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‘The Windows of Heaven Were Opened’

Ghana Hunger Crisis Sent Church into Action

Elizabeth Maki

Just a few years after the LDS Church was established in Ghana, a severe food shortage struck the West African nation.

The crisis was the result of a drought that cut cereal production 13 percent, coinciding with a Nigerian expulsion order giving illegal immigrants there fourteen days to leave the country, including 1.2 million Ghanaians who had to return home.1 The influx of displaced, hungry citizens and the lack of a plentiful harvest quickly left the nation in a critical state.

“Some of our streams and rivers dried up, farms withered and were burnt by bush fires,” Ghanaian Latter-day Saint J.W.B. Johnson recalled. “Food became scarce so much that there was hunger in the land. People with low incomes were mostly living on gari2 and coconuts. … Hospitals were filled with sick people owing to improper diet. Everyone lost weight. Many lived on one meal a day. Many died.”3

The new-to-Ghana Church jumped into action. A few months after the crisis had begun, the Church had shipped fifty tons of food and medical supplies to Ghana.4 Rice, beans, corn, cornmeal, powdered milk, oil and sugar for the approximately 1,000 members of the Church there—and as many of the general public as could be served—arrived May 19, 1983.

LDS Church food shipment to Ghana, 1983.
When Ghana faced a hunger crisis in 1983, the LDS Church sent fifty tons of food and supplies to help relieve the suffering.

“These people were so grateful and thankful, said they had never seen so much food in their lifetime,” wrote Donna Nelson, who was serving with her husband, Clark, as a missionary in Ghana. “As they looked at this food, they would cry and say, I cannot believe that the Church would do all this for us.”5

For the people of Ghana, the shipment was nothing short of a miracle.

“The windows of heaven were opened and manna fell from the hands of brothers and sisters in America,” Johnson said. “We received cartons of food which fed saints, schools and colleges, hospital, prisons and the general public. As an eyewitness I say that all those who received the donated food received it with tears in their eyes.”6

Emmanuel Abu Kissi, a Ghanaian doctor and district president in Accra, kept food in his office and distributed it to his many malnourished patients.

Kissi later wrote that the highlight of the Church’s food donation for him happened when an impoverished woman with a severely malnourished child arrived at his door.

“‘Do you have anything to carry a little gift with you?’ he asked the woman. … Dr. Kissi took her to the room and gave her rice, corn, beans, and also a container of cooking oil. … The stunned woman fell down prostrate on her face before the astonished doctor, who was equally bewildered with emotions. She humbled herself in thanksgiving in a way the doctor had never experienced in all his life. Only the two of them were there with the sick child. Tears drained down the doctor’s face and the woman sobbed. He raised the woman up by the hand and said to her, ‘This food has been sent to you from God; He only asked me to give it to you. You must give all your thanks unto God.’ The woman left the clinic with a lot more life in her than when she had come in a few moments earlier.”7

Poverty and scarcity in Ghana were indeed so severe that Donna Nelson reported that many families couldn’t afford even a single egg for their children.8 A second shipment from the Church arrived later that summer, and by the end of the year the Church had sent farming equipment, fertilizer, food storage containers, tools, and more medical supplies to the slowly recovering nation.9

Said Kissi: “The Church’s food donation, which may be described as a drop in the ocean considering the circumstances, did a lot of good to many starving people.”10

Footnotes

[1] La Verle Berry, ed., Agriculture, from Library of Congress Federal Research Division report, A Country Study: Ghana.

[2] A food made from cassava tubers.

[3] J.W.B. Johnson, “The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana,” copy in LDS Church Archives.

[4] Church Aids Three Distressed Nations, Ensign, June 1983.

[5] Clark and Donna Nelson, missionary journal of Clark and Donna Nelson, arrived Feb. 23, 1983, Papers of Clark Lamar Nelson, LDS Church Archives.

[6] J.W.B. Johnson, “The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana,” copy in LDS Church Archives.

[7] Emmanuel Abu Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana. Matthew K. Heiss, ed., (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1995), 76-77.

[8] Clark and Donna Nelson, missionary journal of Clark and Donna Nelson, arrived Feb. 23, 1983, Papers of Clark Lamar Nelson, LDS Church Archives.

[9] Memo, Ghana Accra Mission Files, LDS Church Archives.

[10] Emmanuel Abu Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana. Matthew K. Heiss, ed., (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1995), 76-77.