A few years ago I worked under a very meticulous and committed boss who taught me a number of important things about how to take work seriously. He told me a story once about the impact of a simple ATM to real life. I will repeat the story here but I will extend the thought for the purposes of this article. A fellow we shall call Kwaku rushes his wife to a hospital somewhere in Africa on a Sunday evening and the nurses refuse to attend to her emergency until he makes a deposit of let’s say GHS250.00 (about fifty dollars). The woman is dying and after arguing with the nurses, the callously insist that he must pay something before his wife can be given a bed. They point to him an ATM machine about four blocks from the hospital and he rushes out to try the ATM paying he still has enough money in his account. The ATM delays for several minutes when he enters his PIN and finally responds with the familiar message “Your Financial Institution is currently unavailable“. He gasps and looks around while pulling out his ATM card.
Kwaku rushes over to a Mobile Money operator by the road side attempts to withdraw the GHS100 had left on his phone. Maybe the nurses would listen to him if he had part of the money. The Mobile Money Operator looks away and insists that she had closed for the day. He begs her stating he had an emergency at the hospital and she replies “Please, don’t make your problem my problem! I have closed! Go to the ATM over there!“. She hurriedly closes her kiosk and Kwaku sights the second ATM belonging to another bank. He tries the ATM but is disappointed with another message: “… temporarily unavailable to dispense cash”. He calls al taxi who takes him to another ATM about five hundred meters from the hospital and returns with the money but by that time his wife is no longer breathing. AT the sight of GH250.00, the nurses rush his wife to a free bed and begin trying to attend to her. She is confirmed dead twelve hours later.
Who should be blamed for the death of Kwaku’s wife? There are many responses which the various players in this story can give to this question:
Nurses: “This is hospital policy. We cannot attend to anyone without assurance that the person can pay. Do you want me to lose my job?”
Server Admin: “I have worked all week and you also want me to be bothered that the Core Banking System is down on a Sunday evening? Please we will look at it tomorrow. Today is Sabbath!”
Mobile Money Operator: “How is that my problem? Am I the only Mobile Money Operate in Accra? Let him use the ATM na”
ATM Custodian: “How many people live in that area by the way? How can they be exhausting the money in the ATM every few hours? Please I am tired! Let them come back tomorrow? What are they buying this evening. Don’t they rest?”
This reminds me of another example given my Dr. Mensa Otabil regarding the building of a cathedral. Three masons are asked the same question: “What are you doing?”. One answers, “I am laying bricks!” another, “I am building a wall” and the third, “We are building a cathedral. It will seat 10000 worshippers. The structure is designed to last one hundred years”. You see all three were masons but one had much deeper understanding of what the team was doing and what his role was. That understanding did not come from his pay cheese, it must have come more from his attitude. And I can tell you, one way or the order, attitudes can change pay cheques but pay cheques are not guaranteed to change attitudes. You know it’s easy to turn this on another person but take a step back and think like a customer waiting thirty minutes on the queue at a bank because the system was slow. You start yelling at the teller forgetting you just advised your brother who works at the Tech Company that supports that same bank that he needed to slow down and not work so hard!
How do you understand your role at work? Do you understand the full impact of your day job, whether you work for yourself or for a large company? Do you understand how your skills affect the lives of others? Are you just earning a living or are you actually making a contribution to life? It’s simply a way of thinking. I hope you can embrace it.
Often when working in the office at night I find myself irritated by colleagues playing “Shaka Zulu”, P Squared, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and the like in the office without using earphones. I would typically ask the person politely to use earphones if I couldn’t stand it anymore. Conversely, I realize that if I play any sound in the office, I am bound by my own rules to also use earphones because the person sitting next to me may not like my kind of music or whatever it is I am listening to. As I write this, I am watching Church online and it also follows that I must use earphones and not assume that I am sharing the gospel with colleagues by letting my computer play the service to the hearing of everyone!
Any genuine effort to share the Gospel with another person must come with the person’s consent and we must be ready to also demonstrate that what we are peddling is superior to what the person already has. This may imply learning about what the person already has and being ready to discuss beyond dogma. For example, If I invite a friend to church and he attends as an inquirer, I must be ready to also attend when he invites me to a Mosque, a séance, the singing of the HU, a Pongal festival, a voodoo ritual and so on. If I give him a copy of the New Testament to read and he reads it, then he may expect me to also ready when he offers me the Quran, Vedas, excerpts of the Bhagavad Gita or even Lonsang Rampa’s books. My willingness and confidence to expose myself to such ceremonies and materials while my potential convert exposes himself to the Gospel will show my authenticity and absolute assurance that what I am sharing is superior if I really believe that it is.
Modern Christians are often afraid of being contaminated by demons or sinful practices of exposed to certain ceremonies or materials but I think this is the case because of the institutionalization of Christianity. When Christianity was not an institutional religion, Paul would get to a city and preach by the beach where all sorts of people came to pray to whoever, or he would be found at Mars Hill where the Greek Philosophers gathered, or in a Jewish Synagogue. The power of the Gospel had no restrictions and could not be intimidated by anyone or anything. Moses, Joseph and Daniel all had their confidence in the one true God tested in the courts of Egypt and Babylon, some of the most advance religious systems of their time. And they prevailed.
I think that our authenticity and absolute confidence in what we believe as Christians must make use willing not only to share the simplicity and power of it without offence to any man but to also have our beliefs scrutinized and verified to be true. A convert who has challenged the claims of Christ genuinely and thoroughly is often the most powerful kind of convert.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” I Peter 3:15
sat down, half-sliming and taking a sip of a cup of smoothie she had just
picked up from the counter. From the corner of his eyes Kevin noticed the
attendant at the counter staring at them. He must have thought to himself, “Are
they married? Are they ‘committing sin’?” Just then Mr. Koku walked in,
staggering. The way he walked one feared for him that he would suddenly fall
apart. “He must be ill or something …” Amanda thought to herself. Kevin didn’t
see him until he turned around from the counter. He was both shocked and upset.
How could he intrude so rudely? Did he need money all the time? Kevin received
money in six digits every month so he had no way on understanding that Ten
Cedis every week was very difficult to live on particularly when someone was on
may we help you, Sir?” he snapped, giving Mr. Kokou a very hostile stare,
straight in the eye. The old man was not a bit perturbed. He let out a little
forced cough and softly responded in a cracked voice:
am so sorry to disturb you Sir…” He dipped his right hand in his breast pocket
and out came a doctor’s prescription for some lung infection. “…I have to by
some medicine… you see I used to smoke a lot before so it affected my lungs and
created all sort of diseases in my tracheal system. I don’t have anyone to help
me… please just Twenty Cedis to buy my medicine…”
first instinct was to ask what had happened to his extended family. How was it
possible that he did not have anyone at all to help him? On second thoughts, he
felt there was no need inciting another long story about the old man’s life. He
needed to spend time with Amanda who was just smiling at the old man. He handed
him a Fifty Cedi note and Mr. Kokou thanked him profusely.
must be the second time this week you are giving someone something to dismiss
them rather than out of Christian compassion!” Amanda said, sipping her smoothie
“Unless of course you have other beneficiaries…”
Kevin stared at her. She always seemed to get him thinking more seriously about his spirituality.
do know he still smokes, right? Probably Indian Hemp!”
laughed aloud. She could not believe the depth of his naivety.
dark lips, bloodshot eyes, desperately agitating for small amounts of cash… he
is what you call a junky. Does that make you regret giving him money?”
course!” Kevin snapped, visibly upset.
laughed again, practically reeling. “You don’t want your money used for unholy
purposes? Anyway, I think you just weren’t paying attention the last two
encounters you’ve had with him. You might have noticed if not for a certain
tall dark lady you were thinking about”
you! And I suppose you know the name of that lady, huh?”
rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. Kevin watched her, strongly attracted to
her sassiness. Her boldness in saying her mind. Her brain that matched her
“On a more serious note, Kevin, I think most people in our churches these days are simply too much into their own selves. I am avoiding using the word selfish but that is just what it is. When I was young, we were Catholics and a lot of emphasis was placed on helping the poor and less privileged. Why should the fact that a junky comes to church to beg for money bother you? Who did Jesus die for?”