
The spiritual food provided by gospel music is pure, encouraging, healthy and divinely valuable.
Jude Hama, who once resided in Winneba, told me about a drinking bar in Winneba that constantly played gospel music. When asked why, the bar keeper said:
“The patrons want gospel music.” Why would anybody drowning in hard liquor ask for gospel music? Simple—the Ghanaian is inherently religious, and our upbringing often leads us to seek God.
Hymns and songs of praise are weapons that help us fight spiritual and emotional battles. Gospel musician Lady Ophelia recounts the story of a taxi driver who told her, “I would not be alive today but for your song, Ayeyie awie”.
The taxi driver said he was so debt-ridden and discouraged in life that he contemplated suicide, but the gospel song made him change his mind.
Gospel music, being food for the soul, is a powerful agent for healing and upliftment when we are down.
Many gospel musicians testify that they received the words for their songs in the depth of trials. Divine music heals, teaches, binds us together and convicts us to repent and draw closer to God.
Award-winning gospel musician Diana Hamilton hits the nail on the head when she reminds us that the essence of our praise is centred on God’s grace. “Grace” is a huge theme in our relationship with God without which we cannot call him our heavenly Father.
And while we present our songs in praise to God, it says in Zephaniah 3:17 that God “rejoices over us with singing” because he takes great delight in us.
God has endowed Ghana with many gospel musicians. While many sing behind the scenes in churches and at Christian gatherings, some are in the limelight, producing award-winning songs. The list is so long that I decided to omit it. We probably need a book that chronicles Ghanaian gospel musicians and the lyrics of their great songs.
While we celebrate our musicians, we also appreciate their backing vocalists and the sound engineers who blend voices and musical instruments to produce such wonderful melodies.
And kudos, of course, to mainstream and social broadcast media that convey the tunes to our listening benefit.
Just before Jesus entered Gethsemane for the last time, he and his disciples sang a hymn. We are not told what hymn they sang, but given the battle ahead of the Lord, the lyrics must have been words of praise, courage and hope.
The scriptures state that God inhabits the praise of his people. Therefore, says Psalm 95:1- 2: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
The writer is a publisher, author, writer-trainer and CEO of Step Publishers.