Emmanuel Ofori-Atta said leading a local church is part of a mission that God placed on his life when he was born.
“The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said He was going to use me to proclaim the gospel,” he said.
Ofori-Atta, 51, of McDonough is the pastor at First Baptist Church of Stockbridge, 4566 N. Henry Blvd. Named to the position on August 2, he is the first black preacher of the church, which recently celebrated its 103rd anniversary.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” said Pastor Ofori-Atta regarding his new role. “The church has truly tapped into the heart of God for this community.”
Ofori-Atta, originally from Ghana in West Africa, comes to Henry with a unique royal upbringing. His late father, Emmanuel Adu, was a king in one of 10 regions in Ghana – a region of more than 500,000 people.
He is also one of 44 children from his father, including 12 from his mother.
“My father had six wives, so the kids were kind of spread around,” said Ofori-Atta. “We grew up in a 66-bedroom house. We had a lot of maidservants. Because we were such a large family, my dad didn’t shop from a regular store. He ordered his food from the store in large quantities. For example, he would buy a whole cow and hire someone to prepare it, and divide the meat among the wives for their children.”
Ofori-Atta also has an identical twin brother, Emmanuel Jr. This, said the pastor, is due to a cultural occurrence regarding twins in Ghana.
“In my culture, we call it the senior twin and the junior twin,” said Ofori-Atta. “Every twin in Ghana is named ‘Atta.’ If you hear the name ‘Atta,’ it means that person is a twin in where I come from in Ghana.
Ofori was the name of my dad’s private doctor for his children. My dad was a very wealthy man, so he had a private doctor to take care of his children when they were sick.”
Ofori-Atta said his mother, Hannah, didn’t know she was pregnant with her twin sons until she was about to give birth. What started out as a stomachache, he said, resulted in her dedicating her newborns to God.
“My mom was around 55 or 56 when she conceived me and my brother, and she didn’t even know that,” said Ofori-Atta. “I came out first, and my mom didn’t know there was another baby in there. It was after seven hours’ time that she complained of a heavy stomach pain, and they realized there was another baby coming out.
“My mother realized there was something special about our birth,” he added. “So, she decided to dedicate us to the Lord, so we could be a blessing to the world, serve God and God’s people.”
“My mom would get up early in the morning, hold our hands and bring us to church six days straight for morning prayers,” said Ofori-Atta. “It became part of my life growing up.”
Ofori-Atta’s brother is currently part of the worship team at a church in London. The pastor said their mother was instrumental in their shared desire to go into the ministry.
“The foundation was set up by mom through our birth and dedication,” said Ofori-Atta.
He said his childhood brought together people of different dialects, even within the same family. As such, he learned how to accept others as they are.
“I don’t have any prejudice in my heart, because I grew up in a very diverse house,” he said. “That is my foundation for why I’m able to accept everybody as equal, because I grew up in a very diverse, loving environment. My personal devotion to the Word of God, which I have learned from the Scriptures, is that Jesus loves everybody, and that has been my foundation for my relationship with mankind.”
Ofori-Atta left Ghana in 1992, and moved to England to continue his education. In 1996, his sister was living in Athens, Ga., and entered his name in a Diversity Visa Lottery, launched by then-President Bill Clinton geared toward inviting people to the United States.
“There were as many as 50 million applicants worldwide, and 50,000 are accepted,” said Ofori-Atta. “My visa expired in 1996. This was the same time my sister told me that she submitted my name.”
As a result, Ofori-Atta was accepted to the U.S. through the lottery in 1997, and became an American citizen five years later.
“That in itself was a miracle,” he said. “It let people see the hand of God to show that God was working behind the scenes to bring me to the United States to proclaim the gospel.”
After beginning his ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in London, Ofori-Atta served in numerous churches in the U.S. He planted God’s Gift International Church in Charlotte, N.C., through the North American Mission Board, and also served at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Charlotte as a Sunday School teacher.
Ofori-Atta began attending seminary at Lee University seminary in 2004, and graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry. He relocated to Atlanta in 2015, before attending Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough.
Ofori-Atta served as an interim pastor for nearly a year, prior to becoming the pastor.
He recently began incorporating technology in the church’s efforts to reach people. To that end, he preaches through various social media platforms, and has set up a YouTube channel to stream services on the Internet as well as his personal Facebook page.
Still, Ofori-Atta said he loves interacting with members who have been at First Baptist for decades.
“First Baptist Stockbridge is a loving church,” he said. “We love Jesus dearly and we love one another. We have people in the church who have
been there for 80 years or more. That is a commitment to First Baptist Church. That is where I get my excitement from.
“That I’ve been called to a local body of Jesus Christ whose commitment to the Lord and one another is unquestionable,” he continued. “Now, my vision is to build from this foundation and continue the gospel message to reach the immediate community, let them know what God has done for us, preach the gospel from here to the ends of the earth and grow the church and reach the youth with the story of commitment of older members.”
As the church’s first black pastor, Ofori-Atta said he wants to emphasize that the Bible is “for everybody,” regardless of their background.
“I want to see the church become like the beautiful picture of Heaven in Revelation 7:9-10 – a great multitude that no one can count, from every tribe, tongue and nation.”
Ofori-Atta said he hopes his story will inspire people to see what God has done for the church, and learn from that example.
“I believe we are taking the lead and being an inspiration to many,” he said.
Ofori-Atta said the response to him as pastor has been positive from the congregation and the local community.
“The congregation is super-excited about this change,” he said. “The feedback from the congregation is, ‘We thank God for your life, and we are glad you are here with us.’”
Ofori-Atta and his wife Rebecca have been married since 1997 and have two children – Samuel, 21, and Emmanuella, 14. The pastor said his main goal is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and love everybody.”
“My calling is unquestionable from birth, and it’s an honor for me to be given this new role for such a time as this,” he said. “I’m very excited for the future.”
For more information, call the church at 770-474-4484.