Leesville native called to serve generations in Ghana

John Etheredge is off to West Africa to serve citizens there.


John Etheredge has been around long enough to see plenty of change during his life. “I remember when Shealy’s wasn’t Shealy’s — but a garden,” he recalled.

On Sept. 1, this native of Batesburg-Leesville will be seeing – and doing – much more as he travels to serve others in the name of God in the West African nation of Ghana.

Mr. Etheredge graduated with the class of 1963 from Twin City High School, when public schools were still segregated. From a young age, he has had a strong work ethic, starting to work when he was only 9 years old.

Along with that strong work ethic, Mr. Etherege had a strong sense that God was calling him to something bigger.

“I was always religious,” he said. As he got older and moved to North Carolina, he chose to worship as a Presbyterian.

Mr. Ethedrege has served on the sessions of two churches in Rocky Mount, N.C. — Mount Pisgah Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church — as a ruling elder and lay pastor. He served two terms on New Hope Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry and was New Hope Presbytery’s Commissioner to the church’s annual General Assembly in 2010.

As he continued to grow in his faith, he felt the call to travel to Africa. He began working with the Self Development of People (SDOP), a ministry that unites Presbyterian and ecumenical partners in “participating in the empowerment of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people seeking to change the structures that perpetuate poverty, oppression, and justice.”

According to Mr. Etheredge’s official biography published by the Presbyterian Church USA, he has served since 2016 on the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC). Its mission is to “serve Jesus Christ and enrich the black Presbyterian congregations and their communities through commitment to congregational enhancement, advocacy and social and racial justice.”

Mr. Etheredge also serves as president of the Mid-Atlantic Black Caucus and is on the Mid-Atlantic Jubilee Fund Committee, which supports the recruitment of African-American clergy, as well as Christian education and congregational leadership and development – especially for African-American youth ministry.

This ministry and his credentials made him a prime candidate to travel to Ghana. In Ghana, he will be working with the Nenyo Harbor program, a project aimed at educating primary and middle school youth who have dropped out of formal schooling. He also will be working with the Shepherd’s Centre of Aging, a church-based social center that engages older adults who live alone in the community.

Mr. Etheredge — who in 2017 lost his wife of 57 years, Anne, to the passage of time — will serve as an informal counselor and companion to the older adults who come to the center. Although he is working with elementary-age and older people, Mr. Etheredge said, “I just love working with people.”

Ghana, a nation of about 28 million people, has been called “one of the friendliest countries in the world, owing to its natural history, colorful festivals, historic sites and the hospitable people” (Forbes, 2011). More than three-quarters of Ghana’s residents identify as Christian. According to the Presbyterian Church, “about 57 percent of Ghana’s population is age 25 or under, and the country and church are working hard to provide quality health, education and employment opportunities for this vibrant group of young people.”

Mr. Etheredge’s deep love for people also shapes his purpose. He believes that his mission in life is to “do what Jesus wanted us to do.” He references John 21:16: “Take care of my sheep.”

Mr. Etheredge views this verse as a call to serve others and to allow others to serve us.

Story by Malaysia Barr / Posted September 3, 2019