Our religious leaders have failed us too

Feature Article of Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Columnist: Pobee-Mensah, Tony

. By TonyPM

It’s been too long already, but in 2009, I went to visit Ghana. During the visit, I saw a lot of impressive things that my church was doing at the time. I also saw some things that I didn’t quite like. Among them was the church’s focus on money. I saw that going around from pew to pew with a collection box was long gone. In its place was getting up and dancing your way up to the front of the church to make your donation not only once but many times during a service. Our church was using gimmickry like the well known “Kofi na Ama” to maximize donations. It was disappointing to see. The more disappointing was that there were so many old people who could barely walk going up many times to give to the church. I started thinking.

I had long been of the view that those of us in the Diaspora who by the grace of God have better chances of finding reliable employment and steady income can do our part to help. One of my sisters, also in the Diaspora, told me that she puts away at least $20 every Sunday to give to the church whenever she goes to Ghana. I had also had prior discussions with people that I knew that went to the same church about the need for us to get involved and they all agreed.

During my visit, I was lucky to have a “visit” with a prominent leader of our church who is well known to many Ghanaians both home and abroad. I discussed the need for those of us in the Diaspora to play our part. I told him that I had already had discussions with some about the need for us to get involved and I had a few more people in mind, also in the Diaspora, that I could recruit to become regular donors. This religious leader cautioned me not to promise more than I could deliver. I knew I wasn’t and I told him so.

Upon thinking about it further when I returned, I decided that I was not very comfortable collecting money to send to the church. I knew me and I knew that I would not spend money that didn’t belong to me. I also knew that it didn’t take much for people to have suspicions and to start saying things that are not truthful to everyone else rather than saying it to you and giving you a chance to set things straight. I came up with an idea that the religious leader would use his influence to negotiate setting up an account with Western Union and have them accept donations to the church from across the Diaspora at no cost to the donor and charge a small percent of the total donations for a fee.

I was going to print business cards with the name of the Western Union account and the purpose of the account at my own expense and have the leader give some out in his travels. I was also going to help distribute the cards and help make people aware of the new way to help the church in Ghana. In my idealistic mind, I could see donations coming from non-Africans to “help the church in Ghana”

The religious leader had no interest in this idea. The only thing I could think of was the old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It was only a few old people making the trip to worship their Lord Sunday after Sunday in their faith and going through every hardship as they believe their faith dictates. As the religious leader told me, these people were happy to do what they were doing. Silly of me to think that the church would still be a little compassionate about it rather than focus so much on the money they were getting.

Having said all of this, I must say that the religious leader was doing great work in Ghana and I was proud. He was also very gracious to me and my family and I am forever thankful. I continue to believe that we need to support our church in Ghana.

Tony Pobee-Mensah