Tribute to Tim of my Table ~ Timothy Keller (1950-2023).
We first met on a table near the Table Mountain; I hope we meet again, in eternity, at a wedding table on a holy mountain.
In an emerging leader-affirming move, typical of The Lausanne Movement, my 32-year old self was appointed a table head at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. Imagine that. This was a gathering of the crème de la crème of Christian leaders from around the world, even described by some as “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2,000 year history of the Christian movement” (Christianity Today).
Each table had about half a dozen members. One of mine was Tim Keller. At the time, I had no clue who he was and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered. Everyone was somebody. He wasn’t always at the table and even when he was there, he wasn’t quite there.
The Congress was over and everyone received their beautiful certificates of participation. Tim wasn’t there. Again. Apparently he had left back to the United States earlier. So I decided to travel back to Canada with his certificate, do an internet search of his whereabouts and mail his certificate to him in the States.
THAT is when I found out to my shock what a tall figure of a man this was! I eventually did get to speak with a staff and mail his memento to the right address (I would hope) in New York City. Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, founder and lifelong pastor of the 5,000-member Redeemer Presbyterian Church, was über brilliant and very deep—in head and heart. So deep that he had decided not to write any book till he was in his fifties. “Writing a book in your 50s will go twice as fast and be twice as good as if you try the same book in your 30s. It’s just good stewardship to wait,” he told The Gospel Coalition, which he was co-founder and Vice President of.
The other dimension I admired most about Keller was how ambidextrous he was in elucidating the gospel and engaging the culture, simultaneously! Stupendous! That, to me, was epitomized in his invitation to speak on his obviously Christian worldview book, ‘The Meaning of Marriage,’ at Google in Silicon Valley. Check out his presentation and responses to their questions and comments. Dr. Keller mentored many, near and far, in-person, in spirit and via media. Those around the world who were directly mentored through his Redeemer City to City should count themselves fortunate, blessed. I just spotted on Facebook a touching tribute from a pastor friend of mine from Brazil who recently planted a church in Rome, inspired and equipped by Rev. Keller.
As a latter day follower of Tim on Twitter, I admired the way he vulnerably yet resolvedly faced his imminent death, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer since 2020, a sequel to his 2002 thyroid cancer battle. All the while incarnationally demonstrating ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ through the dynamics with his wife of nearly 50 years, Kathy Kristy. Tim transitioned into glory on Friday the nineteenth (of May), 2023.
Dr. Tim Keller’s influence on the church and the world for Christ is deep and wide. I hope we share a table, again, at the grand, imminent marriage feast of the Lamb in eternity. Till then, Rest in Peace, champ! #Maranatha!
The Ghanaian Dream is Not What You Think
Just before one of my recent trips out of Ghana, I asked the driver who usually takes me to the Accra airport if he would like to go with me for the experience (he’s never been airborne). His response wasn’t what I expected. I admired him for his brutal honesty and was deeply saddened at the same time. He said, “Dr. P, I won’t lie to you. If I go with you, I’m not coming back.” And he is not alone.
As I’ve been interacting with young people in Accra mainly, but in Ghana generally, it seems the Ghanaian dream is: to get out! i.e. to get out of the country to seek greener pastures. The Ghanaian dream is to exit the nation and l find that so sad on many levels. At the same time that excites me. Let me explain.
THE BAD, SAD & MAD
l find it sad in the sense that whatever the push factors are, they are potent enough to drive a collectivist society that is really keen on kith and kin, in other words one in which friends and family mean so much, to want to leave spouse and children, or parents, to go and struggle in another land just to keep body and soul together. What would make many of our people expire in the wilderness, literally die in the deserts of the Sahara en route to Libya and such, or be buried alive in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe in desperate attempts to get a better life?
Shame on the fathers and mothers who are making life impossible for our young people. I can totally understand why five hundred (500) years, or even two hundred (200) years ago, we would be forced to get into ships to sail to the Americas but today if anybody brought that same ship people will voluntarily fill it en mass and say, “Take me to the Americas, take me to the Caribbean, take me to Europe, take me to wherever. l want to work for whoever, for whatever; just to get out of here.”
I remember being in a conference last year at Cape Town, South Africa when someone did an incredible presentation on what Ghanaians and other Sub-Saharans go through in wanting to reach Europe by all means, literally. It was revealing how a revived craze is trying to go around the Senegambia coast to the Canary Islands, an Atlantic maritime route largely considered “the most dangerous sea passage for Africans trying to reach Europe.” Regarding the Sahara route, one of the funny but sad question was: “How many Africans can fit into the bucket of a Toyota Hilux pickup truck?” They say, “One more!” One more!! They keep filling and filling and filling these truck buckets with human beings and carry very little fuel and food supplies so they can travel light and transport more people. Whenever there is a breakdown or some delay, people die like flies. The dream becomes a nightmare. O WHY?
On the other hand, what good can there be in all of this, legitimate and illegitimate attempts at migration alike? Why is there some excitement in my heart? There is titillation because God is a global God and he calls people whenever He wants wherever He wants them to accomplish His eternal purposes. Yes!
One day Paul of Tarsus, the lawyer-turned-preacher, was in Athens, Greece and delivered a ‘TED Talk’ at the Areopagus. Luke the doctor-turned-investigative writer records in parenthesis how “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). “Ideas worth spreading,” TED would say. But I digress.
One of the things Paul shared was that God who made us all from one original man, Adam, is the one who determines our boundaries, where we live, and in what period or era in history (Acts 17:26-27). People movements are actually God movements. You see that throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. A personal attestation to this scriptural reality is how I never wanted to leave the land of my birth, Ghana, to be domiciled in another land, especially outside of Africa. I had no such plans. And I married a woman with a similar mindset. We were doubly resolved. Ironically, my wife, Anyele, was born in Canada and moved to Ghana when she was barely two years old but had no desire to return to the land of her birth. In fact, she had never used that Canadian passport to get back to Canada. Two dozen years later.
One evening in August 2006, God spoke to me so clearly. This was barely three weeks after we were married. I was in a Lausanne Younger Leaders conference near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia when I heard this in my spirit: ‘It’s my world and l send you where I want you.” Huh! Then in January 2008, the LORD spoke very clearly to us both from Genesis 12. It was just our ‘usual’ morning devotion on an ‘ordinary day’ when these words literally jumped off the pages of scripture: “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household. And go to a land I will show you.” With no such prior plans of ever leaving Ghana to school or work, in a dramatic fashion our lives were turned upside down. By June I was serving with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (peacekeeping soldier) as a military captain and medical doctor to the U.N. staff and troops mainly, and some local Ivorians. By July, Anyele had been ‘kicked out’ of Ghana too to Montreal, Canada, going to pursue her master’s in economics at McGill University. The first time she was back in two-and-a-half decades.
So that’s the exciting part, that God may be calling people to fulfill His grand purposes in the Arab States, Europe, in another Africa country, the Americas, Australasia… wherever. But l pray that we would be able to help those who are going to go well. And also let our contacts in their destinations receive them well. It behoves on the Church in Ghana, in particular (which accounts for over 70% of the population), to find a way to prepare people well, including blessing them with a healthy diaspora missiology, so they may go well and thrive. It cannot be overemphasized that merely getting to America, Europe or China, is no guarantee one will be successful. We give money to poor people in Canada. There are homeless beggars who have come to squat on our property in America. And the poor in the West are not of only one colour of skin.
Having said that, surely we can do more, much more, to help whoever longs to, or is called to, stay in the land of their birth and make it in Ghana, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa, to be able to make it well also, and very well for that matter.
WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
Find out what God’s great purpose and plan, position and place (including geographical location) is for your life, for the One who made and redeemed you is a global God. It might not be what you thought. Bottomline: You are only going to prosper where God has purposed and planned you to be planted. Make sure you are planted by God in that place–whether it is in Africa or elsewhere–and in that particular period, where and when you will prosper. Think on these things.
Here’s a PEP Talk on ‘The Bad & Good about the Ghanaian dream.’
You may have my bag but not my friends.
An exhortation on not allowing circumstances and people who know no better rob you of the wealth of intercultural relationships in our diverse, complex and globalized world.
MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BAG–WHY ME?
I was the last one to walk out of the airport arrival hall at Gold Coast in Australia. I had all the customs and immigration officers to myself, nearly a dozen, yet I gave them absolutely nothing to do. I not only had nothing to declare, I had no bag! Apparently, my only checked-in bag on the three-and-a-half hour NZ 179 flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Gold Coast, Australia had never been loaded onto the plane in the first place. I had waited and waited in vain for it until when nearly everyone on this very full flight had left the baggage hall and Carousel 6 was literally bare, I approached the Baggage Counter to complain about my missing travel companion.
The chap at the Air New Zealand counter was very nice but his assumption that I was going to be in Gold Coast ‘forever’ fascinated me (I’m surprised I wasn’t annoyed).
“Oh sorry sir but your bag will be delivered to you at home tomorrow,” said he.
“Tomorrow? Who told you I’ll still be here tomorrow,” I quizzically retorted.
It was obvious he felt he was doing me a great favour by offering me special at-your-door delivery but I was not amused. Not only did I need the items in my bag today; I was not going to be in Gold Coast in the morrow. This was a 24-hour meet and greet and off to Adelaide, another two-and-a-half hour flight to the western half of the Australian subcontinent.
By now my mind had begun to formulate various plausible permutations why I alone (for I saw no one else approaching the Baggage Counter to lodge a complaint) had my bag delayed. Why me? What was so unique about me that my bag would be singled out for NOT delivery? The only other thing I knew made me different was that I was the only Black African on the flight. Did this have to do with anything?
Interestingly, as I passed through the Auckland airport earlier I had taken a photo in front of the All Blacks memorabilia shop and tweeted “I wonder why I feel so #welcome. #AllBlacks vs #WhitesOnly. How the times have changed–this one, for the better. #NewZealand rocking it!” Did someone spot that and nab me? Was I too quick to praise New Zealand for progressive race relations? Did this bag saga really have anything to do with my Black skin at all? It is easy to read racism into nearly everything once you’ve been a victim of that dehumanizing attitude and act, I must admit. I resist that. I resent that, even.
MYSTERY OF INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS–SO WORTH IT
All those thoughts and feelings totally dissipated once I set eyes on the last two people left in the welcome area: Julia and Billy-Jo, two of my special friends from the 1997 cohort of the World Vision Youth Ambassadors! Sooo worth the hustle! I had had the privilege of being a World Vision Youth Ambassador for Ghana in 1996 and had the additional honour of returning in Julia and Billy-Jo’s year as a staff intern, together with Claudia from Colombia.
Julia had represented Canada back then and for her, this was our third in-person meeting since 1997 (Prague 2015, Ottawa 2021 and now Gold Coast 2023). But Billy, I had not seen in-person at all since our teenage years! Billy-Jo (yes, she was the first lady I met called Billy–she was way ahead of the gender conversations today!) was the Youth Ambassador from New Zealand. Again, the first Pacific Aboriginal I had ever met, a beautiful Maori, inside and out. Billy’s since become a senior nurse, married to Matt (great guy!) with whom she has three children and migrated to Australia. Interestingly, both Julia and Billy-Jo’s husbands are called Matt. Julia’s Matt is American while Billy’s Western Samoan.
What an incredible day of food, fellowship and fun we had all day, at home and at the Burleigh Beach. The unadulterated love, the open-hearted learning, the deep laughter… What a precious gift we received from Dr. Jerry and Mama Ruth Chang of World Vision Taiwan a quarter-of-a-century ago, a gift that keeps giving, even today.
Now I’m glad our children are getting to know each other as well. The gift ripples on. Just before my family permanently headed to Ghana after a dozen years of being resident in Canada, Julia’s two girls and my brood had a whole day together at their home, right outside of Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, even in the midst of the jamboree we made a WhatsApp video call to Ghana for my older girls to say “hi” to their Canadian sisters. And now that I’ve met Bella and Asher, Billy’s last two (the oldest is away playing rugby and doing school in New Zealand), we have already started conversations about getting them to visit Ghana!
MYSTERY OF INTERDEPENDENCE
Friends, that’s how it ought to be. People are people, made in the image and likeness of their divine Creator, and made to link up with that source, live, love, learn, and lead, leaving a good legacy. Becoming a World Youth Vision Youth Ambassador was a life changing experience–50 young people from 50 different countries. That opened my mind a lot and opened the world to me. As I’ve said before, “My heart expanded and has never been able to shrink again.”
Back to the mystery of the missing bag. For sure I felt very special, having been singled out for some (or no) reason. For good or ill, that’s a conversation for another day. Suffice it to say, this has been a fascinating week, beginning on Monday March 6 in North America (Toronto, Canada and Houston, Texas, USA) with a celebration of the land of my birth’s Independence Day and her renaming from ‘Gold Coast’ to Ghana. I was now ending the week in another Gold Coast, of Australia. The same chaps christened and colonized both; on either side of the equator. What we really need in this world, from individuals to nations, is interdependence; not dependence or independence per se. We were made for this! And we all ought to live the way we were purposed to in order to flourish personally, as families and communities, in the corporate world and among the commity of nations.
In the mean time, you can have my bag but you won’t rob me of the richness of interdependent, intercultural relationships. Never!
O National Cathedral of Ghana: My Hopes and Fears Have Met in Thee.
In the interest of full disclosure, first of all I am a Bible-believing, Jesus-following, Spirit-filled African Christian. Secondly, at the time of writing, I have no membership of any political party—just a citizen who passionately loves his motherland and has served both major political parties when called upon. Finally, I comment on the National Cathedral of Ghana matter primarily as a missiologist and leadership scholar. These thoughts were largely shared on the Cit FM/TV current affairs programme The Big Issue on 21st January, 2022. The crux of my submission, that the project be halted and audited, was also carried on Citi News Room here.
THE THING THAT I FEARED HAS HAPPENED
My first article on the proposed National Cathedral of Ghana in August 2018 was entitled in a manner that exposed the battle that raged within me upon hearing the president of the Republic of Ghana announce his vision to put up a national cathedral. It was an inquiring heading: “National Cathedral: Vulgar or Virtuous Venture?
In it, I confessed “my unwholly holy initial thoughts, honest-to-God,” sharing my initial skepticism about the project, mainly concerned about it being a mere political scheme to siphon monies, only with a nice religious façade. Secondly, I questioned the prudence of it amidst the poverty and sheer lack of basic infrastructure and public services in a developing country (NB. This was before Covid would hit and make everything that was bad, worse). Thirdly, I was wary of the perilous path of Europe where centuries old grand cathedrals now only stand as emblems of a once-upon-a-time vibrant Christendom while the faith itself is dying today, precipitously. Even then, one need not cross the oceans to note the dangers of religious opulence over pragmatic faith. Just look next door, right across the Ghana border to the near-white elephant of the Notre Dame de La Paix in Yamoussoukro, whose proposed community-impacting hospital as an attachment to assuage the papacy’s guilty conscience is till yet to see the light of day, thirty-two years later.
As I studied the cathedral proposal further, especially as an African missiologist, its merits rose above my cynicism and mounting hopes tamed my fears to the extent that I was willing to give the project a chance, even my support. In fact, not only was I present at the foundation stone-laying, I wrote a cogent trilogy about how even the president might not be fully aware of the extent to which Almighty God may be using him to accomplish His glorious purposes in and through Africa, especially considering this unique moment in history where the once derided “dark continent” now has more Christians than any other continent and will double that lead by 2050, with more Christ followers than the next two continents (Latin America and Europe) combined! In fact, a summary of the trilogy even made its way into the Cathedral’s published magazine.
Over the last couple of years since then, I have found my faith in the project on a slippery slope back to where it first began, with supposed scandal after seeming scandal and allegation upon allegation that rival the corporate sins of the Arthur Andersons and Enrons at the turn of this century (if not making them pale in comparison), that do not befit an edifice for the King of kings. The opacity in the project’s financial dealings, including estimated project costs, eye brow-raising fund transfers and amorphous government seed money, make nonsense of the God who is light, in whom there is no darkness at all. The purpose of this rejoinder is not to dive into each of the smudges and spots on the project but to put on record that while I have enumerated prior at least a dozen reasons this could be a virtuous project, like ‘the greatest man in the East’, for me too, “the thing I greatly feared has come upon me” (see Job 3:25-26). I seek to document for posterity my revised position on the National Cathedral of Ghana for not only are my values being violated, the very faith in whose name this edifice is being erected is endangered.
NOODLED & NUANCED
This cathedral matter is a very nuanced one and thus requires the highest levels of leadership competence, care and character to navigate it. What do I mean? Four things. First of all, the president is not a king; he cannot just pronounce edicts, fiats and decrees at an enlightened citizenship. Secondly, we don’t live in a theocracy, but in a fairly vibrant democracy (although admittedly we are a pseudo secular state with our national anthem and pledge referring to ‘God’). Thirdly, private-public partnerships can be a tricky dance. And finally let’s face it, things are hard socioeconomically right now!
As if all of this is not enough, the president in particular hasn’t shown the kind of great leadership in casting vision (constantly, compellingly, creatively) and galvanizing the people from the grassroots. To make matters worse, the government itself has lost the trust of the Ghanaian people with its economic mismanagement, real and imagined, poor emotional intelligence in matters like this and poor consultation culture–from this cathedral issue through the recent e-levy saga and even current Domestic Debt Exchange debacle.
Then the process itself has been fraught with paucity of information and poor communication, poor governance (really governance 101), low accountability and too much opacity. In fact, in my frustration the other day while preaching on an Ephesians chapter five text about leading and living in the light I bellowed, “Stop the Cathedral in the name of the Lord!”
Don’t get me wrong. There are pluses about this project. Many. Between my initial article and the subsequent trilogy you will easily find a dozen cogent reasons why this could be a virtuous venture, including how the cathedral is more than a building (although the Africanization of it, its tourist attractions and income generation nature per se are all something to write about). The fact that the cathedral has a mandate to be a convenor of national conversation and debate warms my heart.
If the government had kept to its initial promise of providing “just the land” and only “seed capital,” I’ll be at peace. It is for the body of Christ to build this cathedral to the glory of the LORD, but considering the nature of Christianity in our Ghanaian public sphere and the prime place of faith for the African this is a nuanced matter. Any good government would have a keen interest in this matter, hence the sense in situating the NCG in the country’s capital city’s ceremonial core to provide “the missing link” (words of the architect) as a final piece of a national puzzle. Apparently, the other national pieces are all already in place: the people’s place (international conference centre, national sports stadium), the people’s representatives’ place (parliament building and State House), the peoples’ heroes’ place honouring the dead (Osu cemetery and adjoining military cemetery).
Granted, it isn’t everyone who is able to appreciate that we are a building a nation here; not just an eclectic collection of utilitarian infrastructure. That’s how come although we still have children learning under trees we still have national stadia and presidential edifices like Jubilee House and Peduase Lodge. To build or not to build this cathedral is really a nuanced and noodled matter that requires a certain high level leadership that I, honestly, haven’t seen on the horizon.
THIS ISN’T A ZERO SUM GAME
As a missiolgist, I believe that even the president does not fully know or understand the magnitude and implications of his vision. His initial vision may have been personal but vision is often progressive and it is possible He is being used by the Sovereign God in ways the man himself cannot fully comprehend, let alone the masses crying out against this vis-à-vis the impoverished state of the state. In order not to repeat the dozen or so cogent reasons why this project can be worthwhile, I will strongly encourage you to take a look at trilogy 1, the second part and the final installation, all from March 2020.
GOING FORWARD: SEVEN STEPS
1. STOP! STOP! STOP!
This may very much sound and look like the ‘STOP WORK’ in red paint on uncompleted building projects by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) yet, I see red flags all over this project that require concomitant red paint markings all over it too. This is not from the AMA this time. Just “we the [Ghanaian] people” saying, “STOP WORK!”
Secondly, let us get any of the so-called ‘Big Four’ global auditing firms in the country to do a thorough audit of the NCG secretariat, board of trustees and other associated names like JNS Talent etc.
Sometimes those AMA signs not only read, “Stop Work” but continue with “Produce Permit.” I would say for this cathedral project, in conjunction with step one, let us also “Stop Work and Produce Audit.” The result of the audit will help clarify our next steps—if even this project should continue at all, and if it should, how.
3. CALL FOR CONVERSATIONS AND DEBATE
Let us on purpose have a broader conversation and debate of the best minds and hearts for the way forward. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety,” said the wisest man that ever lived. And this is a sagacious king who could’ve easily ignored the counsel of others. Interestingly, he put up the most magnificent temple in the whole world in his day, for YHWH. Even Africans like the Queen of Sheba travelled long distances to come and see. If we want to see the reverse today, others come from elsewhere to behold the magnificence of the NCG, then we had better consider wise, broad-based consultation.
In my humble opinion, this government has been unbelievably militaristic; so non-consultative! Yet the thing is that even if people do not agree, they will support the project, or at least not be as antagonistic, because they have been seen (recognized) and heard. Conversations and debate will cause the significant groundswell needed for such a massive national venture with international ramifications.
4. GIVE OURSELVES TIME
If from the pause, audit, conversations and debates it becomes apparent that this project should continue, then we must give ourselves time. This cathedral doesn’t have to be built by 2024 and ready for a January 2025 swearing-in. That is precisely part of the problem with this project: the fact that the president is in a hurry to put this up while he is in office.
While a sense of urgency is good, undue pressure because of time crunches leads to many mistakes and often unethical behaviour, no matter how hitherto virtuous one’s cause. For example, this strange exchange of over two million Ghana Cedis between a whole national project and a private individual’s company obviously happened because apparently the project couldn’t wait for government funds to clear (this issue is under investigation, and rightly so). Besides, things are über hot in the economy right now, Ghana’s caught up in a socioeconomic inferno. It is wisdom to let both the times and tempers cool off.
If this is truly a national cathedral and not H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo’s pet project, then it should stand the test of time by traversing other administrations—perhaps two or even three terms down the line, including opposition parties—and be owned by all and sundry. If is by the good people of Ghana it for the glory of Almighty God, then we are not in a hurry. When we are not in a hurry we can think properly, do things appropriately, follow due process… Time is money and time will save us a lot of money—and a multitude mistakes.
5. TRANSPARENCY! TRANSPARENCY! TRANSPARENCY!
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NIV). Even some corporations have more transparency and better governance than the current supposedly religious project. Anathema! If this is truly an edifice to the Most High God then there cannot be even a hint of inappropriateness and misappropriation. As it stands now, not only has there been too much darkness and opacity surrounding a building that is to be a Lighthouse for the nations; too many allegations and suspected scandals that even some ordinary government projects cannot rival.
My mind goes to another cathedral project’ in ancient times where it was said, “They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty” (2 Kings 12:15, emphasis mine). I’m afraid we cannot say this of the NCG people or process so far.
6. LET GOD’S PEOPLE BUILD GOD’S BUILDING
The government of Ghana has done more than enough, giving the land. And way more seed than was my impression at the start of the project. If this sanctuary is really for the LORD then let’s let the Body of Christ in the country build it. And yes, we can! Christians have literally put up thousands of edifices strewn across the length and breadth of the country, ‘from Gambaga to Accra, from Wiawso to Keta.’ Let the Church do this for the glory of Almighty God. We thank the generous government of Ghana for the head start but no more government/tax-payers’ funds, please.
Let God’s people be able to say, like in Nehemiah’s day, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build.” Whenever God gives a vision, He also makes the provision. But if this venture isn’t of God, then we are on our own; it will be hard.
For a number of great cathedrals that have been built, people have felt so privileged to be a part of the history-making that they have voluntarily given, not just of their substance but of their very selves. Carpenters, masons and other artisans and professionals have offered their services for free, and not the case of exorbitant amounts being paid to the current architect and others. In my opinion, the celebrated architect should feel so privileged to do this for God and country that he does this gratis! You tell me how much we paid the designers of our national flag and presidential stool; or composers of our national anthem and pledge.
7. WORK AS PASSIONATELY ABOUT OUR ‘SOFTWARE’ AS WE ARE ABOUT THIS ‘HARDWARE’
By software I mean our values, our paradigms and attitudes etc. The nation is so full of poor work ethic, corruption, filth (environmental and figurative), incompetence, dishonesty, lack of integrity etc. yet we want to build a magnificent cathedral for God. There is so much grievous poverty in the lives of the majority yet we want to put up this ceremonial and celebratory infrastructure at a cost of $400 million in the heart of Accra. The scriptures are replete with what God requires of us, first and foremost, and it is not so much physical buildings as that our spiritual, social, mental and emotional states reflect His glory; also, that our physical bodies will be hallowed as His temple. So as we are excited about the hardware (physical building of a cathedral), o how I pray that we are equally excited to work on our values, attitudes, morality, ethics, true selves, true faith and integrity. We also ought to disciple our sectors and systems of Ghanaian society so that these reflect a people that believe in a righteous and excellent God, the Most High.
Despite the bold vision of the NCG, we haven’t as a people or leadership displayed the kind of competence (eg. vision casting, convincing communication, broad consultation), character (eg. transparency, accountability) and compassion (eg. sensitivity to the present economic plight of the Ghanaian people) that a project of this magnitude demands.
I believe if we took the above seven steps, that should put us in good stead and hopefully lessen the painful memories and bitter aftertaste that this project would otherwise bring us. I do not believe the NCG is an entirely vile venture; but neither will it be entirely virtuous without great leadership in its purpose and process. Repentance and restitution must take place where the audit finds wrong and the best way forward forged as a body politic. The virtues in the idea of a national cathedral can be redeemed and the dead and near-buried hope and glory resurrected. This project can still bring God glory and bestow blessing on not just Ghana but the nations of the world if we would be quick to vanquish the evils that crouch at the foundation and front steps of this edifice. But for now, both my hopes and fears of these past six or so years have come to a head in this embattled National Cathedral of Ghana project.
It was heart-warming to find that a couple of the National Cathedral’s Board of Trustees members, namely Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams and Rev. Eastwood Anaba, reiterated my January 21 call above to ‘stop work and produce audit’ barely two days later, January 23, 2023. It was soon followed by a formal press release by the chair of the Board, Rev. Prof. Opoku Onyinah the next day, following a January 23, 2023 Board of Trustees meeting at which they agreed to engage Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world, to carry out an audit.
The hope expressed in the final paragraph of the said press release is mine too: “It is the hope and trust of the Board of the National Cathedral of Ghana that once these nagging issues are satisfactorily dealt with, the public interest and confidence in the project would be restored and rekindled to enable the citizenry to contribute generously to complete the Cathedral to the glory of God.”
From One Legendary Leader in the Evening to Another One in the Morning–a Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I was emailed this incredible tribute by a mentor of mine in the Lausanne Movement, Dr. Michael Cassidy, to his late friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that I just had to share as a student of leadership. What impresses you most? May many Cassidies and Tutus be raised in our generation!
Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Founder, African Enterprise
Honorary Chair, The Lausanne Movement
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s greatest ever luminaries, both ecclesiastical & national, has gone to be with His Lord. People from every race, sector & background will mourn his passing, because he was a man for all who stood without fear or favour for the human rights of all.
Perhaps it is as an almost unequalled African champion for human rights that he will be most fondly & universally remembered. And it was for this that he justly became a Nobel Laureate.
In South Africa his immensely courageous fight against Apartheid earned him the fearsome opprobrium of the National Party Government, the settled hostility of most whites, but the thankful adoration of all people of colour, as well as more liberal whites. In fact, from the church, his voice during those dread years, was by far the most audible, & his persona by far the most visible. This audibility & visibility constituted a true achievement of note & contributed powerfully to the final fall of Apartheid.
As far as we were concerned in African Enterprise, Desmond was a friend to our work & contributed powerfully to conferences we organized or helped organize such as SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly), the NIR (National Initiative for Reconciliation), & The Rustenburg Conference which represented the whole church spectrum & spoke to the whole range of political leadership from far left to far right.
At a personal level I also counted Desmond a good friend. He commended numbers of my books, including my recent Memoirs, & wrote the Foreword to my book The Politics of Love. We also shared in significant ministry together in African Enterprise’s city-wide mission to Kigali, Rwanda, a year after the genocide. That was very moving. I especially remember ministering with him in terrifying cells of pitifully jammed together prisoners. And then being with him as he collapsed in tears in one church filled with skeletal remains of murdered victims. There I saw his profound compassion poured out. Even as we tried to hold him up. Such shared moments one can never forget, culminating in our sharing the evangelistic preaching to a packed stadium in our final service.
And all this Desmond could do in spite of the fact that we had strong theological differences on certain issues such as Universalism & Gay Marriage. But he never allowed those to damage our friendship. And neither did I.
Thankfully in our recently produced documentary, The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy, Desmond features strongly, both during the Apartheid years, but even afterwards when he severely scolded the ANC of Zuma’s time saying, “I’m warning you; I’m WARNING you; you are a disgrace!” No one else had that truly prophetic courage, credibility & ability to speak to all sides, all the time, AND be heard!
Yes, we will miss him… “the Arch”, as he was affectionately known, even by the media. But his legacy of prophetic witness will live on wherever South Africa’s story is told, & wherever racial justice & the Human Rights struggle are in purview.
To his dear, always supportive wife Leah, to his family, to his ministry colleagues, especially in the Anglican Church, we in African Enterprise world-wide extend our deepest sympathies, & assurances of heart-felt prayers at this time.
Dear Desmond — Beloved Arch — thank you for blessing us with your life. Au revoir. We will see you in the Morning.
Founder of African Enterprise
Whoever Takes the Son Gets It All
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.
As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father’s, love of fine art. “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the son.
Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture over the fireplace.
A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went well above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.
As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! Unmindful of the story of the man’s only son, but in his honor, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many claim “I have the greatest collection.”
The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.
“Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked.
Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”
More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?”
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”
“I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer.
After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what’s going on here!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”
Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, who went away and gave His life rescuing others. And because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son, gets it all.
Are You Aligned with the Mission of God in the Marketplace?
Marketplace leaders of faith, it’s time to align. Since returning to Ghana, after several years mainly in Canada, that is a word I’ve heard a lot in my re-orientation: align. “Let’s align, let’s align,” I hear this quite often! CEOs want to align with their boards, other C-level executives need to align with their various teams, sales and marketing must be congruent, and everyone needs to align with the company’s vision, mission and values. All well and good.
Let’s elevate this alignment conversation as I dedicate this particular blog to marketplace leaders who are Christ-followers. The Christ-following marketplace leader does not, and indeed cannot, have the same motives and bottom line as someone who isn’t a Christ-follower. This week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of emerging leaders on “Man with a Vision on a Mission,” which was essentially about the purpose of life. Dr. Myles Munroe of blessed memory once put it so poignantly, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” Purpose is when you know and understand what you were born to be and accomplish, what something was made for. Or as they say in the French city of Montreal my family and I have been domiciled in for over a decade, raison d’être (reason for being). I’ve also held discussions with some of the C-level executives in the Ghana Club 100 from mining to fintech about purpose. (Ghana has christened the top 100 companies as the Ghana Club 100, akin to the Fortune 500 in the United States). These premium companies have profit, for sure, but how about purpose?
WHY WE ‘GO TO MARKET’
We are in business for profit, that’s the bottomline—or so we thought until a couple of decades ago, the concept of ‘Triple Bottom Line’ arose (thank you John Elkington) as a result of people pursuing profit at the expense of human well-being and the sustainability of our earth. The bottomline has since been triadized as Profit, People, and the Planet. That’s the triple bottomline. All three come together for holistic prosperity and complete sustainability.
Profit, is about acing financial performance, generating dollars for shareholders. By People we mean a focus on a business’s societal impact, or its commitment to human beings—within and without the company or organization. People are the other stakeholders beyond the shareholders (who are taken care of largely by profit). We mean people impacted by business decisions from customers and employees to community members. With all the talk about climate change and the like, companies are now tasked to also aim at making a positive impact on the Planet as they seek to capitalize on it to make profit.
Yet while all three are important to everyone in the market—of all faiths, little faith or no faith—I refer to the above treble as the temporal bottom line. There is a timeless triple bottom line, which is what I want to draw the attention of marketplace leaders of faith to.
MISSION IN THE MARKET
I’ve realized that we need a reorientation of why we’re in the marketplace, and what our mission is, as Christ-followers. I often tell people that if they don’t have a personal purpose statement, they wouldn’t know which company to work with or for because they won’t know if they are aligned. Your values must be compatible with theirs. Similarly, if you are a Christ-follower, your mission in the marketplace must be aligned with God’s mission.
What exactly is God’s mission? That’s the timeless triple bottom line I refer to. God is on a three-fold mission in the world:
1. Towards Himself—to bring glory to Himself. God gets glory when we reflect His good nature in our being and doing. He desires, and deserves, to receive glory also from the obedience, service and worship of all nations and peoples in every sphere of life, from Archaeology to Zoology. Are your life, leadership and work God-glorifying?
2. Towards creation—to bring a blessing to all created things. God is on a mission to bless all of creation, not just people. People, first and foremost, but all of creation is a candidate for God’s blessing. While the blessing would include the temporal financial profit, people’s prosperity and the planet’s care (triple bottom line), the greatest of blessing is all creation being freed from the penalty, power and presence of sin to be God’s friend once more, to worship and serve Him and reflect His nature lost once-upon-an-Eden again. So, the second-fold mission of God in blessing creation comes through in the 3BL of business, but there is a redemptive element that I dare to say is the most important. I say this because that will outlast how long profit, this planet and this life will endure. Are your life, leadership and work creation-blessing?
3. Against evil—to vanquish evil and establish His Kingdom on earth. Yes, your mission as part of God’s grand mission is to pillage evil to establish God’s righteous, just, and equitable Kingdom on earth forever and ever, as it is in heaven. Are your life, leadership and work evil-crushing and Kingdom-establishing?
PRAYER AT WORK
We see the above three-fold mission of God in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
1. Glory to Himself—“Our father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name… For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.”
2. Blessing to Creation—“Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
3. Against Evil—“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven… And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”
Organizing prayer at work with like-minded, same-hearted folk of faith is good but being the answer to the prayer is even better—makes it complete.
Consider this! As a person, am I aligned with God’s mission? Is this what my life, leadership and work are all about: bringing God glory, blessing creation, defeating evil and establishing God’s kingdom? Is that what my company stands for?
So being an effective agent of God in the marketplace is going for the timeless triple bottom line for God’s glory, for blessing people and the planet in general, but especially the blessing of redemption, and ultimately defeating evil to establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, starting with your workplace. This is the tried-and-true-and-timeless triple bottom line. Is your work and leadership redemptive?
We must all align ourselves with God’s mission because to be with God on his mission is the greatest cause of all time for all people on Earth in any and every era. Oh, that it would be done in our marketplaces as it is in heaven!
Relax. Religion isn’t going anywhere.
I’m very excited to begin my doctorate in global leadership this week. Having been a student of leadership for the last 25 years plus and acquired a Master’s degree in it a few years ago, I’ve felt it’s time to do the whole nine yards, not so much for the title (after all I’m already a doctor) but to go deeper and be even better-seasoned in my darling subject (or is it object?).
In going this doctorate route, I opted for a seminary environment because faith matters immensely to me, and indeed to the majority people in the world. The increased secularization of a formerly mainly ‘Christian’ Europe and certain sections of American society seems like an overwhelming flood to many only because it is a sharp deviation from the not-so-distant past when there was hardly any division between church and state; but also because the West disproportionately fills the media space. Only last week the German national broadcaster shared that a recent poll showed “most Germans find religion unimportant.” Yet the fact remains that the majority of the world has and practices a faith of sorts. In 2025, 90% of the world will be religious, my friends who run Operation World say; and by 2050, at least 87% of the world will still be religious, according to Pew Research.
The mid-twentieth-century secularization theory—that an increase in modernity means a decrease in religion— has been largely debunked by the likes of Berger (2014). According to Todd Johnson, who I just exchanged emails with, an astute associate professor of Global Christianity and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “Despite increased modernity the world has in fact become more religious; 80.8% of the global population self-identified with a religion in 1970, rising to 88.1% in 2010 and with a projected increase to 91.5% by 2050,” higher than Pew’s projected 87% cited in the previous paragraph! Even the ‘unaffiliated’ doesn’t mean they aren’t religious; it often means they choose not to be identified with any ‘institutionalized’ religion. Just as humans have a physical, social and mental components that cannot be denied, so is there a spiritual capacity that we cannot run away from. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,” and in his experience and exposure, “by God the creator made know through Jesus Christ.”
By the way, I use the world ‘religion’ generally (and maybe even generously) because as an insider of the Christian faith I wouldn’t call Christianity a religion per se. Religion connotes man in search of God while in the Christian faith it is actually God in search of man. Not only that, religion tends to paint a picture of rigorous rules and rituals while true Christianity is more of a relationship with the Divine than a set of rituals or rules per se. That being said, for the purpose of this article faith, spirituality, divine relationship and religion are all being treated as ‘religion.’
FAITH AND WORK, FAITH @ WORK
Without God, and my faith in Him, I do not have a reason for being, a raison d’être. Neither do I have sustainable passion for my doings because all of it feels like, in the words of the wisest and wealthiest monarch ever, “vanity of vanity, it’s all vanity.” I have observed with grave concern the increasing divorce of faith from the work space, treating it like the plague or some highly contagious disease. Even on work-centric social media like LinkedIn, one cannot help but get the feeling that the mention of God in posts ‘spoils the atmosphere,’ which is riddled with human achievements, of brain and brawn (mainly the former), simply singing of how great we are.
But statistically, 90% and over of the people on LinkedIn are religious. There are myriads like me who know we wouldn’t be as excellent professionally but for our faith. Meanwhile, all who have an active religious affiliation yet act at work as if they have no faith are walking on the dangerous ground of inauthenticity. It is not integrous to want to, or have to, hide such an important part of one’s life as spirituality or faith in a space that easily takes up a third to half of our waking hours: work!
This week, a Muslim mate of mine from medical school, now a neurosurgeon, posted on our year group’s WhatsApp platform a screenshot of a heartfelt social media post someone had made about Dr. Aba Folson, one of our Christian colleagues who is now a cardiologist. This person who made the post, a nurse, starts by saying, “I have been blessed in my journey in the Nursing/Healthcare space to be working with amazing, highly religious health workers. One of such awesome ladies is Dr Aba Folson. She is a Cardiologist.”
She goes on to describe “her humility, assertiveness, excellence and brilliance” and how Aba has “broken protocols to help save my very critically ill patients.” The protocols she speaks of, I believe, were put in place to save patients in the first place, but there are situations where one has to do the unusual and even unconventional at great risk, which separates humans from machines and even artificial intelligence. The wisdom and courage to make such calls, Dr. Folson will say, I know for sure, comes from above. The writer of the text seems to be enamoured by the fact that Aba is “an astute Christian and sings in the choir.”
ALL WE NEED IS RESPECT
I still remember zooming down the corridor between the ER and the blood bank to fetch blood for a critically ill child. This was during my days as a medical officer at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. We usually had junior staff who would do that but no, this young doctor run in his white coat. The child’s mother gathered the energy to attempt to run alongside me. Barely catching up and hardly catching her breath she managed to say these words, which I shall never forget, “Doctor, doctor I can tell you are a Christian.” She must’ve known that for a Christ-follower the Pauline admonition about work is clear and strong: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
What is needed, indeed all that is needed, is for respectful co-existence in a pluralistic workplace, which is a microcosm of a really pluralistic world. The fight for diversity and inclusion in the workplace must not, and indeed cannot, be limited to ethnicity, age, gender, (dis)ability and such alone but faith as well. The majority of us wouldn’t be present at work with purpose and perform with passion and excellence without it, and none of us will be authentic in the workplace pretending we didn’t have it.
Faith works. Let your religion work at work—faith, love and hope at work. Your faith should make you a better professional; not worse. If your faith doesn’t make you better at work—which is all about service to humankind made in the image and likeness of God—it’s not worth following. Change it. Let’s see faith at work working, doing good works that bring God glory and bring about the good society—that’s the way it ought to be.
Right after I posted this blog, I came across a photo and headline on LinkedIn that said, “South African doctor: Professor “Mashudu Tshifularo” just became the first surgeon on earth to successfully perform surgery [with 3D technology] to cure deafness. He is also a pastor.” Ahem. Point nailed!
A Global Gathering: the blessing in the curse.
As you already might know I am the Global CEO of The HuD Group, a faith-based leader development organization that originated from Ghana but now has presence in over 20 countries of the world, on all six continents.
For the last four years, every November we have hosted a HuD CEOs Confab. In 2016 we had two separate CEO gatherings in Accra, Ghana and Montreal, Canada. This was followed by the 2017 Confab in Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt. In 2018 we were in Dubai. Last year, 2019, we met in Abidjan and Bouake, in the Francophone West African nation of La Cote d’Ivoire. In 2020 we had planned a special Confab with our spouses and were supposed to be in Israel but here we are, thanks to COVID-19!
Today was Day 1 of our annual Confab. We met on Zoom. The blessing of that though is that nearly EVERYONE was able to show up (with most spouses present) because there was no hustle getting time off regular work, no financial or ticketing challenges and above all no visa headaches!
Thanks to modern technology, amidst a global pandemic we joined the call from eastern and western Canada, USA, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, Ghana, Mexico, Germany, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Guatemala, Somalia and Australia. A few of us should join from Nigeria, Liberia, Pakistan and Colombia in the coming days, DV.
Our theme is “LEADING OUT OF THE STRENGTH OF OUR MARRIAGES: The Place of Fulfilling Emotional Needs” and we have an AMAZING Canadian couple to lead us into that.
THE KRAEMER ICING ON THE CAKE
Gerry and Kathy both grew up in Western Canada where they committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord during their adolescent years. Immediately after marrying in 1981, God called them in a clear and dramatic fashion to serve Him in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. Ever since, they have been in full-time Christian ministry together, including five years with Campus Crusade for Christ (evangelism and discipleship), 22 years of pastoral ministry and six years as the chaplain of the Montreal Alouettes professional football team.
In 2007, “the gates of hell” unleashed a serious of attacks on the Kraemer’s marriage and they plummeted to the brink of divorce. In the summer of 2008, during a week of intensive counselling with Larry & Lorrie Russell at the SHM Retreat Center in Ontario, Canada, God completely healed, restored and transformed their marriage. Upon returning home, they immediately began to share the amazing story of the miracle of the “resurrection of their marriage” to individuals and groups in their entourage…and God used their story to touch, encourage and heal marriages around them.
The opportunities continued to increase so dramatically that they resigned from their pastoral position in the fall of 2010 in order to dedicate themselves to a full-time ministry of speaking (prevention) and counselling (crisis intervention) to help couples. Today, they speak and teach together at conferences, Bible Camps, retreats, banquets and Bible Schools in both English and French, sharing with thousands of people the tools that can help them experience a healthy and flourishing marriage. Their honesty, practicality and humor make them easy to listen to and the wisdom of their teaching is hard to forget.
Gerry and Kathy reside in Terrebonne, Quebec and they are the parents of three young adults: Timothy, Jessica and Rebecca. In their spare time they enjoy golf, tennis, traveling and spoiling their grandchildren both in Canada and the USA!
Wow! What a big blessing amidst the Covid curse. Oh! And today happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!
So these medical students recently caught up with me and did a fun interview. Hope it’s as much a fun read for you as it was hanging out with them! I pray they catch God’s heart for calling them and become missional medics!
Read here, from page 40.