All You Need to Know About Missions and Family Life 2017

Our discipleship ministry, Mimesis Christou, in collaboration with the Great Commission Army, is organising a conference on Missions and Family Life. See details about the conference in the post.

Mimesis Christou

The conference is being organised by Mimesis Christou, a discipleship and mentoring ministry, and the Great Commission Army, a missionary organisation reaching out to peoples in the north of Ghana and in other African countries.

The purpose of the conference is to give an all-encompassing training to young people covering missionary work and family life.

In this regard, the conference seeks to expose young people interested in ministry to relevant information and tools needed in planning for their future and encourage them to strike a perfect balance.

There’s evidence of dysfunctionality in Christian homes where the pastor is committed to ministry but does not devote time to the family. The children are therefore left to their own plight or to the ‘singular’ care of their other parent, and are often susceptible to negative peer influence.

Missionaries (especially those engaged in full-time work) also need to be supported financially…

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Dear Student: Quitting Philosophy and Classics May Come with Some Regrets

Among the options for your BA programme, you were offered Philosophy and Classics, and you are at a loss. Like I was advised by my parents and some of my secondary school teachers, you too may have been told to drop philosophy and classics in your first or second year of study.

The year was 2005. I had been offered a combination of classics, philosophy, sociology and economics. My dad quickly sent me to see a secondary school teacher for advice. The teacher’s advice? “Drop classics first, followed by philosophy, then sociology, and major economics.”

My uncles said I could work in a bank with a major in economics. They didn’t want to hear anything classics or philosophy. At least, they preferred sociology over them but they desired I read economics. To cut a long story short, I majored classics (I will tell you all about it in another post).

Why did everyone want me to read economics instead of classics and/or philosophy, and what could be the cause of your confusion over these subjects?

First, unlike economics, accounting, chemistry, and geography, philosophy and classics are not studied as subjects in secondary school and they come as totally new to students. Even subjects like political science and sociology have affinities with government and social studies respectively.

Nevertheless, you might have met some philosophical issues in your readings in government, social studies and religious and moral education, and you might have read something close to classics. Did you read Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame? It’s an adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a Greek play first performed between 430 and 426BC.

Second, many of us (and our parents and guardians are the worst culprits) have a materialistic conception of education due to failed understanding of growing industrialization and expanding market economies.

As a result, we have developed a misconception that only graduates of business-related subjects qualify for jobs in the field of business. It is therefore not surprising that many parents do not see the value in a liberal arts education that combines any of archaeology, classics, history, literature, music and philosophy. For them, a degree in a business-related field is all that matters.

But consider the core skills employers seek and the qualifying degrees of those working in the banks, for example. Several of them have degrees in arts-related subjects. So, it’s not a question of whether you read business or psychology (of course there are professions which demand specialized qualifications), but a question of your character and the skills you possess.

If it were just about the course you read, then firms wouldn’t recruit graduates from all fields and ask them (whether first or second-class holders) to write the same aptitude tests; neither will they even conduct background checks on potential employees. Have you not heard employers say that many of today’s graduates lack critical thinking skills and good character?

What are philosophy and classics, and what do they offer?

Philosophy is basically a critical inquiry into and reflection on issues that border on human life and the environment surrounding us. It involves an analytical approach to questioning and demands responses and conclusions that are based on evidence and valid reasoning.

Classics studies, primarily, the civilizations of the ancient Greeks and Romans, including their histories, literatures, languages (Greek and Latin) and philosophies. These four broad areas provide the foundation for our modern socio-political systems. Our modern democracy, for example, combines elements of ancient Greek and Roman models of governance.

Any serious study of philosophy and classics sharpens your analytical, communication and critical thinking skills. While other subjects can help you cultivate these skills, the demands of philosophy and classics, combined with their unmatched interdisciplinarity, place them at a great advantage over these subjects.

Yes, studying philosophy and classics demands more than what many other subjects will require from you. It involves a lot commitment to study, analysis and writing. We teach you to think, make you reflect critically on issues, help you bring the past to bear on today’s problems, while reasoning ways these problems can be tackled. It’s one of the reasons why graduates in philosophy and classics are in high demand globally.

Our alumni are in all fields of work: journalism, theatre, theology, administration, politics, education, banking and finance, insurance, media, advertising, health, librarianship, NGOs, diplomacy, law, international relations, security, writing and publishing, name them.

But we don’t limit ourselves to helping you acquire employable skills. We also impart the values needed for you to excel anywhere in life. Through our critical analysis of issues (moral, historical, social, political, economic), we drive home the principle of an education that imparts not just knowledge but the right values for the betterment of society and for your own well-being.

Reading philosophy and classics is such a great privilege. Don’t miss it.

Photo: Raphael’s “School of Athens”

 

Choosing A Life Partner: It’s Your Choice But Let God Lead

The search for a life partner can be stressful and confusing, but more especially when we rely on our own wisdom and ignore the leading of the Lord. While the choice is ultimately ours to make, letting God lead us in the process brings us peace.

It does not mean that marriage will be a perfect one; but it means that we will be starting from a good foundation, and if both partners cultivate the ingredients needed for a successful marriage, then that adds to their joy.

Why should I let God lead?

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer.  17:9, NIV).

Only God knows the deep intents of the heart of man. Friendship and familiarity can reveal who a person is but only to a limited extent. That is why you hear people say, “I married the wrong person,” “He/she has changed so much”. There has been no change really but just a revelation of the person’s true self; marriage has only revealed what had been lying inside. We have not even mentioned people who intentionally pretend just to get a person married to them. So, you see, it is just frightening.

But God can save us from making terrible mistakes in choosing a wrong person for a spouse. And God does this in so many ways. Those who let God lead them can be assured that even in circumstances where they are blinded, God is able to bring them out of ill-motivated courtships and relationships set to fail in marriage.

The question of the heart of man and how humans cannot see as far as God can, is seen for instance in the anointing of David as king over Israel. Given Saul’s disobedience and subsequent rejection by God, God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons. While Samuel thought Eliab, one of Jesse’s well-built, fine sons, was God’s chosen, God said to Samuel,  

Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

Eventually, God’s choice was the young boy David. Why did God not choose the more gallant and well-built men?

Because he knows the heart of man and he knows what the future holds for every intent of man. 

Yet, it does not mean that God’s leading at this stage will produce a perfect marriage. It is important to note that the ministry of marriage is not one of imposition. Rather, it’s about you and your partner collaborating with God, like a ‘three-fold cord’, to use your marriage to bring Him glory (cf. Eccl. 4:12b).

Making a right choice of partner, then, is the first step. From then, a lot depends on the couple to cultivate the necessary ingredients needed to grow a successful marriage—it doesn’t come automatically.

One key ingredient for a successful marriage is oneness—oneness with God, oneness of vision, and oneness with spouse on all levels. Any marriage that has failed, no matter the reasons given, missed out on this key ingredient—oneness. If you cannot guarantee this key ingredient as you prepare to marry a potential spouse, break off the courtship.

Sometimes our ways may seem right to us, but may lead us into dire consequences (Prov. 14:12, NIV). Marriage is a long, winding journey. We cannot see the end of that journey from the beginning. But God does. Everything may be perfect today, how about tomorrow?

It is only prudent to let the Lord lead you when considering who to walk the long corridors of marriage with. Do you want the peace that comes with walking the long journey of marriage with a right partner? Think, observe, watch, reason, but let God lead you in your choice and in your marriage journey.

How do I let God lead?

  • Give God say in your plans

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs His steps (Prov. 16:9, NKJV).

Planning our lives is very important. Illustrating with the example of the ant, the writer of Proverbs even advises us to be prepared in and out of season (Prov. 6:6-12).

In planning our lives, we sometimes need to consult with people for advice. If we want to let people to be involved directly in our plans, then it means giving them the opportunity to make suggestions to us.

But to let God in on our plans does not merely mean He playing an advisory role in our lives; rather, it describes a relationship that involves consistent deliberation and trust, and a willingness to cut short our plans and move in God’s direction when that moment arrives. Yes, plan. But when God cuts in, be willing to listen and follow where He leads.

  • Wait on God; don’t go ahead of Him

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Is. 26:8, NIV)

Sometimes, finding a partner can come off as hopeless, thus many fall into desperation and eventually refuse to obey God’s word. It may be giving in to sexual sin to be accepted by a potential spouse, or giving in to anyone available because ‘you are not growing any younger’.

But letting God lead means waiting on God. It means making Him your utmost priority, and making marriage secondary. Your life must not be dictated by the pressure to marry but by the desire to glorify God.

It’s not a question of whether you marry at 20 or 40. If it’s tarrying, wait! Don’t compromise your faith in God. You need to trust that God will lead you to the right person in His own time, and that He is able, even in the most difficult situations, to fulfil His promises to you.

Contrary to what some people think, waiting on God does not mean praying and fasting for 21 days for a spouse. We must not have the kind of relationship that is transactional: “Lord give me a spouse and I will serve you”. No! True waiting results in obedience to His word and a focus on pleasing Him alone and not our selfish desires. We must desire to serve God whether we will marry or not.

Walk in His word while you wait; make His name and renown your desire while you wait (Is. 26:8, NIV). Instead of fretting during your period of waiting, take stock of the lessons God is teaching you and the processes He is taking you through in anticipation of that ‘thing’ you desire.

You, LORD, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in You (Is. 26:3, TEV).

Stick Your Neck Out

“Behold the tortoise; he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”~James B. Conant

Life does not wait for idle hands. If you want to progress, move. Move, shift your butts, stand on your toes, climb the ladder. Like the tortoise, stick your neck out.

In 2003, after my Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSSCE), my step uncle asked what career I wanted to pursue. I told him I wanted to be a teacher so I was going to the training college. I had topped my school (a less-endowed school at the time) with an aggregate of 10, and written the private candidates exams (Nov-Dec), clocking a combined aggregate of 8.

Then he asked, “Where do you want to teach?”

“I want to teach in a secondary school,” I replied.

“No!” he protested.” Enrol in a university and become a lecturer and professor. You have the capacity to become a lecturer. So go straight to the university.”

I am very sure my step-uncle did not mean it was useless to attend a training college, nor impossible to become a lecturer if one went to the training college.

In fact, he himself was a retired teacher and had gone to training college. And at the time, I knew a former teacher who had trained as a teacher before becoming a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC).

My step-uncle rather meant that I look beyond my circumstances (financial set back, lack of motivation) to work towards a bigger vision.

It wouldn’t come easy

My dad had lost his livelihood as a result of stroke. My mum relied on petty trading to take care of the four of us. I recall vacations when I hawked used clothing and plastic bowls.

So it was going to be difficult. And yes it was. I spent an additional year after school teaching to save some money. After a year of teaching, I lent the money to a very good friend of mine who had gained admission to a training college. Because I had one more year before school, I thought it was proper to lend help. He promised to pay back but never did.

Let’s make this simple.

In spite of the challenges I went through, I stuck my neck out. I did not stop walking, moving, running.

Tomorrow marks exactly three years since I started lecturing at the University of Ghana, and when I look back I thank my step-uncle for telling me to “stick my neck out” and “stretch my imagination”. But I am most thankful to God who helped me every step of the way.

Below is what I posted on Facebook at 3.55pm on 31st July 2014, a day before I began lecturing:

“A new chapter of my life begins tomorrow; I assume a new appointment at the University of Ghana. My eyes are filled with tears of gladness as I write this. I look back and all I can say is God is faithful. No matter where you are at the moment, if your plan is to get to that next spot, I can assure you that as long as it is in God’s will and as long as you really want to get there and you work at it, you will surely get there. It could be your spiritual growth, career, marriage, education, project. Just don’t give up. Don’t stop here. Where you are going is far better than where you are now. At every major step of the way in my life, getting to the next spot seemed very impossible, but I held on to God’s word for my life, got up every time I fell, encouraged myself in the face of odds and discouragement from some friends and relatives, listened to good counsel, pressed on, and gave myself to hard work. And this is how far He has brought me. Help me in thanking God.”

Stick your neck out; don’t stop moving!

Merge Father and Mother’s Days: In Favour of Parent’s Day

In Ghana (and elsewhere), many fathers complain that they are not given as much recognition on Father’s Day as is given to mothers on Mother’s Day; Father’s Days are not as hyped as Mother’s Days. In trying to resolve this imbalance, on Mother’s Day this year I posted a Facebook status that said, “Happy Parent’s Day” instead of “Happy Mother’s Day”. Immediately two females commented. One reminded me it was Mother’s Day; the other asked what my status meant and that I should allow mothers to be celebrated.

There have been arguments justifying why, generally, mothers are cherished more than fathers. And there are several stories of some fathers deserting their families. I wasn’t surprised to see a comment from a man who said that he considered his mother as his father because he had nothing to do with his biological father. But we also know of several examples where many fathers have been indispensable in the lives of their children; and where, on the contrary, some mothers have abandoned their children.

I do understand that for many years, mothers generally have been at a disadvantage, so it makes sense that they be cherished beyond measure. However, things have changed now. My wife goes through a lot as a mother, but I also go through a lot as a father. My mother went through a lot to bring us up, but my dad also went through a lot. The difference is that because we were often with our mum, it was easy for us to see what she went through to take care of us, but it was difficult to see that of our father. Things only made sense to us when we grew up.

The point is, despite the limelight increased contact with their children places mothers in, the role fathers play cannot be regarded as second fiddle. And I strongly believe that the two distinct celebrations, rather than acknowledging the equal role played by both mothers and fathers, puts mothers on a pedestal and relegates fathers to the background. But what kind of future do we want to see if the current generation of fathers-to-be feel their role will not be as much appreciated? Evans Adu Gyamfi, author of A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons and Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role, has argued that appreciating the institution of fatherhood cannot be ignored if the current fatherhood crisis is going to see an end. Thus, it is important that we acknowledge equally what mothers and fathers do to bring up their children, and not transfer our experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood.

But that’s not the only point. I think the current distinction between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, with the recognition of the former as more important than the latter, creates friction—friction in homes and in society at large. It creates some sort of competition, envy, jealousy between father and mother, and it strains our efforts at redefining gender roles and advocating gender equality. I also think that it does not foster forgiveness in situations where fathers or mothers might have hurt their children. 

Instead of having two separate days—one for mothers and the other for fathers—I propose a single day to celebrate parents (including single parents). To make the proposal effective, I suggest that neither the day assigned currently to mothers nor fathers should be used; instead a different day should be designated as Parent’s Day. This way, parents can receive equal recognition. I believe this will be a step towards valuing equally the roles mothers and fathers play, and it will encourage fathers (and uncaring mothers) to be more interested in the affairs of their children. 

What is more beautiful than reaching out to both parents, if there are, and wishing them a Happy Parent’s Day, and using that day as an opportunity to reconcile differences between mother and father and between parent(s) and child? The need to reunite our families is long overdue and it must start now!

So, on this day I wish all parents a happy Parent’s Day. As long as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day exist, I will celebrate a double Parent’s Day—one in May for both my mum and dad, and the other in June for both my mum and dad. You can also join the cause.

Disclaimer: My wife Patience G. Okyere Asante, with whom I author this blog, does not agree to the merger of Mother’s and Father’s Days into a Parent’s Day, but she does recognize the need to cherish fathers and mothers equally.

Photo Credit: Siir Koby Photography

Turning the Hearts of Children to their Fathers: ‘A Toast to Fatherhood’

Book Review: Evans A. Adu-Gyamfi. A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons & Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role. Accra: Scopen Minds, 2016. 117pp. Paperback, ISBN 978-9988-2-2272-7. Review by Michael K. Okyere Asante.

I wish A Toast to Fatherhood had come at the time when I held offenses against my father; amongst other things, I had blamed him for my mum’s premature departure to her Maker. It will take me three years after my mother’s death, at a men’s conference, to forgive my father and to appreciate his role in my life.

Truth is he was not even aware I had this feeling of resentment against him. But when I understood the need to focus on the good, forgive and let go, and I saw in my own life that I was as imperfect and needed forgiveness, I wept and said to myself, “Dad, I forgive you.” That grudge nearly marred the 23-year beautiful relationship I had with my father.

This is what Evans Adu-Gyamfi’s book A Toast to Fatherhood seeks to do: to turn the hearts of children to their fathers. The book provides a solution to the fatherhood crisis we have in our nation and around the world. Many are bitter towards their fathers and have decided to focus on the negatives instead of the good. They might have been abused, neglected, rejected, provoked by their fathers, but Adu-Gymafi helps us to see a new possibility where this fatherhood crisis can be a thing of the past: focus on valuing the good of fatherhood.

While the agendum has been to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, Adu-Gyamfi embarks on a reorientation that seeks to turn the hearts of children towards their fathers. It doesn’t always have to be fathers making the move. As Adu-Gyamfi notes, we can make the first step by being appreciative; by respecting and honouring our fathers; by learning not to berate but value the institution of fatherhood; and by choosing to be good fathers (and mothers) ourselves (Chapter 1).

In this book, the author’s definition of ‘father’ is not limited to a biological concept, but extends to anyone who plays a fatherly role in a person’s life; it can be a step-father, a father-in-law, a mentor, a foster father or even extend to religious leaders, teachers, and other people who contribute to our personal development. The author points out the importance of verbally acknowledging the role of fathers in our lives; that it takes personal initiative to do this.

The author advocates a direct, impartial and articulated appreciation, not one hidden in gifts but expressed in genuine words (Chapter 5). Fathers need to hear from their children and protégéswhile they are alivehow beneficial their roles in the lives of these ones have been.

Even for those who have had bitter experiences, the author encourages: ‘I remain grateful, knowing that my “past experiences, no matter how bad, are never a total waste!”’ (p. 18), and adds, “as we look back on life we must understand that whatever relationship we had with our fathers (whether they are alive or dead) was but to teach us a lesson or two about this life” (p. 21). The author shares several examples in that respect in Chapter 4 titled “Life Lessons from My Fathers”.

The book encourages children (both young and grown) not to transfer their experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood, for in many respects, even though they may have been neglected by their biological fathers, disappointed by a father-figure, or heart-broken by the actions of a potential father, they should make “a toast to fatherhood” and see fatherhood as an institution and not as individuals (Chapter 2).

What kind of future will this produce? Adu-Gyamfi writes, “…the fathers of the generations to come shall be better versions of what we have currently” (p. 5). Isn’t that great news? But this means that sons and daughters will have to beat the premature desire for freedom from their fathers’ supervision, what the author has presented in Chapter 3 as the Maturity-Freedom Matrix.

The book is of high quality, the design and layout and the weaving of stories into the writing makes it a delight to read. Adu-Gyamfi, an advocate of fatherhood and care for the aged, coupled with his experiences over the years, is indubitably qualified to bring this subject to the fore. The emphasis of his call is this: “let us turn the hearts of children to their fathers”.

I recommend A Toast to Fatherhood to anyone who has a reason or is struggling to be thankful to a father-figure (biological or non-biological) in their lives.

Copies are available at Challenge Bookshops, or click here to purchase online.

The review was first published in the Daily Heritage newspaper, April 13, 2017, p. 6.

2027: The Results of Your Decisions Today

Yesterday, I read Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Commencement Speech.

He made very important points about purpose … about having a sense of purpose.

The question that came to my mind was, “What decisions did he take ten years ago that had resulted in his success today?”

And then I asked myself, “Of the decisions I make today, what will be the results in 2027?”

I think I can ask you the same question: “What will be the results of the decisions you make today in 2027?”

Your decisions about technology will play a crucial role on your success story in ten years.

I am not talking about making any novel discovery. I am talking about the little things, the simple things.

If Facebook were a country, it would have a population of 1.9 billion, surpassing China’s. But Zuckerberg and his friends didn’t just get up and have a bang!

They started from their college dorm, from that nucleus, planting a seed that will grow into a baobab tree. From helping Harvard students network, they moved on to Ivy League schools and then this is what we have today as Facebook. As Zuckerberg describes,

[t]he thing is, it never even occurred to me that someone might be us. We were just college kids. We didn’t know anything about that. There were all these big technology companies with resources. I just assumed one of them would do it. But this idea was so clear to us — that all people want to connect. So we just kept moving forward, day by day. I know a lot of you will have your own stories just like this. A change in the world that seems so clear you’re sure someone else will do it. But they won’t. You will.

Indeed, technology is shaping the world. It is shaping how we think. It is taking away jobs from the technologically unskilled. If it is not too obvious yet, then I want to make a prediction. My prediction is that in the next ten years the things that will SHARPLY set people apart in the job place will not be language or communication skills but technological skills.

So ask yourself: “What will set me apart in the next ten years from that person who also has a first class?”

Is it the fact that you can type 60 WPM? Oh come on. You must be joking. Children are coding and you are here talking about 60WPM?

In 2007 I started writing my first book. And I started my first blog. The following year when I completed the manuscript, the hard disk crashed and I lost everything. I had to rewrite the book.

That experience taught me a lesson about tech that I will never forget: never trust the level of technological skills you have. You must learn something new about technology everyday. You must start developing the necessary technological skills now! Otherwise, in the next 10 years, you will feel sorry for yourself.

What skills will set you apart from the rest in the next ten years? It all boils down to the decisions you are taking today. And it’s not just technology but every other aspect of your life.

Mark Zuckerberg made very important points:

…finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. …. Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. …. But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.

What sense of purpose are your decisions today creating for others? What sense of purpose will your decisions today create for others in 2027?

It is that sense of purpose that made me major in Classics at the University of Ghana when, since the mid-1980s, no one had.

It is that sense of purpose that makes me convene, every semester, an undergraduate mentoring class free of charge.

It is that sense of purpose that makes my wife and I mentor young people from all over, both here and abroad.

So I leave you with this question: When you enter 2027, what results will you see about the decisions you took today?

Wherever I will be in 2027, I will be glad to read your answer to my question.