Ghana's 10-year-old preacher

Accra, Ghana - At just ten years old, Solomon Yirenkyi is already a veteran preacher.

With two weekly radio shows and two years' practice at the pulpit, he is a big draw for Christians at the Jesus One Touch Church in Oblogo, about half an hour from Accra, the capital of Ghana.

As the church fills up, he fidgets in his smart suit and polished shoes, waiting his turn to preach.

When his time comes, he paces the room, calling on those many years his senior to turn to the Lord for their marital and health problems.

He starts softly but his voice soon booms messages of deliverance for those who look to God.

"Let me tell you this," he cries, a small child with a big microphone. "Seek your way with the Lord."

Devout beliefs

Solomon claims to be Ghana's only child preacher but in many other ways, One Touch's service is similar to many held throughout Ghana, which start early on Sunday morning and last several hours.

Preachers deliver hearty sermons as members of the congregation give testimonies as to how their lives have been changed by God.

Faith healers, motivational preachers and prophetic ministers are common in Ghana, a deeply religious country.

Their preaching relies heavily on their own biblical interpretation but often reflect local, traditional beliefs as well.

Ghana's conventional Christian churches have an uneasy relationship with their less orthodox counterparts.

They fear preaching is used to make money, promising miracles to ease poverty and cure ill-health.

For the country's Christian establishment, 10 years old is too young to be giving sermons.

The Christian Council of Ghana's Rev Dr Nathan Iddrisu Samwini said: "If the age is right, he is too tender to be allowed to preach, because even if God calls somebody, God allows them time to be trained, allows the person time to mature. The work of the preacher is not for children."

He says Solomon's parents have probably been swept along by the child's enthusiasm.

"I should think the father has been overawed by the child's experience and he cannot really do anything to stop it. He maybe is too excited and too overawed - the community as well."

Solomon's father, Nana Kofi Yirenkyi is also a preacher, the self-styled Jesus One Touch, after whom the church was named.

He said he first realised his son "had been called by God" when he started imitating his father's sermons at the age of three or four.

He dismisses suggestions of parental pressure to take to the pulpit.

"If God wants him to be a doctor, that is ok. Now, God wants him to be a preacher," he said.

The confident and precocious Solomon asks to see the pictures taken of him.

He tells me he has been called by God to be a preacher and doesn't get nervous before he preaches. Neither does he prepare his sermons.

The 10-year-old attends school, though takes time out for his radio shows and says he still has time for his friends.

"All my friends are happy I am a preacher," Solomon says. "I pray with my friends but not so much."

Solomon's church advertises itself as the place: "Where Jesus turns nobody to somebody".

In a country as poor as Ghana, where life can be a daily struggle, religion offers not just hope but also the chance of a way forward, both for the preachers and the congregation.

For now, Solomon clearly sees his future with the church.

Asked why he wants to be a preacher he said: "If I want anything, I have to seek the Kingdom of God first... What I like about it is if l want money or property then I follow God and God will give it to me."