Dealing with Death and Grief During First Year of PhD

In January this year, I arrived in Stellenbosch in high confidence and hope of an exciting PhD journey. I had developed a relationship with my supervisor over some years and was excited to finally have a PhD fellowship to enable me take up full-time residence in South Africa. It was my first time studying outside of my home country.

I had a very warm welcome to the Department of Ancient Studies and had the privilege of sharing an office space with Dr Lunette Warren, who has become a friend and mentor. At my first lunch meeting with Lunette, she offered some advice on PhD life and mentioned that though we all hoped for a smooth sail through the PhD journey, some people experienced serious challenges during that journey.

While I expected to face some challenges, given that I had left family and dependants behind and was no longer employed, I never expected to face my worst moment just six months into my PhD—the loss of my dad. I hope it’s not too early to call this my worst moment on a PhD programme; after what I have been through this year, I cannot imagine myself going through anything worse than this loss.

Losing my Dad Six Months into my PhD

The first five months of my PhD journey was devoted to writing and defending a comprehensive proposal and attending seminars. By the end of May, I had successfully defended my PhD proposal and submitted it to the Higher Degrees Committee. It had been a rigorous process. Then on the day of my PhD cohort’s proposal presentation briefing to the Dean of Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, I received a text message that my son was on admission.

My wife Pat had travelled to Germany in May as part of requirements for her PhD studies in Ghana, and she was to be away for three months. Because of limited funding, she had left care of our son in the hands of her cousin and friend. They were doing a very great job looking after our son. But when I learned that he had been admitted twice in a row, I knew I had to be there with him.

My plan had been to return home in September to organise the international Classics conference scheduled for October and spend the remaining two months with family. However, given the situation back home, I had to leave as soon as possible. I sought permission for a longer stay so I could spend time with family, organize the conference, and not have to incur the cost of making two separate return flights within a few months.

The first person I called when I arrived in Accra in June was my dad, who lived hundreds of miles away. I had informed him that as soon as Pat returned from Germany in August, we would make a visit and stay with him for some weeks before I returned to Accra to start plans towards the 1st International Classics Conference in Ghana and inauguration of the Classical Association of Ghana.

But just a month into my visit, I received a call one morning from my dad that he had been assaulted by a young man. I asked him to go to the hospital and lodge a complaint with the police. It turned out, in fact, that the assault had been meted out by four young men with two others on the lookout, because of some misunderstanding between them and my dad, a vulnerable man, a stroke survivor on whom the effects of stroke were still visible.

The four locked him up in an enclosed space, kicked him several times in his chest and abdomen until a Good Samaritan who heard the scuffle from outside came to his rescue. After initial medical treatment, my dad was rushed to the hospital two days later and was pronounced dead on arrival on July 9. It was a devastating blow! My sister delivered the news to me, and I was speechless. Everything came to a halt, including my PhD work. I was overwhelmed with grief and anger!

The autopsy revealed the cause of death as hypertension and diabetes. We could have pursued the case further, but I was handicapped financially, and the support of my dad’s own siblings was nothing to write home about. We had to quickly organise his burial and funeral to avoid further costs.

I recall an aunt telling me, “He’s your father; it’s your shame if you won’t give him a befitting burial.” An uncle confessed, “If you think the family has any financial support to offer, you’re mistaken.” I understand that the family had held a funeral for an uncle some months before, but the lack of empathy for what we were going through at this time showed me what indeed those who claimed to be family were made up of. We were left to our fate, or should I say we were hated? As a PhD student, a firstborn, with family and two siblings to support, you can imagine the burden. The greatest responsibility had fallen on me.

Dealing with Loss and Grief

To be frank, the thought of quitting the PhD crossed my mind many times. But when I considered my motivation for enrolling, I knew I couldn’t give up now. When my wife heard of the loss of my dad, she wanted to seek permission to withdraw from the three-month summer programme in Germany, but I pressed on her to stay. I cannot thank her enough for her care, however remotely, in my dark and lonely moments of grief, and her continued support. 

Cee Connie, as I affectionately call her, was indispensable in her role as a mother to us. She has always come in for us, and this time too she showed her emotional, organisational and financial support throughout the process.

My PhD cohort, Ghana maties, my friend Gideon Asamoah-Asante, my supervisor Professor Philip Bosman, my colleague Dr Lunette Warren, my friend and mentor Dr Alexander Nuer, and friends too numerous to name were very supportive. In the midst of my depression and sorrow, they listened to my rants, my cries, and empathized with me.  They were part of the reason I regained faith that I would bounce back.

I was at my spiritual low during this period, but the fellowship, support and encouragement of my pastors Erasmus Mensah Laryea and Emmanuel Adjetey Quaye, leader of our bible study group Mrs Caroline Kitcher, and the rest of the council and membership of the Presbyterian International Worship Center, provided me space to thrive and reflect.

My colleagues in the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Ghana provided me space where I could still find encouragement in pursuing my academic interests. While there was little I could do on my dissertation, the thought of not giving up was a step in the right direction. Thanks to them, our first ever international classics conference in Ghana was a huge success.

I had not given myself enough time to heal after my dad’s funeral in August. I had lied to myself that I would be okay to resume work on my dissertation after the funeral and conference were over. The preoccupation with organizing both events had covered up my deep-seated grief. After all was done and everyone had left, I found myself totally exposed.

I just couldn’t concentrate on the readings. My mind was just clogged, and it was in those moments that I cried for the first time since my dad’s demise. I was helpless! I realized I had been holding a lot of things back. I thought I had to be strong for my siblings, for the conference, for everyone but not me. And now that the funeral and conference were over, it was my turn to grieve my loss … alone. And I did.

But I needed to return to writing, and at this point all I wanted was to be away from the familiar faces and familiar environment, go into hiding for some weeks and spend the remaining energy I had on my dissertation. It was Reverend William Ameka who came to my rescue. Reverend Ameka is one of the few non-Classicists who has taken interest in my professional growth. And he has done this, serving as mentor since my undergraduate studies. 

In a country where the Classics is despised, Rev Ameka has been more than encouraging. When I was looking for a place to stay and in conversation I happened to mention it, he quickly offered his place at Osu for any number of days I wished to spend. Over the past few weeks, this is where I have worked from and I have done much to my satisfaction. More than ever before, I am confident that I will successfully complete this PhD on schedule.

Now, I can make the eight-hour journey with my wife and son to Sefwi to spend the Christmas and get some rest. We thank you for the support you gave us this year and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Support Michael’s Conference Travel to Leicester and Visit to Cambridge

As some of you may already be aware, I am raising funds to support my conference travel to Leicester and visit to Cambridge. So far, I have been able to raise 77% of the targeted amount of $1,170, and I would be grateful if you could make a donation of at least $1 and/or share this information with your network. Please click here to make a donation.

I am Michael Okyere Asante, a Ghanaian in my first year of PhD in Ancient Cultures (Classics in some other countries) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. I have been accepted (with my co-author) to present a poster paper on ‘Teaching Classical Languages in Pre-tertiary Schools in Ghana’ (see pp. 124-5) at the Classical Association Conference, one of the largest gatherings of Classicists in the world, to be held in Leicester, UK from April 6 to 9, 2018.

I also intend to visit the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge on April 11 to familiarise myself with resources in the Faculty and to make an informed decision on taking up a research stay at Cambridge in the second year of my PhD. My contact person at Cambridge is Dr Caroline Vout.

The problem

One of the facts of the field of Classics is that Africa is least represented, and the problem is made worse by lack of travel funds to attend Classics conferences abroad. And so, even though I am privileged to be awarded a full bursary by the Classical Association covering accommodation and conference fees, I cannot attend the conference unless I am able to raise funds for a return economy flight ticket (Cape Town-London-Cape Town).

Background to my paper

I discovered that one of the two schools for this study was using Greek and Latin in ways that were totally different from what currently goes on in UK and US schools. The school, which uses a Government-based curriculum, had adopted a vocabulary-based teaching of Greek and Latin and provided a slot on the time table for it. The question I asked was “Why, after three decades, has interest in Greek and Latin surfaced in these two schools and how do they differ in their approaches to teaching the languages given their different curricular?”

Why this poster presentation is important

In the long term, I am looking forward to building on this research to investigate the impact of Greek and Latin learning in these schools on students’ performance in three core subjects: English, Mathematics and Science; and whether a vocabulary-based teaching of Greek and Latin can help improve literacy in these three core areas given the abysmal performances of pupils in these subjects during the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations.

Through my presentation, conference participants will learn of innovative ways in which Classical languages are being put to use in Ghana, especially under a national curriculum and environment that is unreceptive to the initiative. The paper will also provide conference participants the opportunity to understand how Classics is being used in minority areas and to reflect on ways in which Classics can be used to improve literacy among school pupils in Africa.

Budget $

Return flight (economy) 1,004

Train ticket-London (Heathrow) to Leicester 33

Bus ticket-Leicester to Cambridge 24

Bus ticket-Cambridge to London (Heathrow) 30

Accommodation at Cambridge (3 nights) 79

Total 1, 170

Where will excess money go?

One of the challenges I identified was the lack of Classical language teaching and learning materials in Ghana. Monies in excess of the targeted amount will therefore be used to purchase Classical language teaching and learning resources for the schools.

I would be grateful for any donation you can make towards advancing the Classics in Ghana and Africa by helping me attend this very important conference. Could you also share this with your networks.

To support, please click here.


Two Things I Learnt from the Delay in Obtaining Two PhD Fellowships

This is the last of a three-part article on why it took three years to obtain two PhD fellowships, and how God used the waiting period to turn things around in my favour. You can read the first and second parts here and here. In this final post, I share two key lessons I have learned from my waiting period.

In my last two posts in this series, I wrote about my experience obtaining two PhD fellowships after three years of waiting. Here are two key lessons I have picked from this experience:

Being positive about the delays that occur in our lives and letting that positive attitude reflect in our actions and reactions is key to achieving our goals.

Yes, being positive about the delays that occur in our lives is key to achieving our goals, but it’s not just about being positive, but also letting that positive attitude reflect in your actions and reactions. In other words, be productive during the waiting period.

My first disappointment at securing a PhD scholarship was when after obtaining admission to read a PhD in Classics at Cambridge, I failed to make it to my institution’s shortlist for Commonwealth Scholarship that year.

By now, Patience was pregnant. I deferred my admission to April of the following year, and again, I was not successful at obtaining a scholarship. It was in that month that Nyamedea was born. As I have indicated in my previous post, the delay helped me to bond with our new-born baby and to be involved in his personal development. I am not sure how it would have turned out without my presence.

The second positive thing I picked up was that the delay gave me enough time to care for my siblings. Two of them were in tertiary school and in their first years. As I was largely responsible for their schooling and upkeep (including my dad’s), the delay offered me the opportunity that a PhD scholarship would not have allowed in providing for their needs, besides my wife’s and son’s. By staying in employment therefore, it helped to avert the financial burden that would have overwhelmed us.

The third positive thing is that the delay offered me the opportunity to support my wife in a most difficult period. Coming out of a Caesarean Section for her first child, the least she needed was for me to be away. My support made a lot of difference in her recuperation and offered her the opportunity to bounce back to academic life. Now my wife (who is also on a fully-funded PhD programme) and I can focus on getting our PhDs. The PhD couple? There you have it😊.

We plan our ways, but God directs our paths (Proverbs 16:9).

During our marriage counselling, one of the assignments our counsellor Rev Emmanuel Adjetey Quaye gave us was to develop two separate 5-year plans on paper. Though it was a difficult task, we prayed about it and rather developed three different plans of 5 years each—call them Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. While I cannot give out details of these plans, three things were key for us: spacing of our children, timing of our PhDs, and investment/retirement plans.

On the first two scores, none of our plans went through in the exact order, but I am happy to say that God directed our steps in ways we could never have imagined. Things just turned out differently, often in ways that we couldn’t explain.

So, was it a waste of time to plan? Not at all. We encourage everyone to make such plans. They help you have a sense of purpose and direct your energy towards common goals.

Let me give you a fair idea of what our plan on those two scores looked like.

Our plan was to have a baby in the first year of our marriage and for me to commence my PhD; then in the final year of my PhD, have a second baby, so that the following year, Patience could commence her own PhD while I paid attention to the kids.

But what happened? We had our first child in the first year of our marriage, and it took three years, counting our courtship, for me to obtain a fully-funded PhD place. But as you have read from the previous articles, God brought everything into perfection.

So we plan our ways, but God directs our paths.

What I Did While I Waited Three Years to Obtain Two PhD Fellowships

This is the second of a three-part article on why it took three years to obtain two PhD fellowships, and how God used the waiting period to turn things around in our favour. You can read the first part here. In today’s post, I share the things I did as I waited for this day to come.

The waiting period was somehow frustrating. I was on a 3-year non-renewable contract with the university, and this meant that I had to obtain a funded place on a PhD programme by the year 2017, otherwise I would have to look elsewhere for employment.

The policy itself—that MPhil holders seeking academic appointment at my university could only be employed for a non-renewable contract period of 3 years—was frustrating, especially given the staffing situation in some departments.

What made the situation more frightening was that in addition to my immediate family, I was taking care of my dad, and two siblings who were in tertiary school. If I wanted a more sustainable employment in academia and especially in my university, I needed to obtain a PhD as soon as I could. So, what did I do when this was not forthcoming?

I took care of, and bonded with, our son

I mentioned earlier that my going to Cambridge would have coincided with the birth of my son, Nyamedea, and I couldn’t imagine the trouble both my wife and son would have gone through after the Caesarean Section. Even with support from family members and friends, it would have been hell for them without me. And this is why.

Patience went through the surgery in April and she needed to heal. While we had her mother come stay with us for some weeks, often Nyamedea will sleep only when I carried him in my chest and paced back and forth. I would do this for hours until about 2am when the boy would put to sleep.

Then in August of the same year, Patience started attending to her duties as Graduate Assistant at the Institute of African Studies. Nyamedea was just four months old and we couldn’t afford to put him in a crèche.  School was in session for Patience’s mother who teaches at Sefwi.

What this meant was that I had to bring him every morning to my office. My office became a crèche and ‘collection site’ for food particles. For those who have seen my video updates on how I bond with my son, you will understand where it started from—it’s mostly a result of the time I spent with him in those formative months as a baby.

I was very privileged to have my own office, and to have very supportive staff who would offer a helping hand during times when I had to go teach a class, attend a faculty meeting, or when Nyamedea’s cries for attention were just unbearable. Even staff from other offices were willing and ready to help. But there were those days when no matter what I did, Nyamedea would cling to me. During those days, I wished there were paternal leaves for fathers.

The whole experience affected my research output and health. That year the Dean wrote on my appraisal form that I should be encouraged to publish, and I developed severe chest pains for a long time from carrying Nyamedea to and fro my office.

I engaged in research activities and networked with other scholars

Before Nyamedea’s birth, I had been engaged in some research projects. I went back to them, presented a seminar paper, and participated in two international conferences, one in Chicago, USA and the other in Edinburgh, Scotland. My return to research resulted in the publication of a paper by the third quarter of 2017, and by the middle of the fourth quarter, had resulted in the acceptance of my paper abstract for a conference in Leicester, UK.

I continued focusing on improving myself by seeking advice from my mentors and by networking with other scholars from Africa and beyond. It was through such engagement that I got hint of the Lisa Maskell Fellowship and applied. Without the networks I built during this period, I doubt I would have been telling this story, and without my position as faculty member, I wouldn’t have received funding to attend these conferences.

I improved my language and teaching skills

If you recall, in my last post I wrote about the demands a PhD in Classics required. I began going through my previous lessons in Greek and Latin and reading more to improve my proficiency. Then I engaged a private tutor to teach me French.

Although I couldn’t make it through the number of months I set for myself due to work and family demands, the three months I spent learning some French was worth it. I can’t say I have met the requirements I desired, but when I go back to it, I know it won’t be as difficult as when I began.

I also continued to give myself to teaching in my department, and was privileged to attend two workshops that shaped my teaching methodology and philosophy. My three-year teaching period also enriched academic life in the department and helped improve staff-student ratio.

We mounted a PhD programme and successfully applied for a full fee-waiver for the first four years of the programme

There was no PhD programme in Classics in Ghana but by 2016 my department had a programme approved on paper which had not been advertised. Together with my former head of department, I pushed for the advertisement and commencement of the first ever Classics PhD programme in Ghana and successfully applied for a full-fee waiver for admitted students in both the Classics and Philosophy PhD programmes.

So, I used the waiting period to help create opportunities here in Ghana not just for myself, but also for my colleagues and those who would come after us. I remember being asked by a well-known professor what I wanted, and I said I wanted PhD funding for myself and my colleagues. Then she said, “let’s talk about you”.

But I didn’t want to be successful alone—I wanted to carry my colleagues along. And so, I became a constant reminder to follow up on our proposals. A month after obtaining approval to our proposal for fee waivers, I received the two PhD fellowships—the very news that has generated these series of articles. I declined one, which then passed on to one of my colleagues. And while I am not a beneficiary of the fee-waivers due to my acceptance of the other fellowship, I am excited that the rest of my colleagues can complete their PhDs within the next four years.

I audited a postgraduate course in gender at the Institute of African Studies

My initial PhD proposal was on class and equality with a departure from gender equality. But on further reading and discussion with my mentors, I made substantial revisions to the proposal by focusing on gender equality in Platonic and African philosophical thought. It was this proposal I submitted for the PhD fellowships.

In order to enrich my understanding of gender in African cultures, I audited a postgraduate course in gender at the Institute of African Studies. The professors who led the seminar were very helpful. I discussed my proposed study with them and they were excited to have me audit their seminar.

I contributed to discussions, critiqued papers and made presentations on them. I am sad to say, however, that due to work demands, I could not sit through the whole semester, but the few weeks I spent there enriched my understanding of gender and helped to refine my PhD proposal.

I continued putting my gifts to use

I didn’t let the frustration from the delays prevent me from serving people. I provided mentoring, counselling and career guidance to numerous young people from within and outside the university.

I set up a mentoring class in my department to help students navigate aspects of life that were not discussed in lecture rooms—something to get them prepared for work after school and life in general. We met every Tuesday in my office from 10am to 11am. In addition, we hosted a bible study in my office every Tuesday at lunch time for our mentees.

I gave myself to speaking and counselling sessions with individuals and groups. Together with my wife, I helped newly married couples to understand the challenges of the first year of marriage and how to manage them.

At church, my wife and I continued to serve as Junior Youth teachers, and I helped my congregation to develop a mentoring programme for young people, while I continued to write for our blogs and organise Christian conferences—including the Mimesis Christou Bible Conference and Missions and Family Life Conference.

I published a book and took a course in ministry

By March 2016, I had published my second book on Christian spirituality—Are You Waxing Cold?—and spent some time talking about the subject of my book in congregations. As someone who has been involved in Christian ministry since age 17, I took the opportunity to get some training at the seminary, both to refine my own theological views and to make me effective in reaching out.

The training helped bring to fore the errors in my theology and provided me the skills for doing proper biblical study and interpretation. It also helped to enrich my speaking and writing ministry.

And, finally, I prayed!

Though not in chronological order, these activities happened within the three-year period I was feverishly seeking opportunity for a fully-funded PhD programme. By now, I guess you have learnt some lessons, but in the final part I will bring out these lessons more clearly for your own encouragement and purposeful waiting.

I Caused It but God Did It: Why It Took Three Years to Obtain Two PhD Fellowships

Last week my wife Patience shared a testimony of how she secured a fully funded PhD scholarship, and she used that to communicate a very important lesson on acting on our beliefs and prayers.

Two months after she commenced her PhD, I received two PhD fellowships—a Lisa Maskell Fellowship to study Ancient Cultures in the Department of Ancient Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship to study Classics at the University of Ghana.

I was among about 18 students from Africa and 10 from Ghana respectively who were selected for these prestigious fellowships. But not many know that it’s taken me three years to finally secure a place on a fully-funded PhD programme.

In this three-part article, I want to share with you why securing a funded place delayed, what I did myself to cause the delay, how I made use of my waiting period, how God used the delay to work out His plans for my life, and the lessons I have taken from the three years of waiting.

Some background

Immediately I submitted my MPhil dissertation, I began making plans to enrol on a fully funded PhD programme. Considering the academic path I had chosen and the investments I had made in acquiring an MPhil degree without financial support, it was crucial that I secured a place on a funded PhD programme if I ever wanted to start a PhD by the end of the first year of my marriage.

Yes, I wanted to get married first but I had no fiancée (the story of how I got married two years after this will be for another day). And to get married as planned, I needed to be financially stable.

Once my work was submitted, I put in an application for Teaching Assistantship, then in August 2014 I was appointed Assistant Lecturer. It was a month prior to this—July 9, 2014—that I proposed marriage to my platonic friend of six years. By the following year, on July 25, 2015, Pat and I were married.

So, it seemed my plans had gone through smoothly, and I was ready to commence the process of obtaining a funded place on a PhD programme. Since no university in Ghana had a PhD programme in Classics at the time, my options were limited to schools abroad. However, it will take me two more years before my plan will materialise, and these are the reasons why.

I limited my options

One of my goals was to complete a PhD in a maximum time of four years, so US schools were out of the question—it takes 5 to 6 years to complete a PhD in Classics in the US.

Besides, to read a PhD in Classics, I needed to have done three to four years each of Greek and Latin at advanced level, read some primary sources in their original languages, and while on the programme, acquired proficiency in two additional foreign languages (including German, and French or Italian).

I couldn’t have met these requirements immediately and I was not ready for the long journey. I also told myself that if I was going to study outside Ghana, it would be better to do it beyond my continent. I therefore limited my options to the UK, Canada and Australia in the first few years.

But all my applications to these schools were rejected, except those for Cambridge in the UK, Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and University of Sydney in Australia. However, the admissions came without funding.

I deferred my admission to Cambridge hoping to secure a Commonwealth Scholarship, but I failed to make it to the final round. By now I had spent so much time and money on preparing and submitting applications. I was both frustrated and tired. All advice to consider other options had fell on deaf ears.

I was obsessed with the top-notch schools

I don’t mean to say one should settle for schools that are sub-standard, no! And in no way am I demoting Stellenbosch University or the University of Ghana. Both universities have reputations to boast of, especially in Africa. But during this period, no university in Ghana had a PhD programme in my field of study and there was no access to funding to even consider these places.

But I should have created a balance and not applied only to first-rate schools. There are schools which may not match the likes of Cambridge and Yale, but they may be very good in their own right. I failed to apply this principle. All the schools I applied to were leading schools in their respective countries.

What this meant was that I was competing with foreigners who might have spent their secondary school period studying Greek and Latin and other foreign languages at advanced levels—and here was I, with limited preparation in these languages, applying for a position on the same programme as them. The least I could have done—an advice I failed to take—was apply to their one-year masters programme and then move on to do my PhD afterwards. 

I did not take my time to prepare

Looking back at the whole process, I did not take my time to prepare. I was so much in a hurry. It was like I had to do this now and now! My MPhil period was a very hectic and troubling one—I was self-financing my education, studying and working full-time, and taking care of two siblings and a father.

I slept on average three to four hours a day. I went through a lot of depression. One night, I boarded a mini-bus to Madina, alighted and walked from one end of the road to the other, returned to my hostel and slept. A month after submitting my work, I started working, then a year later I got married and started thinking about PhD. After going through all that, I should have taken my time to prepare.

We failed to plan well

My wife and I may have failed to plan well. I say ‘may’ because we both wanted a child in our first year of marriage, and I wanted to commence a PhD by the end of that first year of marriage. We were very unreal about the cost of carrying forward such a plan. Even if I had secured funding for the Cambridge PhD, I doubt I would have been able to take it up, for in the very month I was scheduled to leave, Patience delivered our son through Caesarean Section.

But, we did not want to hold back the possibility of having a child while we looked for a PhD at the same time. Our plan was for me to start and finish a PhD first, by which time we would have two kids, then my wife could commence hers while I took care of the kids. So, the failure in our plan was not in asking for a child and a PhD, but in failing to calculate the real cost and failing to design realistic timelines.

God may have been trying to save me from a wrong timing

While I acknowledge the part I played in causing my own delay, I believe, to some extent, that God was saving me from a wrong timing, and He was using my own mistakes to do this since I was not ready to listen to His voice.

Truth is, while my wife and I prayed about our plans for PhD, in our hearts we were not ready for anything that would cut short our plans. I believe if God had said, “Michael, your time to leave will be in January 2018,” I would have shouted back, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Our hearts were closed to any voice that would not agree with us.

This is what desperation and lack of trust can do. I had just three years on a non-renewable contract with my employer. So, at all cost, I needed to get a PhD to stay in full-time academic appointment. Otherwise, we were in for the hard times I experienced during my MPhil. However, my timing of applications may have been wrong. In our desperation, we couldn’t trust that God will bring everything into perfect timing before the end of 2017.

Updated: 09/02/2018

Continue to Part II of the article.

God Has Done It Again: Acting on Prayer and Belief

Have you ever got to a stage in life where you seemed stuck and did not see the way forward; where the path on which you walked seemed crooked and you wondered if you would ever find the highway?

That was where I found myself. I had completed a masters degree, yet found myself without any meaningful employment because of an embargo on employment. My brain had become fuzzy with pregnancy and childbirth. I wondered if I could pursue my goal of further studies now that I was a wife and mother. My lifelong dream of being in academia was dim.

The fact that my better half also had to do further studies made the situation dimmer. The cost of pursuing one PhD is that huge let alone two. I had doubts I could put a proposal together or bring myself to sit by books like I used to. I guess you understand the depth of my hopelessness.

But I had an option—to pray, believe, and act. I trusted God for his perfect will for my life. I discussed the possibility of applying for a PhD programme with my mentor who gave me some ideas about possible places. Within a few weeks, I had put together a PhD proposal.

One morning I visited the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS) and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) to make enquiries about their PhD programmes.

The feedback at RIPS was not positive so I went to ISSER where I was impressed about the courses on offer. I also realized for the first time that they had few scholarships available. I informed my hubby about the courses and before I was aware, he had purchased the forms and put in an application for me using the proposal I had prepared.

I was invited with several others for an interview. There were just five slots for funding. I had sleepless nights over an interview I thought didn’t go so well, but I did what I know to do best, to pray.

And bam! God did it! I was among the five people who received DAAD funding for a PhD in Development Studies at ISSER. The funding also included a two-month internship in Germany. God did not only pay for school fees but provided for my monthly sustenance. God is good indeed! His faithfulness is for ever more. I give God all the praise. His grace I do not take for granted. His daily kindness I greatly appreciate. If it had not been for the Lord on our side, where would we be?

Set on course for the future by God’s grace, I trust daily for his provision, grace and mercies. And because he began with me I have full assurance for the grace of glorious completion.

One thing is for sure, if the Lord has not responded to your call, it is because he is working on something big. If your path seems crooked, keep pressing on, the high way is a few steps ahead. God will surely come through for you.

If there is any barrier to your breakthrough, may God’s mighty power cause it to be lifted. Receive the grace of a warrior and press on till the end. Jesus has paid the price for your victory! Walk in it.

In this new year, may God give us the grace to continuously trust him for his perfect will in our lives. May the Lord go before us and make the crooked places straight. May He break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron (Isaiah 45:2). May he give us increase and abundance.

PS: Much love to my mentors Drs Deborah Atobrah and Benjamin Kwansa for their encouragement, references and guidance with my proposal. You are a true blessing!

Shout out to my wonderful colleagues who make the journey enjoyable. Thanks for the guinea fowls, kebabs, potatoes, free lunch, and lifts. Much blessings for you all. Because God himself is our help, we will hold each other by the hand and complete this journey together. Cheers!