Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Devotee Couple Seeks to Expand Successful Service in Ghana
By ISKCON News   |  Mar 14, 2024

In September of 2023, Kesava Dasa and Kesava Priya Dasi arrived in Ghana, West Africa, at the invitation of Srivas Vanacari Maharaja, the Zonal Secretary for West Africa, to assist with college preaching as well as book and prasadam distribution.

Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. It is known for its rich history and diverse cultural heritage. It gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957 and has since become a stable democracy with a growing economy, renowned for its cocoa production and vibrant traditional festivals. 

Hare Krishna devotees first arrived in Ghana in 1981. Under the instruction and guidance of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, his disciple Srivas Vanacari established the temple and a school in Medie, a rural village about a 45-minute drive from the capital city of Accra. The area was uninhabited at the time, and the devotees were the first to settle there. 

The “Kesavas” rented a house in Medie, a brisk five-minute walk from the temple. “The response we have received from the local people has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Kesava Dasa, “We have been granted a one-year missionary visa/residence permit for Ghana, with an option to renew it for an additional three years.”

Kesava Dasa first came to Africa in 1969 as a small child with his parents. He spent nine years living in different African countries, as his father was working for the United Nations. He first came into contact with the Hare Krishna movement in Toronto in 1983, and again, in 2012, he returned to serve with the East Africa Festival Tour headed up by Mahavishnu Swami.

Keshava Das, visiting Tanzania in 2013, shared Prabhupada’s books with Father Renatus and the first local Masai convert to Christianity at the Engikaret Mission.

Kesava Priya Dasi joined ISKCON in Denmark in the summer of 1980. Since then, her favorite services have been college preaching, harinam, cooking, and training new devotees. She also helped to organize Ratha Yatras for ten years in Denmark and has distributed books in many countries worldwide.

Kesava Priya Dasi sharing books with grateful recipients during their daily outreach.

“After a vibrant morning program at the temple, we head out to nearby village marketplaces where we set up our book table,” Kesava Priya said, “Most people here don’t have much money to spend on books, but as the books are sponsored, we ask for a nominal contribution to help cover the road transportation costs from Lagos, Nigeria to us here in Ghana.”

“Christianity is the religion of the majority here. The occasional pastor and Muslim will come up to our table and buy some books,” Kesava reported. They are pleasantly surprised by this. Many devotees have told Kesava Dasa that some pastors use select passages from Prabhupada’s books in their weekly sermons without mentioning the source of their newfound knowledge.

Whenever there is a harinam or Food for Life program, the Kesavas love to participate. Chaitanya Prema Dasa, a senior disciple of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, conducts a Food for Life program twice a month. The weekly harinam party to Accra was not a sustainable service as the temple needed a reliable vehicle. A vehicle would enable the Kesavas to assist with the Food for Life program and drive harinam devotees to Accra, a distance of 30 kilometers from the temple, as well as travel to universities and more developed and populated areas. Traveling in Ghana can be challenging, “We are obliged to depend on the public transport system, an assortment of semi-roadworthy overcrowded minivans long past their prime to reach our sankirtan spots,” Kesava Dasa hesitatingly admitted.

Accra is a large city with many markets and locales suitable for putting up book tables, banners, and displays. Depending on the local buses to get around if one is traveling out of Accra is difficult, especially after 4 pm, as the buses change their routes. Waiting times for buses can be as long as an hour and a half.

The Keshavas are now looking for a double cab vehicle to carry up to six passengers. “We’ve studied suitable vehicles for Africa and have spoken with a few mechanics,” said Kesava Das, “Hyundai Porter II and Kia Bongo III are good choices. Time tested, they have proven themselves able to stand up to the rough and unpredictable terrain of Africa, parts are readily available, and the maintenance costs are reasonable.” 

A 2023 Kia Bongo is priced at around $28,000 and is covered by a 5-year or 100,000-kilometer warranty. Additionally, devotees will need to outfit the vehicle with a custom-built stainless steel container and display rack to accommodate book distribution and prasadam distribution, which will add $1500 – $2000 to the overall price.

An example of the kind of vehicle to be used to transport devotees for harinam in the capital and to be outfitted for book and prasadam distribution.

Serving the Devotee Community in Ghana 

On average, one hundred fifty people attend the Sunday program at ISKCON Medie, including locals from the village. The kirtans are unlike those of any other temple. Devotees and guests are quickly brought to their feet and dance with great abandon and enthusiasm, keeping Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s legacy alive.

Inspired by the mood of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, whose highest priority was devotee care, five groups have been established in the community. Each group consists of approximately twenty devotees, where seminars are held, and issues of personal concern are discussed twice a month. Since the Kesavas live close to the temple, they gladly host devotees in their home. 

The youth in the community have a very strong interest in harinam and meet in the temple every Friday for kirtan. “Temple resident and pujari Bhuvana Pati Dasa has assured us that if we have a vehicle, he can take his harinam party out to the streets of Accra,” said Kesava Priya Dasi.

A samadhi of Bhakti Tirtha Swami is situated beside the temple. It is lovingly cared for by one of his many disciples. Adjacent to the temple is an interfaith school with an enrollment of one hundred students. In previous years, a prasadam distribution program sponsored by donors ensured that the students had at least one nutritious meal a day. Students of all ages enthusiastically attend part of the morning program at the temple three times a week. A young Ghanaian filmmaker recently visited the ISKCON community during the 25th Anniversary of the installation of  Sri Sri Radha Govinda Deities, you can watch that inspiring video here

Connecting and Supporting

To follow the Keshavas’ inspiring and pioneering service in Ghana, visit their Facebook pages here and here. To financially support their desire to expand their outreach to more and more souls in Ghana through the purchase and outfitting of a truck, you can visit their GoFundMe page. To follow the service of the Medie community, please visit their Facebook page

“The current GoFundMe page has asked for $10,000, but we were advised by His Holiness S.B. Kesava Swami and Vijay Dasa, ISKCON’S Minister of Book Distribution, to ask for $30,000 in total. This would help us purchase a new vehicle, sparing us the need to worry about mechanical breakdowns. Once our target of $10,000 has been reached we are still in need of an additional $20,000,” said Kesava Dasa.  Please follow the Keshavas’ Facebook pages for updates on these later phases of fundraising.

You can see a gallery below of  that highlights the Kashavas’ service through the years around the world and their current service in Ghana.