Sermon Delivered By Rev. Fr. Louis K. Tuffuor, PhD [Catholic University of Ghana, Director of Development, USA]
Theme "IMPACTING OUR CHILDREN WITH GHANAIAN CULTURE"
Honorable Deputy Ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, Nananom (Chiefs and Elders), Mr. Francis Akoto, Founder and CEO of GhanaWeb, The president of the Ghana National Council,Reverend Ministers, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, me nuanom nkumaa, On behalf of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Catholic University of Ghana, I bring you special felicitations and God's choicest blessings as you endeavor in your own ways to support governmental, non-governmental organizations, and private business projects and programs in Ghana. It is with great pleasure that I preach to you today, a day after our seemingly very successful Ghana Fest. I believe the Ghana Festival gave us the rare opportunity to renew old acquaintances, make new friends and to encounter other people from Ghana we did not know before coming here. I have been impressed with your strong emphasis on youth formation in our Ghanaian culture. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Honorable Deputy Ministers, Mr. Akoto, and you Nananom for gracing the Ghana Fest with your distinguished presence and for joining us to praise Jesus, our Lord and Master of all things. Let us also express our deepest appreciation to the organizing committee for the many hours of their time and for sharing with us their many talents in organizational skills.
Special thanks to Mr. Reuben Hadzide, Program Coordinator and President of the Ghana National Council, Chicago, Illinois. Everybody tells me what a great job you have done. [Let's all give him a big round of applause.] Without Mr. Seth Nkansah I would not have known Reuben and without Andrew Agyapong, I wouldn't have known Agya Nkansah, Gabriel Amoateng, Kwasi Yeboah Nana Yaw Gyamfi, Rev Nkansah, Rev Noonoo, or any of you gathered here today. Such is how we are interconnected in life.
You are all doing a great job, powerfully coming together in your numbers and supporting each other, especially the youth, in an impressive way. My only disappointment is that I wish I saw more young people here and participating in our worship. Your community, your association truly demonstrates the saying that “there is strength in numbers.” An Akan proverb says, Baanu so a emmia meaning when two carry it does not hurt. Another proverb also says, Praye wo ho ye wo yi baako a na ebuo, wokabum a embu” meaning if you pick one strand from a bunch of broom it easily breaks but collectively the broom never breaks. I would like you also to remember the quotation: “The family that prays together stay together.” I exhort you to come together more often and pray, for prayer is our source of strength. Think of the electric iron. Prayer is like plugging in an electric iron to receive electric current. When plugged into the socket the iron warms up and becomes useful in removing wrinkles from clothes. Prayer will also strengthen us as we face challenges in life. Dear friends, do not let your gathering today be a one day affair but a rare opportunity to worship the Lord as family in “Spirit and in Truth.”
The theme for this year's Ghana Fest is “Impacting our Children with Ghanaian Culture.” But we heard yesterday from the Ghanaian Ambassador to the US, Honorable Mr. Fritz Poku, that culture is not static, it is dynamic. Culture is not one-dimensional but multi-faceted. It includes the arts, history, literature, music, philosophy, morals, customs and habits. Furthermore, it portrays its own laws, values, and religion of a people. And so for our purposes, I will dwell on the socio-religio aspects of our culture including what Christianity has taught us. It is in line with this that I preach to you today by posing a related question for our reflection:
“How can we impact the lives of our children by transferring to them Christian and Life Values?” This topic is of particular interest to me because of my background as a priest and an educator.
The word Impact in has a significant meaning. In chemistry we hear about this same word. Kinetic Theory teaches us that when you trap a gaseous substance in a container, the molecules of the gas collide with each other. Imagine the molecules to be ping-pong balls (table tennis balls). The molecules also impact the walls of the container at a certain rate, say, 5 mph. The rate of impact progressively increases when the temperature in the container is elevated. In other words, the gas molecules (ping-pong balls) move faster and faster as a result of the increase in temperature. This phenomenon occurs simply because of the transfer of energy; the more energy is transferred to the molecules (balls) the more impact they have on the walls of the container. Application For the sake of illustration, let us have two containers; a smaller one representing the unique world of our youth; and a larger container representing you, parents and adults. Let us also imagine the smaller box to be within the bigger box of adults. Therefore, the only way for the youth to have greater impact on society, in their milieu, is when adults, have been successful to transfer some of their “ heat energy” acquired from life-experience and culture to the younger generation. We call it “synergy.” So far, your community has done well to inculcate Ghanaian culture in the youth. But as a teacher would say, there is still room for improvement.
Today, the youth are searching for something more. “Oliver cries for more!” The lack of impact in the lives of the young suggests that more than ever before, our youth are thirsting and hungering for spiritual standards; they are thirsting and hungering for values that will last. What is it that lasts? In John's Gospel the Lord says to us, “I have called you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” It is only the Word of God that will last; all things will pass away but my words will never pass away. It is our faith that will last. From the Book of Psalms we read:
They were hungry and thirsty; their life was ebbing away. In their distress they cried to the LORD, who rescued them in their peril, guided them by a direct path so they reached a city to live in. Let them thank the LORD for such kindness, such wondrous deeds for mere mortals. For he satisfied the thirsty, filled the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:5-8 Though this passage talks about the people of Israel after their wanderings in the wilderness we can see some similarities with our youth today who wander in search of identity—who they are; in search of what they can hold unto in times of trial, discrimination, persecution, death, or any challenging situation for the rest of their lives. They are in search of nurturing and values that will last. How can we impact or for that matter, energize our children, satisfy their spiritual hunger, and quench their spiritual thirst?
Here are some ways to consider:
1. Talk with your children regularly and frequently It is important that you spend quality time with your children. Never say I have no time to talk to them for it said: wo mfuo doo so a, wo do ne nyinaa, literary meaning, even if you have several farms, you find a way to cultivate them all. Make sure you set a definite time, place, and environment to create meaningful talk time with your children. This should be done on a weekly basis and should go beyond the usual conversation question: “What did you do at school today?” As parents, you must be certain to set the agenda, rules, and tone for these conversations. Your talk times can be informal. It can be held over an ice cream social, soda, or popcorn. Your meetings don't need to be long in duration—just focus on an honest, open togetherness. Even if it takes long, it will be worth it. The greatest investment you can make is in your children. Don't we spend hours-on-end at funerals and parties till daybreak?
2. Listen to your children at all times A great gift anyone can have is being a “good active listener.” Every parent should grow a “third ear” and try to listen both to what their children are saying, and also to what is “in-between the lines” of what is being said. Probe any areas of interest or concern with deeper, open-ended questions. Eg. How did you know about what happened? Instead, say: Tell me more about what happened. Be gentle and affirming, and be certain to take a calm and non-judgmental posture. Meanwhile, you can encourage them to open up to you.
3. Observe your children in all things Watch how your children act under a variety of circumstances. Monitor your children's TV, Video games, and computer or internet use. These things have led many youth to their graves. They learn about violence and want to act it out. If you notice any changes in behavior, again, ask gentle, open-ended questions to provide your children an opportunity to elaborate on the things they are thinking and feeling. Note your children's responses and follow-up on them.
4. Have a pact or covenant with your children Let your children know that they can talk to you about anything. Tell them there should be no secrets between you and that they will always have the freedom to tell you anything—good, bad or ugly. Reassure your children that you will always love and support them in all things that affect their lives. You may reinforce your support by always responding in a calm, thoughtful way even when they share unsettling news. By your calm approach, you can instill in your children a level of confidence that you are a powerful and invaluable resource at all times. By starting this practice at an early age, you can develop and foster an environment of true and healthy relationships with your children based upon mutual trust.
5. Encourage your children to demystify “African Punctuality” Let your children know it is more respectable to be on time than being late. I have always wondered why we cannot come to functions 15 minutes before the time set. I disagree with those who say tardiness is in our blood. If we are able to report to work for expatriates on time, then let us respect time at all times for ourselves because “time is money” and should be treated valuable always.
6. Teach your children about God and to have a personal relationship with Him According to Judge Glenda Hatchett, star of the courtroom TV show “Judge Hatchett,” Parents' first responsibility is to establish a religious belief in their children. This Judge is daily a witness to what can happen to children who have no parental guidance and the fear of God. It is necessary that from an early age parents teach their children that God loves them tremendously [See John 3:16] and created them beautiful in His own image, and hence every human being should be treated with dignity and respect. Let the children also know that their bodies are the “temple of God” [2 Cor. 6:16] and so are required to take good care of themselves---avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, and illicit criminal and sexual relationships. Judge Hatchett, who is the author of Say what you mean and mean what you say, adds that there is the need for parents to instill in their children a strong spiritual direction. We all need to recognize there is “something bigger than you.” It is important to be rooted spiritually because when life becomes challenging nothing can give you enduring hope except your faith. Think about some tough times you have gone through—losing a job, having problems in school, in your marriage, divorce, some crisis in life, death (tell story of a Protestant Minister), even small matters like cancelled flights. When our faith has anchored us in Christ and reinforced us in life we can also ask like Paul did: Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. [Nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord [Romans 8:35, 38, 39].
7. Teach your children what to do at home and in public places “Courtesy pays, it does not hurt.” Teach your children to respect themselves and others. They need to observe curfews and deadlines presenting their home work on time. Remind them again and again that “charity begins at home.” They can only learn this lesson by experiencing love from you at home. Usually, as they say, “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” The way they treat outsiders will not be too different from the way they treat their own brothers and sisters at home. Teach them to value the Word of God for Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path [Psalm 119:105] in all human life.
8. Teach them to support the Church Since “no undertaking is perhaps pleasing to God as participating in His mission (Pope John XXIII), we can say that in supporting charitable works of the Church we demonstrate our love for Christ who said in Matthew's Gospel: When I was hungry you gave Me something to eat; thirsty, you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me; naked and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. And the righteous would ask, Lord when did we see you? And He will say: Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, [my sisters], you did it to Me” [See 25:35-40]. This is a challenging passage for all Christians but we are not discouraged. Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver” [2 Cor 9:7]. And that “…It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].
The Catholic University of Ghana, Fiapre The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference has initiated something wonderful and they would like all of you to be part of it. In the brochure of this year's Ghana Fest, we wrote and advertised the following information: The national history of education in Ghana started way before our independence. The arrival of the missionaries in the 19th Century helped to train and produced a high caliber of professionals to serve Independent Ghana.
To continue the pioneering work of the missionaries in education, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana established a private university and inaugurated it in November 2003 by the President of Ghana, Dr. K. A. Kuffuor. Our university is Catholic in character but secular in nature, as it is open to students of all faiths. The University opened with 50 students and the number is steadily growing; by next Semester, September 2005, the student-populace will be close to 230. Currently, the University offers four-year Bachelor degree programs in three Faculties, namely, Economics and Business Administration, Religious Studies, Communication Sciences and Information Technology. By the end of 2006, the University Administration plans to include other Faculties in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Education, and Health Sciences. The annual cost of tuition is presently, the equivalent of $1,300.00 per student. With your help we are exceedingly hopeful to build a unique university for all Ghanaians at home and abroad. Can you School your children partly in Ghana?
Truly, the Catholic University of Ghana offers itself to you as a unique tool at your disposal to impact the lives of your children. It will definitely be a wonderful idea to expose your children to their Ghanaian heritage, religion, and education by sending them home for part of their education and nurturing. It has long been believed that children who did part of their schooling in Ghana most invariably excel in their academic pursuits in overseas. Our tuition is comparatively cheaper and yet we provide quality and competitive education forming children not only in the three Rs of academics, but training them in a 4th R to have moral character, discipline, and life-sustaining values. Our goal is to teach our youth to be successful in life, responsible citizens, and true ambassadors of Ghana wherever they may be. .
In conclusion, allow me once again, to express my deepest appreciation to all of you for your attention. Particularly, I thank the Brong Ahafo Association for promising Fr. Michael Schultheis, President of the Catholic University of Ghana to construct one classroom within a block at the Fiapre campus. It is an invaluable promise you have made. Please, be motivated that your decision to contribute to the building of a classroom is a laudable one and a matter of urgency. We are relying on you. How impressive it would be if you were able to provide the first classroom for our enthusiastic students. It is our hope that the Ghana National Association of Chicago, Illinois will also follow suit in supporting us with two additional classrooms.
Final Exhortation “Brothers [and Sisters], I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God; …. Do not conform yourselves to this age [this world] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, [what is] pleasing and perfect [in the eyes of God] (Romans 12:1-2). When you've allowed yourselves to be transformed by the Word of God, you will be able, in a very unique way, to impact the lives of your children with your faith, heritage, and life experience, for you cannot give what you don't have. Shalom, Peace be with you, Christ Asomdwoe nka mo, God bless you!
Let us Pray: Song: I know the Lord will pave the Way…
Rev. Fr. Louis K. Tuffuor, PhD
July 31, 2005