In recognition of his vision and leadership in sustainable community development in Northern Ghana, Dr. David Mensah was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Acadia University during the Faculty of Theology, Faculty of Arts, and School of Education Convocation ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2023.
Dr. Mensah’s desire to make a difference in the lives of Ghana’s poor emerged from his early years in extreme poverty and his coming to Christian faith during a troubled youth on the streets.
“I should have been dead long ago,” he said to the 2023 graduating class. “I should have been dead by hunger, by difficulties, by street life.”
David Mensah was born in a small village in rural Northern Ghana. His father died when he was a young boy, and he was sent to live with an abusive relative. He eventually escaped, though he struggled to survive.
In 1979, he came to Canada with just $10. He went on to complete a bachelor’s degree at the Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale Seminary), a master’s degree at Acadia Divinity College, and a PhD at the University of Toronto.
Continuing his address, Dr. Mensah told a story that “belongs to all Nova Scotians and the faculty [of Acadia].”
In 1983, while studying at Acadia Divinity College, he received a letter from Ghana. The letter contained news that three of his family members had starved to death.
As Dr. Mensah was frozen with grief, two of his fellow students took the letter from his hands and read it for themselves. Global reality crashed around them. Here was hard evidence of an even harsher truth: starvation is real. And, as Dr. Mensah said in his address, “When you are starving in Africa, it is a different thing. There are no truer ways.”
It was Thanksgiving weekend, and the letter was circulated. The students, staff, and faculty from Acadia University and Acadia Divinity College knew they needed to act. Together they gathered funds to fill a container of food and shipped it to Ghana.
“That container saved three large villages from starvation,” Dr. Mensah said. “So, this honour is for you all.”
After completing his doctoral studies in Toronto, Dr. Mensah felt God’s call to return to Ghana. “The dangers there were too much,” he said. “If you’ve starved before, you never forget it. But I remembered the students and the profs who sacrificed and shipped that container to Ghana to save the lives of dying people. I knew I had to go back.”
Since he and his wife, Brenda, returned in 1990, “God has blessed the work beyond,” he said. “God has been upon us. Your contributions and your heart – it has paid off. Acadia University sent me off well.”
“I was drawn from the gutter and polished up by you to go back to Africa,” he continued. “You are graduating in a very difficult time. You are going to need your heart in addition to what you received today. With tenacity, resilience, and commitment we can make a dent in this world.”
Dr. David Mensah is the Executive Director of a pair of non-profits that unite Canadians and Ghanaians to support sustainable community development in Northern Ghana. The two NGOs – Northern Empowerment Association (NEA) / Ghana Rural Integrated Development (GRID) – engage in a comprehensive model that addresses the whole person, with a special focus on the well-being of women and children. They strive toward a peaceful, healthy community in their daily efforts to support faith, education, environmental protection, food security, health, peacebuilding, water and sanitation, and women’s empowerment. Their efforts have improved sustainable, small-scale agriculture and fisheries; built schools, medical clinics and churches; and distributed scholarships.
The numbers speak for themselves: more than 55,000 patients cared for; 5,500 women achieving self-sufficiency; 650 kilometres of waterways protected; and 250 chiefs working together toward peacebuilding. Over 600 students have received scholarships for secondary and tertiary education; over 100 wells now provide clean water; and neonatal mortality has been reduced from 40/1000 to 4/1000 in over 160 communities. In 2022, they opened the 100-bed Leyaata Hospital in Carpenter, Ghana, that will improve healthcare and provide employment for many people across several districts.
In addition, Dr. Mensah has established 48 churches and is an elected regional chief, where he focuses on conflict resolution.
For his full biography, click here.