The year I turned 40 is the same year that Africa became the continent with the most Christians in the world. Wanting both momentous occasions to mean something beyond a year and a number, I had been musing over the idea of an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ for serious research and intellectual power to be brought to bear on this African phenomenon which is undoubtedly the work of God’s Spirit.
In fact, in the first quarter of 2018 I even initiated discussions with Steve Shadrach’s Centre for Mission Mobilization about the possibility of partnering to pull off an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ in Ghana. At that time, I was still President of International Student Ministries Canada and incidentally had my entire Senior Leadership Team visiting Ghana from Canada. In the presence of my ISMC team, friends and family from near and far, during my fortieth birthday dinner on 16th March 2018 at the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra, Ghana we actually formally launched the idea (or should I say effort?). I had no clue how it was going to pan out but I sensed it was not just a good idea; it was a God idea.
THE BRAZIL BENEDICTION
Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Ebenezer Aryee, a Ghanaian health worker domiciled in the United Kingdom and serving on the board of Pioneers Pioneers UK, had also been independently pondering over the prospect of an ‘Africa Centre for Mission Mobilization and Research’ since about 2017 and mooted the idea to Pioneers UK as well. Incidentally, Eben and I first met in person at the Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Dubai that same year but had no such discussions.
Come 2019, at the next biennial Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Sao Paolo (Brazil) in December 2019, both of us found out that we had a similar vision from the Lord and decided to explore what a possible convergence and synergy could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. Incidentally, that is the same conference at which upon hearing Dr. T.V. Thomas’s stirring exhortation about “radical collaboration” for the sake of the global Church finishing the task Jesus Christ left us, I agreed to co-author Africa to the Rest with Sam Ngugi, although I had started the book the year prior and was more than half-way, or so I thought.
SUPERSONIC SPEED SINCE SAO PALO
Since that time in Sao Paolo, many other African men and women from all over the continent, and in the diaspora, ranging from mission practitioners to academics, have been consulted and/or roped in. After an initial year of various research, discussions and SWOT analysis by this array of consultants, it became so overwhelmingly clear that not only was the African Centre for Mission Mobilization & Research (ACMMR) an idea whose time had come, but also that it was an urgent one for that matter. An interim board was set up by Send Africa Network, itself a new pan-African mission agency that Eben and a couple of others were in the process of founding and roped me in. The ACMMR interim board comprised Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Prof. Philip Antwi-Agyei (Ghana), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Dr. Andrew Mkwaila (Malawi), Dr. Esther Mombo (Kenya), Dr. Joshua Bogunjoku (Nigeria/USA), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK). I had the honour of chairing it.
The centre was outdoored, online, at Send Africa’s first summit, online, in 2021. This interim board, among others, determined that Ghana might be the most suitable place to physically site the ACMMR, with possible satellites across the continent. After physically scouting a number of possible places and holding various bilateral talks, the Akrofi-Christaller Centre for Theology Mission and Culture (ACI) was finally settled on as the most germane.
SEND AFRICA NETWORK SUMMIT 2022
At the November 2022 Send Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana, a hybrid summit, among the several dignitaries present was Dr. Rudolph Gaisie, director of the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI (the significance of him being there would soon become apparent). A fundraising event was held for the ACMMR and a permanent board commissioned comprising: Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey (Ghana), Mr. Alan Webster (South Africa), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Rev. Daniel Hyde Appiah (Ghana), Ps. Kassum Balboné (Burkina Faso), Mr. Sam Ngugi (Kenya), Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Dr. Yaw Perbi (Ghana/Canada). A delegation from the new board and some delegates from the Send Africa Summit paid a courtesy call on the Registrar of ACI, Mr. Ben Asiedu, at the Akropong premises. Dr. Rudolph Gaisie took the group on a tour of the facilities, while sharing some of the vital history of the institute.
Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey, medical doctor and founder of Pioneers Africa, was elected as the substantive board chair, at the board’s inaugural meeting, online, in December 2022. Dr. Lazarus Phiri, immediate pst Vice Chancellor of the Evangelical University in Zambia was selected as his vice, while Mr. Alan Webster of Wycliffe South Africa serves as the secretary.
LESSON LOOMING LARGE
There is no end to what God can do with humans who are willing to listen to His instructions and collaborate with His people. Usually, you know a vision is of God when it is far bigger than you and you know you firstly, you’ve got to depend on him and secondly, that you need others to rally around it. Once when I was struggling with taking up the offer to be ISMC president because I preferred to focus on building ‘my own baby’ The HuD Group as the founder and Global CEO, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the instructive words of a mentor of mine, who for years had been Dr. John C. Maxwell’s Senior Vice President at his leadership organization called EQUIIP in Atlanta. He had said to me: “For a long time, the Kingdom of God has not advanced the way it should because of egos and logos.” Ouch.
Imagine that the powerful Africa to the Rest making its rounds around the world would not have happened the same way without my co-author’s unique perspective, experience and network from East Africa. Today, we have a group of scholars from five or six countries collaborating to turn the book into a resource course for tertiary students. At the start of August 2023, Operation Mobilization’s ship ministry, Logos Hope, reached out to stock the ship with 500 copies of Africa to the Rest to be distributed across the continent, from Mombasa to Seychelles, and beyond. What if my ego and logo had gotten in the way.
As I type this, plans are far advanced to organize the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ACMMR and the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI, with an inaugural lecture on the serene premises. Neither Eben or myself even have our faces on ACMMR posters or our names as chair, or even vice chair or executive director. I dare say most of the people pushing the vision today don’t even know this back story I’ve just shared here!
And that is the beauty of making the only ‘ego’ that matters be the glory of God and the only ‘logo’ that is of prime concern, the cross of Jesus Christ! The aim of the centre is knowledge-based total mobilization of the most numerically Christian continent this century for the mission of God..
Indeed, if it is true that one would chase a thousand and two will put ten thousand to flight, then imagine what is exponentially possible with convergence and synergy. See what unity of purpose devoid of egos and logos could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. So you see, there is no limit on God-sized visions; but for our egos and logos.
Dr. G. Ayorkor Korsah (née Mills-Tettey) and I shared many hearty laughs at the VIP lounge after Ashesi University’s impressively inspiring commencement ceremony last Saturday, June 3, 2023. She is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and Robotics, and as department head, Computer Science & Information Systems, she was in her element dolling out degrees to deserving graduates. But we have a 28-year history of rivalry.
This wasn’t our first meeting. Nearly three decades ago, in 1995, we were impassioned opponents. Each of us was part of a trio representing our high schools in the semi-final of the Brillant Science and Maths Quiz on national television. Brillant was what it was called, yes, no typo there. That was the name of the blue bar soap by Unilever that was the title sponsor OF the competition. Much has changed since then. National Science and Maths Quiz, it’s now called. Very appropriate. Prime Time was in its prime, producing this feast of brilliance. They seem to have kept their shine, now in the hands of the next generation of Mensah-Bonsus.
THE LADIES WERE LOVED
Our battle was held and filmed at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon. Technically, this should’ve been a ‘home match’ for me, in my own territory, since the venue was barely a mile from my home, No. 14 Legon Hill. But no. Everyone was rooting for the über smart all-ladies team from Wesley Girls. Can you blame them? Even now they would be a delight; how much more in those medieval ages of STEM in Africa. Come to think of it, the now-ubiquitous ‘STEM’ term for Science, Tech, Engineering and Math had not even been cooked yet. The STEM acronym was only introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Girls in Science were hallowed in the 1990s. Even I admired them, but my mission was to win for my school. No distractions.
My Achimota School team was made up of three boys, the three musketeers, although we are the first co-ed public school in the country as far back as 1927 and had science girls who rocked. Needless to say, the competition against the Cape Coast chics was fierce. We had both earned our way to the penultimate in the southern zone.
We inflicted what is arguably the most painful defeat Geyhey has ever suffered at the science and maths quiz. It was veeery close. Even the camera crew were downcast when the celebrity girls lost, visibly disappointed. We made enemies that day. Some couldn’t even hide it.
SOME OTHER LADIES, SOME OTHER TIME
But as it turned out: it’s not the whole word that hated us. Some girls loved us. I was the recipient of umpteen letters of adulation from young ladies all over the country. They happily introduced themselves, sometimes with atrocious photo inserts, and poured their admiration on me—about my intellectual prowess among other things which will distract from the point of this article. Now I’m not sure all of it was appropriate for seventeen.
Even the Weygeygey girls became friends later when things cooled down. After all, “if you can’t beat them; join them,” as they say. That’s how I ended up with the various names in that year group, some of whom became colleagues at the University of Ghana Medical School, as friends. Zanetor Rawlings, first daughter of the then Flight Lieutenant-retired president of Ghana, even visited me in Achimota School at some point. Like me, she would later pursue Medicine too; but in Ireland. I once warned her at a party in Nana Ama Barnes’ home on Legon Campus that if she dared ended up schooling outside Ghana after her revolutionary dad had messed up (yes, teenagers are fearless!) our educational system so, I would be really mad. I guess I’m still mad. A little. She has since returned and been admiringly serving as a Member of Parliament for the Korle Klottey constituency of Accra. In any case, seeing affliction metted out to a certain young man who hang around her at the time, involuntary hair-shaving at the Osu Castle and all, it might have been providence that I stayed at arm’s length.
NOTHING BUT ADMIRATION AND RESPECT
But I digress. Back to the main lady Gertrude, as we called Ayorkor then. She was and is brilliantly brilliant. We only beat her team by strategy and a stroke of luck. Call it grace, if you like. Those girls were on fire! Ayorkor, after 1995, went on ahead to pack up four degrees including two Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a PhD. Dr. Korsah grew up in Ghana and Nigeria, and as a child, she wanted to be an astronaut and an engineer. Ayorkor didn’t join the majority of us that continued to Ghanaian tertiary institutions but went to Ivy League Dartmouth to major in engineering. She attended Carnegie Mellon University for her doctoral work in computer science, obtaining a PhD in 2011.
Ayorkor Korsah is all-round passionate about the artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, algorithms, and programming courses she teaches on the Ashesi Hill but so is she about expanding robotics education in Africa for every Kofi and Amma. That’s why she co-founded the African Robotics Network (AFRON) over a decade ago with a robotics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Ken Goldberg.
Anyele my wife and I really found a common sweet spot with Ayorkor last Saturday when we coincidentally discovered our common passion for literacy. Being someone who has shared with the BBC how humans and machines can collaborate and combine their strengths, Ayorkor once, over a dozen years ago, experimented with an automated reading tutor in the quest to improving child literacy in Africa. She has a paper on it in the Information Technologies & International Development journal, vol. 6 no. 2, 2010. We are keen to collaborate with her and her bright Ashesi students at our EdTech company, Perbi Cubs, for bigger, brighter and better outcomes for Africa’s precious cubs.
NOT A BOUT
Ayorkor beat me to full-time lectureship and will most likely beat me again to professorship (she so deserves it). But as she, Anyele and I continued our hearty conversation, including recruiting some of her students to practice what she teaches at our Edtech, we got to know she has two little ones of her own, younger than our last two. And we have seven. We beat her to that, fair and square. She even just married, in light of our sixteenth year, and transitioned from Mills-Tettey to Korsah.
Enough of these beatings! Really we’re all grown now and know, for sure, that life isn’t a race against each other. Nor is it about a bout. Rather than compete like we did in our teens, we now learn to complete one another in our adult years for the greater good—the Good Society. In lockstep, we will keep producing holistic emerging leaders, formally like Dr. Ayorkor Korsah does with degrees at Ashesi and informally and semi-formally like I do at The HuD Group. Ashesi turned 20 last year and we turn the same this year. Patrick Awuah, our mutual founding friend of Ashesi will be keynoting at The HuD Group’s presser on June 16, 2023. I was telling him that maybe I should’ve started a Uni too instead of going the CSO (Civil Society Organization) route. But nay, to each one their own. And we compliment, collaborate and complete each other as we all strive hard and long towards the Africa we want.
And as if by divine design, one of the Presec folks who beat our Achimota team in the finals of the Brilliant Science and Math Quiz 1995 southern zone competition ended up as my Biological Sciences course mate and even my room mate at Legon Hall, University of Ghana. We both competed for the few slots at med school available to our Leviathan-sized cohort and made it–from the same room!
There’s a time to compete and a time to collaborate. For me, to complete and not compete today as professional pals and fellow family framers of the same generation is a no-brainer. Here’s to answering life’s real tough questions and quizzes together. Congratulations, Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, for continually raising the bar.
And oh, Anyele and Ayikai, Ayorkor’s engineering whiz kid of a younger sister, have been tight friends for a quarter-of-a-century, going way back to their Wesley Girls days.
Imagine a flourishing global ecosystem of authentic leaders characterized by healthy growth, holistic success and lasting significance. That’s the big dream and eternal hope fuelling our daily tasks at the Executive Education firm that bears my name, YAW PERBI. A couple of years ago, after eight years as President & CEO of a Canadian non-profit in the international education space and having garnered several years of executive leadership experience in the Ghanaian military and medical fraternity, global media, the United Nations in Cote d’Ivoire etc. I decided it was time to serve all of that to leaders of leaders: the C-suite. So I came out of sabbatical and stepped down as President of ISMCanada to do this.
Since according to my mentor of a quarter of a century, John C. Maxwell, by whom I’m officially a certified coach, speaker and trainer, that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness,” I have been steadily growing a global team of competent, caring, confident and character-based co-leaders on/from every continent in the world beyond myself to make our faith, sight. That journey has culminated in the birth of PELÉ.
A Play on Words
In keeping our focus on growing and coaching executive leadership to succeed, ever broadening the authentic relationships and resources we bring to bear on our task, we decided to move away from YAW PERBI specifically and to build Perbi Executive Leadership Education, PELÉ for short. PELÉ is not exactly just a happy coincidence, for as a once-upon-a-time football fanatic and soccer player for my elementary school, I recently engaged in my fair share of arguments about who the greatest soccer player of all time is between the shouts in favour of Lionel Messi after lifting the Qatar World Cup trophy on December 18, 2022 and the incessant calls to hallow the legendary Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known by his nickname Pelé, who died eleven days later on December 29. As a double childhood hero—both of my dad and myself—I had been pondering a way to honour a Black man who gave everyone so much delight and so many people of his skin hue so much pride.
As I’ve stated before, “I am eager to particularly provide C-level executives of African descent with the paradigms, processes and tools necessary to maximize their potential, to be world class, take the world stage and make their dent in the universe.”
A Word In Play
Then came April 2023 when the Pelé Foundation and Sportv launched the “Pelé in the dictionary” campaign to pay tribute and recognise his legacy in other fields beyond sport. Of course his name has long been a synonymous with success and excellence, both of which are values of our Executive Education company, but now the great Brazilian forward and only human to have lifted three World Cup trophies officially had his name in the Portuguese dictionary. The adjective “Pelé” has been added to the Portuguese edition of the Michaelis dictionary to describe “someone out of the ordinary.”
Pelé, the nickname of the late football legend, has officially become tantamount to “extraordinary, exceptional, incomparable, unique.” Pelé is an adjective for something or someone that is out of the ordinary, one who by virtue of their quality, value or superiority cannot be equalled to anything or anyone, just like Pelé. For example, he is the Pelé of basketball, she is the Pelé of paediatrics.
What’s in a Name?
According to Emily Olson of NPR, “It was in the small, impoverished town of Bauru where he first got his nickname playing in youth leagues.” Apparently, even Pelé himself wasn’t sure where it came from, he wrote in a 2006 piece for The Guardian, but it may have been a play on Bilé, the nickname of a goalkeeper for the team Pelé’s father played on. “I can remember the name really bugged me at first. I was really proud that I was named after Thomas Edison and wanted to be called Edson,” he said. “I thought Pelé sounded horrible. It was a rubbish name. Edson sounded so much more serious and important.”
PELÉ by YAW PERBI is an Executive Education firm that offers authentic and customized relationships and resources to C-Level executives to grow personally, succeed professionally and become significant societally. To this end, the company provides Pelé services in leadership development, management training, executive coaching and publishing. Our Pelé coaching, authoring, speaking, and training are centred on LIFE—Leadership, Integrity, Family, Entrepreneurship.
We are PELÉ–extraordinary, exceptional, incomparable, unique–but more importantly, we form PELÉs, who are authentic, out of the ordinary executive leaders in every sector of life and all society’s centres of influence. As a forward-looking, authentic leader, if you want to dextrously dribble through LIFE and exceptionally hit goals like the legendary Pelé, you know where to look for the kind of coaching and training it will take: Perbi Executive Leadership Education (PELÉ). Like begets like.
We first met on a table near the Table Mountain; I hope we meet again, in eternity, at a wedding table on a holy mountain.
In an emerging leader-affirming move, typical of The Lausanne Movement, my 32-year old self was appointed a table head at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. Imagine that. This was a gathering of the crème de la crème of Christian leaders from around the world, even described by some as “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2,000 year history of the Christian movement” (Christianity Today).
Each table had about half a dozen members. One of mine was Tim Keller. At the time, I had no clue who he was and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered. Everyone was somebody. He wasn’t always at the table and even when he was there, he wasn’t quite there.
The Congress was over and everyone received their beautiful certificates of participation. Tim wasn’t there. Again. Apparently he had left back to the United States earlier. So I decided to travel back to Canada with his certificate, do an internet search of his whereabouts and mail his certificate to him in the States.
THAT is when I found out to my shock what a tall figure of a man this was! I eventually did get to speak with a staff and mail his memento to the right address (I would hope) in New York City. Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, founder and lifelong pastor of the 5,000-member Redeemer Presbyterian Church, was über brilliant and very deep—in head and heart. So deep that he had decided not to write any book till he was in his fifties. “Writing a book in your 50s will go twice as fast and be twice as good as if you try the same book in your 30s. It’s just good stewardship to wait,” he told The Gospel Coalition, which he was co-founder and Vice President of.
The other dimension I admired most about Keller was how ambidextrous he was in elucidating the gospel and engaging the culture, simultaneously! Stupendous! That, to me, was epitomized in his invitation to speak on his obviously Christian worldview book, ‘The Meaning of Marriage,’ at Google in Silicon Valley. Check out his presentation and responses to their questions and comments. Dr. Keller mentored many, near and far, in-person, in spirit and via media. Those around the world who were directly mentored through his Redeemer City to City should count themselves fortunate, blessed. I just spotted on Facebook a touching tribute from a pastor friend of mine from Brazil who recently planted a church in Rome, inspired and equipped by Rev. Keller.
As a latter day follower of Tim on Twitter, I admired the way he vulnerably yet resolvedly faced his imminent death, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer since 2020, a sequel to his 2002 thyroid cancer battle. All the while incarnationally demonstrating ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ through the dynamics with his wife of nearly 50 years, Kathy Kristy. Tim transitioned into glory on Friday the nineteenth (of May), 2023.
Dr. Tim Keller’s influence on the church and the world for Christ is deep and wide. I hope we share a table, again, at the grand, imminent marriage feast of the Lamb in eternity. Till then, Rest in Peace, champ! #Maranatha!