The facts of the beginnings of the PCG are now so well known that one does not need to repeat the details here.
The stories of the heroic decision of the Basel Mission to undertake mission work in the Gold Coast and the sacrifices that they had to make to sustain the mission continue to be cited with pride and gratitude to God by many Ghanaians today.
The year 1828 will forever remain significant in the life of our church because this was the year of arrival of the very first missionaries from Basel.
The Basel Mission that sent them had been founded in mainly businessmen, industrialists and philanthropists who wanted to make a totally different impact on Africa that their slave trading compatriots had done.
They were interested in a practical demonstration of Christian love to fellow human beings, and therefore attracted people from varying backgrounds and expertise.
They also insisted that persons offering themselves for this task should be persons “with a deep sense of humility”.
The reason for demanding these qualities was obvious. They were not going to be the first to attempt evangelization in the Gold Coast. As far back as 1471, Portuguese Catholics had arrived on the Gold Coast and had attempted to spread the Gospel, but had failed woefully because many other motives accompanied their evangelization motive. After a few years, commercial interest totally submerged that of the Gospel.
The slave trade made it difficult, if not impossible for any clear distinction to be made between missionaries and traders. Soon the recipients of the good news became victims of slavery, and mammon planted his kingdom where Christ’s should have been.
Other nations also made a few half-hearted attempts with no lasting results.
In the early 18th century, the Moravians had also embarked on an ambitious evangelization propaganda, beginning from Elmina and ending in failure at Christiansborg.
The period between these attempts and the arrival of the Basel Mission was, for the ordinary observer, an era of fruitless endeavour, but from the perspective of God’s salvation history, it was a preparatory period for the baptism of fire that was to come.
The abolition of the slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century was an indication that something new was going to happen in the Gold Coast.
The Basel Mission was that new thing.
The first event of significance in our history therefore was the arrival of the first missionaries form Basel. When they arrived at Osu, it was exactly one week before Christmas and two weeks before the end of the year.
Symbolically, they had come to witness the birth of Christ in the Gold Coast in a new way. Hardly anything of significance is known to have happened in the short period of stay of these first missionaries, for all four of them died before the end of the following year.
However, the few months of their lives that they spent in Osu must have touched a few lives. For eight months, they interacted with the people of Osu, started learning the Ga language, made a few friends and even attempted starting a school.
Their immediate successors who arrived in 1832 made similar efforts, renting a house at Osu and living among the people. Two of the three who came also died within missionaries has been largely overlooked in the narration of our history, often due to the attention given to the work of Andreas Riis whose commitment and industry ensured that the mission was not abandoned.
It was he who in the face of much frustration and possible death, took the bold decision to move from Osu to Akropong to make a new attempt.
He also initiated exploratory moves into Akyem and other areas before returning to Basel in 1840.
It is however necessary to put these other missionaries out of obscurity and acknowledge their role however little, in our history.