Mid-Ohio Valley pastor’s ministry distributes Gideon Bibles in Ghana

Photo Provided The Rev. Charles Leisure, left, sits with his daughter, Jennifer Lane, and Ohemma Akyema Agyokwa, a sponsored child at a Ghana school.

PARKERSBURG — Charles Leisure stands in the pulpit of the Smithville Baptist Church with a Bible in his hand.

He is the pastor at the church. When he stands in a school in the villages near Swedru, Ghana, he stands there as a man on a mission with a Bible in his hand. He has many Bibles to give away.

Leisure is 69 years old and has made the trip to Ghana 12 of the last 13 years, beginning in 2005, with Globally Building Schools, a ministry he established and headquartered in Elizabeth to distribute Gideon Bibles to school children in grades 5-12.

“The children in Ghana schools are required to read, write and speak English,” Leisure said. “We only pass out Bibles to school kids of those grades as the Gideons require the students to be able to understand what they are reading.”

Leisure added “Ghana is very accepting of what we do there. There is no danger, no disease, no violence, no intimidation. We went last year with eight people and gave away 10,000 Bibles in four days. If I had the people I could hand out 100,000 Bibles but I don’t. But I would like to take more than eight people with me this year.”

Photo Provided Students smile after receiving their Gideon Bibles.

Globally Building Schools is the non-profit headed by Leisure. The charity picks up expenses for food and travel within Ghana while the group is there. Those team members pay the tab for their plane tickets and hotel for a week. The ticket price is $1,100 for the round trip and $175 for the hotel.

“Swedru is where we usually stay and that’s about three hours travel from where we land,” Leisure said. “Where we hand out the Bibles is between an hour to two hours travel, depending on where we go.”

Leisure said “in the middle of 12 years of preaching at three churches every Sunday, God sent a physician from West Virginia and a preacher from South Carolina. That preacher’s part of God’s plan for my life was to take me to Africa on a mission. The physician’s part over the next two years was to show me what I was to do there.”

One part in Ghana, which is located in West Africa and by the Atlantic Ocean, was establishing a school, which is known as “Ken’s Baptist Academy.”

“It started with one teacher in one room with 10 kids,” Leisure said. “Today it is K-8, with 14 teachers in 10 rooms and 467 students.

Photo Provided Students at a school in the Swedru area of Ghana wear uniforms when attending school.

“There are 101 students sponsored by families in the United States,” he continued. “Sponsored students get shoes, a uniform and one meal a day. They attend school 220 days a year. Those who aren’t sponsored have families who pay for the tuition and sometimes all they can do is come in and pay a quarter but they pay something.”

The cost for a year’s sponsorship is $90 for a student or $450 in Ghana Cedi. According to freedomefromhunger.com Ghana’s average per capita income is $2,200.

The website for Globally Building Schools is globallybuildingschools.org. The address is 313 Washington St., Elizabeth, WV 26143.

“We took 32 laptops to Ghana last year,” Leisure said. “We fly into Accra, Ghana and then travel about three hours to where we stay. When we get to the villages many of the children we give Bibles to have never seen a Bible, much less read or owned one.”

Leisure said the Gideons are responsible for getting the Bibles to Ghana. “They fly the Bibles to Ghana in a secure cargo container and we can get all the Bibles we can give away when we get there.” Accra is the largest city in Ghana with an estimated population of 2.7 million. Swedru, according to Leisure, is about the size of Vienna.

Photo Provided Students at a school in the Swedru area of Ghana hold Gideon Bibles.

Leisure said permission to distribute Bibles is requested two months in advance of arrival. “We made it to 30 schools, two hotels and a hospital,” he said.

“We want to go back in mid-September and we’re looking for more to go with us,” Leisure said. “I can’t wait to go back. I wanted to take 10 people last year but God said eight was enough, so eight went.”

Photo Provided Students stand on balconies at a four-story tall school near Swedru. The school opened last year and is the first of its kind to be built in Ghana, according to the Rev. Charles Leisure.