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An Appreciation by Kofi Otutu Adu Labi

He impacted generations for Good.

I first met TB, as we used to call him then, at the University of Ghana when he took over from Rev. Gottfried Osei-Mensah as Travelling Secretary of the Ghana Inter University Christian Fellowship.

Of course, we promoted him to Uncle TB long ago, an appellation we attached a lot of endearment to and which I suspected he enjoyed hearing.

I remember Uncle TB’s regular visits to us at Legon and the way he shared life-impacting lessons with us about various aspects of the Christian life. He had a way of breaking down Christian principles into basic building blocks which made them easy to imbibe and put into practice.

The one word I would use to describe Uncle TB is that he was an Encourager.  I remember a telephone call I received from him after I started contributing to Scripture Union’s Daily Guide Devotional. This was early in the morning and he told me that he and Sister Virginia had been blessed by my contribution for the day. He encouraged me to keep up the good work. I must say that I felt happy to receive this commendation from such a great man of God. 

Uncle TB was one person you were always sure to walk away from with deep insights, clarity and understanding about the things of God and how they relate to our contemporary world and its challenges.

 He had some uncommon, but very practical, advice too. On one occasion, while in conversation with him, he offered me a piece of advice that has proved very helpful to me as a Lay Preacher. He told me that the late John Stott had advised him to remember to empty his bladder before he went into the pulpit. I took the advice and have applied it religiously since then. Imagine feeling the urge to empty your bladder while in the process of preaching! I wonder if this type of wisdom is taught in a formal setting. Yet it is one piece of advice that has surely saved lots of preachers from embarrassment and on the other hand made them bring their sermons to many an abrupt end.

As we celebrate the transition of Uncle TB from this side of eternity to the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the sure hope of the resurrection, I want to share two more recollections of him, formally documented by me, to give us all an opportunity to learn more from the godly wisdom he was so richly endowed with.

Wednesday and Thursday, July 19 and 20, 2017, saw 19 friends gathered at Dawu Akuapem. A couple and one other person present who are ordinarily resident in the United States were part of the group. My wife Elioenai and I were present.
The common thread running through us was the fact that we had been members of the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) at the University of Ghana from the mid- 1960s to the mid-1970s. We met to reconnect and to share fellowship away from the hustle and bustle of our normal everyday lives.
The idea for the Gathering was mooted by Rev. Prof. Seth Ohene Asare (affectionately called Kwaku Asare by friends) and his wife Rev. Dorothy Asare.

TB, a Chemistry graduate and teacher before he went into full-time ministry, was the Travelling Secretary of the Ghana Inter University Christian Fellowship, now Ghana Fellowship of Evangelical Students (GHAFES) when I was at university. He was one of the pioneering Ministers of Korle-Bu Community Chapel (formerly Accra Chapel).
TB used Psalm 92:12-15 as his foundation scripture, with special reference to verse 14 which says:
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (NIV).
Let no one make you feel that you cannot bear fruit in old age, he told us. The way we bear fruit may change, but we should still continue to bear fruit, he encouraged us.
Rev. Dr T. B. Dankwa then went on to leave the following lessons for our edification:
1. Pass on the baton to the younger generation. He quoted Billy Graham who says that the Church is only one generation away from extinction. It is therefore critical that we invest the things of God in our children, grandchildren and others. Teach them the way of God accurately, he advised.
2. Prayer ministry. This is something that we can all be involved in, even as we slow down on our activities. Make a list of people, especially young ones, to pray for on a regular basis.
3. Take good care of your bodies! He recommended the acronym RED for our guidance. Rest. Exercise. Diet. He also asked us to take seriously the advice of the late evangelical leader, John Stott, relating to the 3 Hs or Horizontal Half Hour. That half hour may take the form of a nap during the day or simply taking a complete rest during the day. That half hour reinvigorates. I must add that this is known as the power nap in some parts of the corporate world.
4. There are things we need to say No to. I could readily identify with this, and I was grateful he brought it up. As I keep reminding people, you cannot chase every rabbit in the field!
5. Do not give up on your unfulfilled dreams!
At this juncture, he quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers, When each had numbered more than fourscore years,
And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten,
Had but begun his Characters of Men. Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales, At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales;
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last, Completed Faust when eighty years were past, These are indeed exceptions; but they show How far the gulf-stream of our youth may flow Into the arctic regions of our lives.
Where little else than life itself survives.”
6. Finally he prayed that God would give us the grace to grow gracefully, and not be bitter and cynical.

Culled from my book All Things Bright and Beautiful.

The second remembrance is from the second TB Dankwa Missions Fund and Public lecture held at the British Council Hall in July 2019.

The following is what I shared on my Facebook timeline after the event.  “Rev. Dr. T. B. Dankwa has been involved in student ministry since 1963 when he entered the University of Ghana to study Chemistry. He served as President of the University Christian Fellowship and was the first staff worker of GHAFES from 1971-77. Indeed, he used to pay regular visits to us at Legon after he took over (in 1971) from Rev. Gottfried Osei-Mensah, who went on to join the Lausanne Committee in Switzerland.

TB, as he is affectionately called by contemporaries, was for a long period the Senior Pastor at Accra Chapel, now Korle Bu Community Chapel.
The theme for the lecture was “Awakening the Spirit of Patriotism and Volunteerism: the way forward towards Ghana beyond Aid – the GHAFES Model.”

The Speaker was Rev. Emmanuel Mawuli Ahlijah, a former General Secretary of GHAFES.

The Rabbis used to sit to speak.
When it was time for Rev. T. B. Dankwa (TB) to speak, he asked to be permitted to remain sitting while making his remarks. In what was clearly meant to be only an opener and an aside, he said that after all, the Rabbis used to sit and speak. That caught my attention and sent my mind back to the year 2008, to the island of Maui in Hawaii when I was at the Haggai Institute for Advanced Leadership. I worshipped with a congregation one Sunday and I was astonished to see the pastor sitting on a stool and preaching. Like most of the congregants, he was dressed simply but decently. He went on to deliver one of the best sermons I have ever heard. It was about Jesus and the Samaritan woman by the well.
We should allow our speakers to sit if that would be suitable for their circumstances.
That was my first takeaway from TB that evening. I know at least one very good teacher and counsellor who has not been preaching for years now ostensibly because his physical condition would not allow him to stand in the pulpit for long.
The second takeaway was: Be yourself. Don’t copy others. Everyone has his or her style.
Finally, God will show you what to do when you pray.”
I shall always remember what TB used to tell us whenever he paid a working visit to us at the University Christian Fellowship (UCF).
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
― St. Augustine

Uncle TB has left a huge legacy and impacted many lives for the Kingdom of God in Ghana and beyond. May the God of all grace comfort his wife Sister Virginia and the entire family.

May his soul rest in peace as we look forward to a joyful Gathering on the resurrection morn.

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