From Dust to Renewal: Reflections on Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season

Today, February 22, 2023, marks the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians all over the world. This 40-day period of reflection, repentance and renewal culminates with Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first day of Lent is known as Ash Wednesday, and it is a significant day in the Christian calendar. On this day, Christians attend church services to receive a mark of ashes (usually a cross) on their foreheads, which symbolises their mortality and the need for repentance. The ashes are typically made by burning palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.

This morning, I attended the St. James Catholic Church in Osu, Accra for the Ash Wednesday Service, where I received ashes on my forehead with the priest saying, “Remember from dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” This very humbling reminder of my mortality reiterates the need for me to turn away from my sins, especially the ones that so easily beset me, and trust completely in the Lord with my all. The ashes, which will remain on my forehead throughout the day, symbolise my willingness to acknowledge my faults and seek forgiveness, whilst serving as a public declaration of my faith in God, and a commitment to live a more righteous life.

The practice of using ashes as a symbol of repentance can be traced back to ancient Jewish traditions. In the Old Testament, the book of Job describes the use of ashes as a sign of mourning and repentance. [See Job 42;6]. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of repentance and humility in the Sermon on the Mount, urging us to give, pray and fast, and not worry. [See Matthew 6.]

Let me preach a little. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us to give our gifts in private so that our Father, who sees everything, will reward us. And then, he teaches us how to pray and what to do when we are fasting. This shows the importance of acts of charity to the Christian life and the spread of the Gospel. Giving was a central theme in Jesus’ ministry, and whenever He gave, people stayed and listened to what He had to say about the Kingdom of God. When we carry out acts of charity, direct and indirect beneficiaries of those acts will be willing to listen to what we have to say and open to receiving the Gospel and all its benefits.

This Lenten season offers us a time to reflect and prepare, using acts of charity, prayer and fasting to deepen our relationship with God. When we take this season seriously, we will find spiritual growth and renewal, and ultimately find peace, joy, and meaning in our lives.

As we begin this Lenten season, let us reflect on our lives and renew our commitment to God. Let us use this time to seek forgiveness, grow in faith, and serve those in need, especially in these times when many people are in need. If you are fasting, the first few days are the most difficult, particularly if this is your first time. You will face every kind of temptation, including hunger. And so I pray that the Lord will strengthen you and help you to overcome all temptations and remain focused on Him. And let us always remember the words spoken as we receive the ashes: “Remember from dust you came, and to dust, you shall return.” Read my Lent Testimony to be encouraged to participate in this year’s Lenten season.

Have a happy and blessed Lenten season, and I look forward to hearing amazing testimonies after Easter!

Written by Kow Abaka Essuman, an advocate for Jesus Christ.

Getting Ready For Lent 2023

As we approach the season of Lent, I consider it worthwhile to remind you of the importance of observing this solemn period. Lent is a time of spiritual reflection, penance, and preparation for the celebration of Easter. It is a season that reminds us of the great sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and invites us to turn towards him with renewed devotion and faith.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 22 this year. On this day, Christians around the world come together to receive ashes on their foreheads, in the shape of a cross. This powerful symbol reminds us of our mortality and our need for redemption. As the ashes are placed on our foreheads, we hear the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words are a call to repentance and a reminder of our ultimate destiny.

During the season of Lent, Christians are called to a period of fasting, prayer, and giving. This is a time for us to reflect on our own lives, turn away from sin and renew our relationship with God. Lent is an opportunity to examine our consciences, confess our sins, and seek forgiveness. Through prayer and fasting, we can draw closer to God and deepen our understanding of His will for our lives.

In the book of Joel, we read, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13, NLT). Lent is a time for us to “rend our hearts” and turn towards God with sincerity and humility.

As we begin this season of Lent, let us pray for God’s love and mercy to be poured out upon us. Let us pray for understanding and the courage to embrace the sacrifices this season demands. Let us be generous to one another, especially those in need, remembering the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, NLT).

May this season of Lent be a time of spiritual renewal and growth for all of us. May we draw closer to God and to one another, as we journey towards the celebration of Easter.

Read my Lent Testimony to encourage you to participate in the Lent season this year.

#PatrioticSpaces: Building a Resilient Education System in Ghana

Earlier this evening, I had a chat with Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandoh, the Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service on #PatrioticSpaces. The topic for the conversation was, “Building a Resilient Education System in Ghana.” Though we had a few challenges on Twitter at the beginning of the Twitter Spaces, we managed to have the conversation, which was well patronised by Twitter users. Below are a few of my thoughts on the conversation and a few key take aways.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of a resilient education system in Ghana. It disrupted education delivery, with school closures and remote learning becoming the norm. However, it has also presented us with an opportunity to reflect on our education systems and make necessary changes.

Investment and Collaboration are Key

Investing in education is investing in the future of Ghana. A resilient education system requires a long-term commitment to prioritising education, as well as collaboration among stakeholders. It requires support for teachers and the necessary infrastructure and resources to provide quality education to all children in Ghana. Innovative ideas like smart classrooms, and other platforms for teaching and learning can prepare a country’s education system for uncertain times.

Personalized Learning is Crucial

Education is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Personalized learning is essential to ensure that every child gets the support they need to succeed. We must address existing inequities in the education system and ensure that all children have the same opportunities to learn and thrive. Dr. Tandoh explained how existing inequities and inequalities in the education system were enhanced by the pandemic and the steps that were taken to address them.

Technology Plays a Key Role

The pandemic showed us the potential of technology to support education delivery. However, access to technology remains a challenge for many children in Ghana. During the pandemic, practical steps were taken by the Ghana Education Service to bring teaching and learning to school children through television and radio. There were partnerships with telecommunications companies to ensure that education content was available and accessible for free. We must always ensure that all children have access to the necessary tools and skills to use technology effectively.

Early Childhood Education is Critical

Investing in early childhood education is critical to building a strong foundation for lifelong learning. Early childhood education can help bridge the learning gap and reduce inequalities in the education system. Dr. Tandoh assured listeners that Ghana has a very good track record when it comes early childhood education but there was more that needed to be done.

Inclusivity is a Must

We must ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, have access to quality education. An inclusive education system that meets the needs of all students is necessary.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, building a resilient education system in Ghana requires a collaborative effort among all stakeholders, including government, educators, parents, and students. We must prioritise education in our national budgets and policies, invest in early childhood education, and ensure that all children have access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in the 21st century.

At the heart of a resilient education system is a commitment to ensuring that all children have access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances. Let us continue to work together to build a resilient education system in Ghana, one that will provide our children with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive and become the leaders of tomorrow.

Listen to the #PatrioticSpaces here.

#PatrioticSpaces is a platform dedicated to promoting patriotic conversations, national development and civic engagement on Twitter every Wednesday at 7pm. It is hosted by Kow Essuman (@kaessuman).

#PatrioticSpaces: Revamping the Reading Culture among Ghanaians

On Wednesday, 25 January 2023, Hayford Siaw, the CEO of Ghana Library Authority, joined Kow Essuman on the weekly #PatrioticSpaces conversation on Twitter. Mr Siaw shared with the audience the impressive work that the Ghana Library Authority has been doing to promote a reading culture and access to books in Ghana.

Mr Siaw began by highlighting the significant increase in the number of libraries that have been constructed and the rise in the number of books available in Ghanaian libraries. He mentioned that the number of books has grown from 400,000 to 1.4 million in recent years. This is a testament to the efforts of the Authority to increase access to reading materials for Ghanaians.

He also spoke about the partnerships that the Authority has established with the private sector. These partnerships have been vital in increasing the number of books available in libraries and providing funding for various initiatives aimed at promoting the reading culture in Ghana.

Mr Siaw also discussed the Authority’s efforts to bring libraries closer to the people, particularly in rural areas. He mentioned the mobile libraries or “libraries on wheels” that have been introduced to reach remote communities. These mobile libraries have been equipped with books, e-books and other reading materials, providing access to books and other reading materials to people who may not have been able to access them otherwise. He added that the library vans have also been equipped with computers to provide access to the children in the rural areas.

Another innovative initiative discussed by Hayford Siaw is the use of technology to bring the library closer to the people. He spoke about the Ghana Library App, which is available to users on the Apple Store and Google Play store to access books, e-books and other reading materials, as well as library services and information. This has made it possible for users to access library services and resources from anywhere, at any time. He also spoke about the National Reading Day on September 8 and the effort to get the nation reading on that day. There was a suggestion from one speaker that we should have our leaders reading nationally for other citizens to emulate.

In conclusion, Hayford Siaw’s talk on #PatrioticSpaces highlighted the remarkable progress Ghana Library Authority has made in promoting the reading culture and increasing access to books in Ghana. The Authority’s efforts to bring libraries closer to the people, particularly in rural areas, through the use of mobile libraries and technology, is commendable. The Authority’s partnership with the private sector is also noteworthy. With the continued efforts of the Ghana Library Authority, we can look forward to an even more vibrant reading culture in Ghana.

#PatrioticSpaces is a platform dedicated to promoting patriotic conversations, national development and civic engagement on Twitter every Wednesday at 7pm. It is hosted by Kow Essuman (@kaessuman). Listen to the entire conversation here: #PatrioticSpaces: Revamping the Reading Culture among Ghanaians

Love Each Other

Today is the Thursday of the Holy Week, called Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The maundy means “command”, from the Latin word, “mandatum“. This was Jesus’ last Thursday before He died. On this day, He had dinner with His disciples – the Last Supper, and washed their feet. After washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus said, “Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you“. (See John 13:14-15). He also taught His disciples about leadership when He realized they were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest.


The commandment that Jesus gave His disciples, that has given this day its name, can be found in John 13:34-35, which states as follows, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to examine our lives on a day such as this against this commandment. Are we loving each other in the same way that Jesus loved His disciples? Again, Jesus shows through this commandment that the best way to teach people and lead, is by example. Jesus always led by example. “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” He did not say just as you have seen the religious leaders love others or just as has been written, you should love each other. But rather, do what you have seen me do to you. He then told His disciples that by obeying this commandment they will prove to the world that they are indeed the disciples of Jesus Christ. The evidence of our Christian faith is the love we show each other. Our love must be shown in words and deeds. The world will then see us and know that we are indeed disciples of Jesus Christ.


Another thing that jumped at me from reading the passages on Maundy Thursday is the theme of betrayal that runs through all the accounts. Jesus was betrayed by His own disciples and His best friends. Think about it; even Jesus who was God, who had done so many marvelous things in the presence of His own disciples, was betrayed by them. How much more you and I who are only human?

Right at the dinner table, Jesus gave a hint of His betrayal when He mentioned that one of His disciples who was eating with Him was going to betray Him. This hint is captured in Mark 14:18-21 as follows, “As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, ” I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray Me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. it would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” We all know that Jesus was talking about Judas because eventually he betrayed Jesus. Jesus could have disclosed his name but chose not to so that the will of God shall be done.

The second hint of betrayal came when Jesus and the disciples were walking to Gethsemane. Mark 14:27,29-31 sets it out elaborately as follows: “On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, “God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Peter said to him, “Even if anyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows twice you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed same.” Can you picture your master telling you this? Of course we will respond the same way that Peter and the other disciples responded.

Even though He knew that these were just mere words, Jesus still went with His disciples to Gethsemane to pray. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me“. (See Mark 14:34.) They stayed alright, but they did not keep watch. Instead, they slept. These were Jesus’ best friends and close circle – Peter, James and John. They could not help Jesus in prayer when he needed them the most. Mark 14:41 states that, “When he returned to them the third time, he said “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest.” This reminds me of when you are going through a lot and those closest to you say, “we will pray for you” but instead, all they do is sleep. We cannot always rely on friends and family when we are in dire need of prayers. We should learn to trust completely in God.

Judas finally arrived and kissed Jesus signaling to the armed men who Jesus was. Mark 14:44-46 states, “The traitor, Judas had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus, “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.” The kiss of betrayal. In this world, not all fans or appellations are genuine. Judas walked up to Jesus and exclaimed “Rabbi!” which is what the disciples called Jesus, and kissed him. But that was the sign of betrayal. Of course, Jesus knew what the kiss meant because He is God. Many of us enjoy appellations and name calling but the very people celebrating you in your face are stabbing you in the back. We must be careful and know what premium we put on such fans and appellations. The Scriptures go on to say that when Jesus was arrested his disciples deserted Him and ran away. (See Mark 14:50.) This still happens today. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation those we think will be there to fight with us and for us will desert us and ran away.

Jesus’ right hand man, Peter, denied Him as Jesus had prophesied. That part of the story is captured in Mark 14:66-72. But what is interesting was how Peter denied Jesus on the third occasion. In Mark 14:71, the Bible states, “Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying – I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Peter had just had dinner with Jesus and now he says he does not even know the man they are talking about. Incredible. I mean Jesus washed Peter’s feet a few hours before this denial, and yet still Peter denied ever knowing Jesus. Can you imagine being denied in this manner? When the cock crowed, Peter remember Jesus’ prophecy and he wept bitterly. Poor Peter, right? Betraying your own best friend like this.

The lesson here is that we are capable of betraying each other but we should be quick to realize our fault and not lose our faith. Furthermore, as humans we should expect people to betray us, or better still, we should not be surprised when they do. Only God will not betray us. Instead, we should show the same love to those who betray us just as Jesus showed love to Peter. Before Jesus told Peter that Peter would betray Him, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” – Luke 22:31. We should, therefore, pray for those who betray us so that they will repent. We should be like Jesus and not hold it against them. We should also have absolute trust and faith in God because He will never betray us.