Schooled, Educated or Learned?

Speech delivered at Mini Explo, Joyful Way Incorporated Phase 2, Cape Coast

Venue: Wesley Girls High Schools

A few weeks ago, I was going to a meeting early in the morning at Ofankor, near Pokuase in Accra. I boarded a trotro from my house at Lashibi and alighted at T-Junction, near Trade Fair. When I am going to Labone or Cantonments areas, that is what I usually do, and from there I pick an Uber to my final destination. On this particular day, I reasoned that there would be traffic on the way to Achimota Mall, where I was to meet my business partner and my regular book designer who was to meet me there with a dummy of a new book we are working on, titled Highlife Time 3. With traffic, I envisaged that the surge at that time of the day would take my final Uber cost up through the roof. So, I did something different. I opened my Uber app, indicated my pickup location and destination, got the estimated fare and hailed a regular taxi, negotiating like a boss. I got about GHS 5 savings on the estimated Uber fare, and also, with the regular taxi, without any associated surge increases.

There are many people who like to argue that what they learn in school is not relevant for the real world out there. Such people say that because they don’t know the power of application. We go to school to learn how to learn. And learning is a lifelong process.

At about the age of ten, my Dad gave his first prophecy about my future career: his son will be an Electrical Engineer. He gave the prediction after observing me move a light fly with a piece of wire! When I was ready to enter the Secondary school, he changed his mind with the aid of my teacher: a Medical Doctor I will be. My headmistress insisted I studied Biology in sixth form due to excellent grade in Biology. I read Mathematics. I wanted to study Computer Science in the University; my Mathematics tutor changed that! Finally, I decided on a course that could give me the opportunity to satisfy all these myriad desires, prophecies and talents, which could challenge me, and open doors to a thousand careers. So I studied Chemical Engineering – at both bachelor and master’s levels.

I love Chemical Engineering. One of my favourite courses was Thermodynamics, taught by the funky Dr George Afrane. Thermodynamics is full of chemistry and calculations. One of the tools of problem solving I learnt during this cause is iteration, as part of optimisation. Iteration is defined as “repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.” Iteration involves starting with what one has and then you improve the solution, by looping, by repetition, by trial and error, step by step to the enhancement of the solution.

What I had done with the Uber experience on my way to the Achimota Mall was pure iteration. A week later, I took it further when I downloaded the Taxify app and used it to compare the Uber rates. With these two sources of data, I was able to better negotiate with a regular taxi just last week when I went to Tema Community 7 from my home. I got three variables to choose from, to maximise my choices and to get the best use of my resources.

I had applied my learning from over 20 years ago.

The real world beckons, my dear brothers and sisters. You are a sum total of all the experiences you have had up to this day. How will you apply what you have learnt here? And will you be one seen as just schooled or one who has been educated? And will your education end once you leave school or you will be a continuously-learning person so you can move from being called educated to being referred to as learned?

One of my pastimes is watching old movies set in Ghana and these days you can get some of them on YouTube. Films like I Told You So, Heritage Africa. No one can miss movies by Kwaw Ansah in such an exercise. So a few years ago, I watched Love Brewed in an African Pot, Heritage Africa and Kukurantumi: Road to Accra again.

In Heritage Africa, the main character, who wanted to appear and act more British than the Queen, had changed his name Kwesi Atta Bosomefi to Quincy Arthur Bosomfield and had risen to become the District Commissioner of Accra in His Majesty’s Gold Coast. One aspect of the film stayed with me. His mother, played by the legendary Alexandria Duah, gave him a family heirloom which had been passed on from generation to generation, amongst the male heads of the family. It was believed to carry “the soul and pride” of the Abusua; his late uncle had been the previous custodian and now it was Kwesi Atta’s turn to hold it in safe custody, to be his source of strength and pride, to be held in trust and passed on to the next generation. As soon as his mum left, Kwesi took this family treasure to his office and showed it to his British boss, who expressed his admiration of the artifact. Kwesi asked his boss to keep it as a gift from him.

A few days later, Kwesi visited his mum in the village and the old lady’s first question to him was whether he was keeping the heirloom safe. When Kwesi told her he had given it out to his boss, the mum wailed loudly and exclaimed: “Ebei Kwesi Atta Bosomefi! Sukoo pii yi a ekɔɔ yɛ yi, ɛnsua nyansa kakra enfiri mu a?” meaning “after all your long years of schooling, did you not learn or gather any wisdom?” The film editor translated the question as “What happened to all the classroom education?”

In my holy village of Wasa Akropong, we say that there is a difference between home sense and school sense. Indeed, my Wofa Kapokyikyi would say that adwen nko, na nyansa nko, which literally means that not all who have brains have wisdom. It also means that knowledge must be applied with wisdom. For instance, a wise man knows when to open his mouth and when to close it, when to talk and when to hold back; wisdom is the right application of knowledge.

David was an applications person. He did horizontal application. When he was to face Goliath, King Saul asked him if he had fought such a battle before. You remember what he said? He referred to his time fighting the wild animals who came after his sheep when he was a shepherd. I Samuel 17:33-37 has the story:

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

On my way to Cape Coast yesterday, on the bus, I was reading an ebook titled ‘One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of’, written by Richard L. Brandt. You see, I am now a bookseller, among other things, having taken a break from over 16 years of working in factories, to build a few businesses based on my passion; so I am learning a lot from the life of Jeff Bezos. In the summer after high school, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and his friend decided to create a summer school to teach fifth graders for two weeks. They taught them ‘about fossil fuels and fission, interstellar travel and the prospect of space colonies, black holes and electric currents’ etc. The author of the book quotes the two young teachers as saying that ‘we don’t just teach them something; we ask them to apply it’.

Be like David, be like the kids that Jeff and his friend Uschi taught. Be people who apply what you are taught, not in a vertical way but horizontally. Not in the silos of the fields you were taught in, but lateral or horizontal applicators, across fields.

Be lifelong learners. Geoff Anno, a former Music & Productions Director of Joyful Way Incorporated, Ghana, said that ‘If six months from now, you do not know twice what you know now, you will be left behind.’ And I agree with him. The world and information is moving so fast that if you don’t keep abreast and updated, you will become ‘colo’. A waterbody that is not refreshed with fresh supply of water smells. There are a great many people today who stopped learning the moment they finished ‘school’: University, Polytechnic, secondary School, vocational school, et cetera. They just stopped learning. Don’t be like them. Continuous learning will make you a better and well-informed person each day. Continuous learning will improve your marketability each day, and make you more productive for your employer. Continuous learning will guarantee that six months from now, you will not be an ignoramus.

Learning is acquiring knowledge or developing the ability to perform new behaviours. It is common to think of learning as something that takes place in school, but much of human learning occurs outside the classroom, and people continue to learn throughout their lives. The best and longest lasting school is the school of life, the Self-Tuition school. Four common methods of learning continuously are: by experience, by observation, by listening and by reading.

There is a lot you can learn each day by observing those who are better in various fields than you are. Observe your boss as she conducts her day-to-day work, and learn. Observe your subordinates or juniors as they work and ask questions when you don’t understand anything. Anyone who is afraid or shy to ask questions never learns, never grows. There is a lot to learn from our experiences; every experience is an instruction, a chapter in our life, and you should continuously summarise key lessons from it. By listening, one can learn a lot. Listen to what people say, take notes of insights that come your way.

And when you have learnt, apply. Don’t be a sponge that only absorbs. Note that a sponge worthy of its name works. It scrubs. A soaked sponge should be put to work. So apply what you learn for it is by practice that one perfects. Remember my Uber example. Apply your knowledge to Ghana’s problems; it is in solving those problems that your education can be useful to the society. I read once that knowledge is not power; it is the right application of knowledge that is power. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many powerless knowledgeable people in this world.

And then learn again. And apply. And learn some more. To apply. Always focus on planning, doing, checking or reviewing, and then acting to finetune. And then starting the loop again. It is a powerful tool for continuous improvement introduced by a man called William Edwards Deming, whose support and expertise helped Japan become what it is today in world class manufacturing, after the second World War. It is PDCA, the Deming Cycle. Plan-Do-Check-Act. Did you realise I just applied a principle I learnt as a quality assurance professional laterally to life in general?

Today, what I do is far from what I learnt in school or even learnt in industry, working in corporate life. My activities now as a book publisher, bookseller, writer and author are quite different from my mainstream training as an engineer. Or are they? In some ways there are different, but that is only if you think in the silo mode. Because I see myself as an applied engineer, utilising my skills across these varied fields.

In 2005, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. I wish to end with the concluding part of that speech, quoting verbatim:

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s…On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’”

I wish to say same to you: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. That is the only way you can be on the path of continuous learning and application, iterating, optimising, creating solutions, making mistakes, learning, questioning, implementing, solving and making a mark on your society.

Then, we can say, in the end, that you are not just schooled or educated, but as a learned person, or more aptly a learning person, you are affecting lives.

God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah

19 May 2018


Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast

27 January 2018

Speech delivered at Adonten SHS, Aburi
Joyful Way Incorporated Speaker Series/Outreach to schools

How many sing in the bathhouse?
How many of us won’t sing outside the bathhouse?
How many of us dream when we sleep?
How many of us forget what the dream was about as soon as we wake up?

(Raise up your hands please)

We all get ideas in the shower. Don’t you? Well, I do. Even without singing in my gravelly, guttural voice! But what differentiates successful people from the others, what sets apart those who make a difference on their generation from dreamers, what makes distinguished persons achievers, is that these people get out the shower, dry themselves and do something about the ideas.

Thomas Robert Gaines said “It is good to dream but it is better to dream and work. Faith is mighty but action with faith is mightier. Desiring is helpful, but work and desire are invincible.”

This same notion was articulated by John Hancook Field when he stated that “all worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas and good intentions – but precious few of them ever translate those into action.”

It is the translation of ideas, the deployment of strategy into action and the movement of blueprints from the drawing boards into the performance sphere that matters.

“An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise.” William dean Howells

William J.H. Boetaker asserted that “the individual activity of one man with a backbone will do more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone”.

A number of posters had been displayed at vantage points in the Tema factory of Unilever Ghana where I used to work. One caught my attention once, and engaged my thoughts:

“Small deeds done are better than great ideas planned.”

James Rusell Lowell captured the same truism when he said that “all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action”.

A former boss of mine, then the Supply Chain Director of Unilever Ghana, Stephane Achio, once remarked that we are generally excellent at mapping up extensive and elaborate action plans. Very meticulous, comprehensive and thorough, with all the fanciful timings and meeting all the specifications of SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed/Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

The problem is that most of these plans become what Andrew Ogutu, a trainer with Accenture years ago, dubs SPOTS: strategic plans on top shelves – left to accumulate dust, yielding no results.

I believe in baby steps. Our second son, Nana Yaw Appiah, commenced walking in September 2008, just before his first birthday. I was absent during the walking trials of his elder brother Nana Kwame, due to my peregrinations in 2007 so it was a personal delight to observe Nana Yaw’s walking development. Nana Yaw turned expert and confident over time. He evolved from crawling on his stomach, through crawling on all fours to holding onto objects to rise –enhancement, progress, improvement each day.

Brick-by-brick, step-by-step, taking the journey to the top one stair at a time. No one strides by moving both feet at the same time. I returned home one evening from work to meet a thrilled house – Nana Yaw had taken four to five steps without holding onto any object! A month later now, he was even able to walk backwards, dancing in the process!

See, the baby is not afraid that someone will say he/she is taking baby steps and not walking in the right way. The baby is not bothered.

Don’t wait to become an expert before you attempt converting your thought into action, for as Art Buck said “though good may come of practice, this primal truth endures: the first time anything is done, it is done by amateurs”.

However, it is significant to clarify that I am not advocating for baby thoughts on issues, for according to Mary Beard, though study without action is futile, action without study is fatal. Study, thought, contemplation must go hand-in-hand with action. “Contemplation is necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it,” so said Owen Feltham.

“Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.” Henri Bergson

When I sent text messages to my friends to notify them of the release of my first book ‘Excursions in my Mind’ and its impending launch, Sammy Owusu Asiedu, the brother of my close pal Eric Dapaa, called to congratulate me. He noted that he was even more impressed that I had gradually progressed from writing short stories for publication in the ‘Mirror’ to getting my book published. My first published story was in 1994, in the ‘Mirror’, titled ‘Showdown’, and my first book came out in 2008, fourteen years in-between.

This means that you should not despise small beginnings.

What do you have in your hands? That is the question God asked Moses, and that is the same I ask you: what are you doing today and yet despising? Take an inventory, and you will be amazed what future that holds, if only you will think what you can do with it.

I am known more as a writer and publisher now than even as a chemical engineer which is what I was trained in, or a manufacturing professional, which is how my career for the past 17 years has mostly been. But how did it start? It started about 40 years ago in a small school in Kotobabi.

Mr. Okpoti Manison of blessed memory had structured his school Providence Preparatory in Kotobabi, Accra, such that on the day before the vacation date, the ‘Our Day’, the entire school gathered for the entire day for plays, poems and dance. Each class had to perform a play, and parents and guardians were invited to watch. I loved the drama day. Knowing one’s parents were in the audience was always an added incentive to perform well. My earliest memories are of reciting a poem in my three-piece batakari, complete with a hat, the attire made from UAC cloth, where my dad worked as a driver distributing textiles all across the country. Small beginnings, appreciation of the arts, learning the rudiments of prose and poetry. Special tribute to Mr. Aidoo and Mr. Edem (we called him brother), two special teachers in Providence who affected my life for good. I remember being taught, in preparation for the Common Entrance, to answer the question: Write a story ending with ‘…and the boy learnt a lesson for life, that obedience is better than sacrifice.’ You ever wrote such a story? Small beginnings of creative writing.

At a point, especially around 2004, I felt and acknowledged that writing could be an important part of my life. The publishing dream can along later. But I started. Borrowing money to get my first book published and using all the annual work bonus to get my second book published. Big money. Did I get my money back? No, I didn’t. I tell myself that the £5600 (which will be GHS 36,000 or $8,000 today) was my diploma in publishing! Then, from 2008, I started actively telling people on social media about my writing and introducing my writing. I was also writing more and was quite clear in my mind that I had to write more books. I answered messages on Facebook. I engaged with people who read my works.

I had that big dream and I was working slowly and slowly. Today I have about 27,000 people reached by my single post on Facebook. I get people recognising my books, name and face.

After my first two books, I used the experience from my ‘diploma’ to self-publish my third book and to learn how to put the book on Amazon. As a hardcopy. I also researched on how to create ebooks on Amazon Kindle and iBooks. Last year, I tried audio books and spent a week or so learning about how to create CDs on Amazon. I learnt these from scratch, starting small.

Then I did my third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh books. Then I learnt some more and did even more. Learning and applying.

From last year, my friend Akpabli and I sent up a publishing company and started moving fast! I resigned from my job in Nigeria and came home to focus on building my dream. We produced five books last year, including one book by an 18 year old ex-Aburi Girls student who wrote her book whilst a student here in Aburi, on a campus close to yours, at the age of 16. One of our books is one of the fastest selling in Ghana now, even read by the President and the Vice President.

Let me tell you about that 18-year old author. She is called Ashley Nadom Turkson, now a Communications Studies student at UCC. She always had a dream of being a writer and an author. She said the first six or so chapters that she wrote of Aseye’s Journey, her novel, got missing. She had to sit and rewrite. In September 2016, we had a book reading at JamRock Restaurant in East Legon. Her father brought her from school to listen to three authors and be inspired. Inspired she was and a few months later she submitted her manuscript to us. We used a year to finish the editing and publishing and in January 2018, we launched her book! Ashley says she is going to write more books! Her book is Amazon and her cousins abroad are reading her.

What do you have in your hands?

Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

But you must have a plan. Dreams should lead to a plan of action. Analyse, think, reflect. Some of us don’t like to think. We only worry. So think and brainstorm and organise and prioritise the steps. Write them down. Then start small. But start.

Some of us dabble in analysis to paralysis. We will think saaa and talk saaa and do nothing. It is called NATO: No Action, Talk Only. Desist from NATO behaviour.

“To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.” Sydney Smith

Prepare to start and learn. In engineering solutions, there is something called iteration. It’s a loop and the more you iterate, the closer you get towards a better solution to a problem. To your dreams.

We concur that Rome was not built in a day but in practice, we want to leap from lying in cots to walking in space. Orison S. Marden declared that “we live in an age of haste. Some people look at an egg and expect it to crow.”

Why do we despise the days of small beginnings? Why are we afraid to take infant steps? Why do we usually want to move from crawling to flying? I love a quote from Emmanuel Dei-Tumi’s book What I wish I knew before the age of twenty: ‘The elevator to success and wealth is always out of order and one has to use the stairs, one step at a time.’ A few friends have asked me how I got a publisher in the UK to publish my first book Excursions in my mind. My response? I sent a manuscript, responding to an advert in the Economist. Just that first step.

You have some grand ideas in your mental bank now – I can almost bet on that. So start now on the way to implementation. Take baby steps with the idea. “Think big, start small, move fast”, I discovered years ago.

In Scripture (Zechariah 4:10), the question is asked: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Another version renders it thus: “Who despised the day when little things began to happen?” In some versions, it is the ‘day of small beginnings’. Many of us do, many of us despise such a day, many of us don’t give much thought to such a day.

Don’t despise the days of small beginnings, for they are many. I go through my old scripts and I get amazed about the stuff I wrote back then, not bad at all! Why did I not write more then, why did I not publish more often? What you are doing today with your talents, with your thoughts, with your ideas may look small, but every giant was once a sperm, an egg, microscopic. What we are and will be is and will be a totality of the experiences, lessons, failures, mistakes, flops we have; block upon block, piece by piece, small step after small step, for every man is built up “precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little; that they might go, and stumble, and be broken, and snared, and taken”, that is how we are built by the Word of God, that is how success is made of a man. Don’t underrate any step along the way, and be fortified by the thought of John Dryden that “mighty things from small beginnings grow”

When a review of your life is done by history, you will not be remembered by the immensity and plethora of ideas you had, but by those of that number you turned from idea into launch. Aristotle summed it up well when he said: “In the arena of human life, the honours and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”

Permit me to conclude by giving you homework. What I call Action exercises. Please write them down. Three of them:

1. List three top ideas you have for your life: career, personal development, studies…

2. Spend more time thinking of how to implement.

3. Decide today to start working on their translation into reality.

Many thanks for your attention and God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah


Some More Quotes for reflection

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” Bruce Barton

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Act quickly, think slowly.” Greek proverb

“Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.” William Hazlitt

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so inaction saps the rigours of the mind.” Leonardo Da Vinci

“Let deeds match words.” Plautus

“However brilliant an action may be, it ought not to pass for great when it is not the result of a great design.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“What is done hastily cannot be done prudently.” Publilius Syrus

“Actions lie louder than words.” Carolyn Wells

“Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.” William Wordsworth

“The beginning of all things are small.” Cicero

“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute. What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it and the work will be completed.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Dare to be wise, begin! He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” Horace

“The beginnings of all things are weak and tender.” Michel de Montaigne

“The only joy in the world is to begin.” Cesare Pavese

“While we ponder when to begin, it becomes too late to do.” Quintilian

“The difference between getting somewhere and nowhere is the courage to make an early start. The fellow who sits still and does just what he is told will never be told to do big things.” Charles M. Schwab

“Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.” Anonymous

“Experience is the comb Nature gives us after we are bald.” Belgian proverb

“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldous Huxley

My favorite character of the Bible – David

Going through archives and came around this piece I had shared in October 2008. Hope you enjoy it.
Sharing on ‘My favorite character of the Bible – David’
Joyful Way Incorporated, Godlive House, Accra, Ghana
18 October, 2006
Dannie Adapoe (Prayer and Counselling Director), who I called Efo Erasmus, has done two things to me since I returned to Ghana from school. My first JWI meeting at Godlive since my return from the UK was last week 11 October. I had gotten to Godlive house early, since I didn’t want to go through a lot of traffic coming here. As I was preparing to settle in the office and relax before the meeting started, and was chatting deliciously (!) with those around, Laura Nmai-Dsane came to give me her phone to talk to Erasmus. “Damoah,” he said “welcome back. Ministry still goes on! Come right now to Busy Internet and pick me. We are going to pick Rev. Awotwe (our preacher for the night) from his house!” Who am I to refuse my Director?! And the rains decided to pour that evening too! After the wonderful period of testimonies and Rev. Awotwe’s sharing, and just as we were about to go into the announcement time, Dannie flexed his directorial biceps again. “You koraa, who is your favourite character of the Bible?” “I don’t have one!” I replied. No luck for me. I was asked to share about my non-existing favourite character anyway!
It is such a good feeling to be back. To be back to fellowship, to friendship, to laughter in Godlive, to the cracking of toffees and the sharing of fanta! To teasing in the house of the Lord, to solid Christian doctrine and teaching and practice. To ministry, to evangelism, to sharing our lives. I missed Joyful so much, which means you all.
Allow me to start with a story I received from my friend Dr. Moses Ademola, who is within a cycle of friends who share about African renaissance and how Africans living abroad can either return home to Africa or give back what the continent has helped us with.
Twelve hundred years ago, in the city of Baghdad, lived a genius named Al-Khwarizmi, who was one of the fathers of algebra. In fact, the word algebra comes from the title of his book Al-jabr, which for centuries was the standard mathematics textbook. Al-Khwarizmi taught in an institution of learning called the House of Wisdom, which was the center of new ideas during Islam’s golden age of science. To this day we computer scientists honor Al-Khwarizmi when we use the word algorithm, which is our attempt to pronounce his name.
One day, Al-Khwarizmi was riding a camel laden down with algebraic manuscripts to the holy city of Mecca. He saw three young men crying at an oasis.
“My children, why are you crying?” he enquired.
“Our father, upon his death, instructed us to divide his 17 camels as follows: ‘To my oldest son I leave half of my camels, my second son shall have one-third of my camels, and my youngest son is to have one-ninth of my camels.'”
“What, then, is your problem?” Al-Khwarizmi asked.
“We have been to school and learned that 17 is a prime number that is, divisible only by one and itself and cannot be divided by two or three or nine. Since we love our camels, we cannot divide them exactly,” they answered.
Al-Khwarizmi thought for a while and asked, “Will it help if I offer my camel and make the total 18?” “No, no, no,” they cried. “You are on your way to Mecca, and you need your camel.”
“Go ahead, have my camel, and divide the 18 camels amongst yourselves,” he said, smiling.
So the eldest took one-half of 18 – or nine camels. The second took one-third of 18 – or six camels. The youngest took one-ninth of 18 – or two camels. After the division, one camel was left: Al-Khwarizmi’s camel, as the total number of camels divided among the sons (nine plus six plus two) equalled 17.
Then Al-Khwarizmi asked, “Now, can I have my camel back?”
These young men had information about prime numbers, but they lacked the wisdom to use the information effectively. It is the manipulation of information to accomplish seemingly impossible purposes that defines true wisdom.
The Bible is replete with tonnes of wisdom for our consumption and usage/application. In our application, we need to think out of the box and extend the domain of our application beyond just what we will call our Christian lives. And we will see the massive impact that will bring to our lives.
David the King has fascinated me a lot through my study of the Bible. The lessons from David for me cover day-to-day activities, leadership, emotional expressions and human relations, among others.
1. The first mention of David in the Bible is in 1 Samuel 16 when the Lord decided to cut off the Kingship of Saul and choose another King for His people. When Eliab the first son of Jesse had passed and hadn’t been chosen, the Lord gave Samuel an incline into what His (the Lord’s) criteria was: Not appearance, not height, not the things man looks at, the outward appearance. Hail the heart. God looks at the heart. Remember that Jesse himself hadn’t tipped David for anything that day. “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.” In the fields, the Lord was preparing him for great things. A few lessons from this passage. Don’t let anyone look down upon you because you are young (1 Timothy 4:12). That has been one of my driving Scriptures in my Christian life. But set an example. David used his field experience to learn a lot of things about God and about life in general. In his testimony to King Saul before fighting Goliath, David asserted that he learnt to trust in God and to fight in the fields (1 Samuel 17:34 – 36). No calling in the Lord’s house is a low calling. Whilst you wait for the so-called higher post, or calling, what are you learning now? In your job, at that entry level job, are you learning? Are you working with all your heart, and setting a good example? Because when the time for promotion comes, it will not be based only on your future potential (it will be assessed) but mostly on your demonstrated potential, on what you have been able to do so far.
2. David’s ability to serve was displayed again in the house of King Saul. David entered Saul’s service as a harp player, but in a short time, “Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armour-bearers.” Do you know the amount of trust you need to became an armour-bearer of the King? In battle you have to be closest to him, and you could betray him easily. Remember, Saul asked his armour-bearer to kill him. David was a servant. And in time, when he became King, he had faithful servants too. Most of us want to be bosses without being subordinates. We want to jump from A – Z, without even stopping at Y! I also believe that faithfulness begets faithfulness. If you are not faithful to serve and to your leaders, I won’t promise you faithfulness when you get into a position of leadership.
3. With service came humility. The humility of David even shone when he sinned and was rebuked by Nathan the prophet. With humility came the ability to listen to reason. David listened to the pleading of Abigail. I wanted to write an article titled “The Arrogance and shallowness of the modern day charismatic Christian”. We have become very proud Christians today. May the Lord heal us of our pride!
4. One of the fascinating characters of David for me was his ability to wait for his due time, and not to rush the hand of God. David was anointed to be future King at a young age. In the period between that and when he actually ascended the throne, David killed Goliath, became army commander, ate at the King’s table, befriended the King’s son (and became his friend rather than a rival), escaped assassination by the King, became the ladies’ favourite character in their songs, obtained the support of key priests (men of God), forged alliances and friendships with Kings of surrounding tribes (like Moab), was pursued relentlessly by an increasingly unpopular King, who had fallen out of favour with both Samuel and the Lord. In short, David had all the ingredients for a popular coup d’etat! (1 Chronicles 11: 2 – read this). But David waited for his due time. Do we not sometimes rush the prophecies and promises of God for our lives? God needs no help! However, when you wait, use the time to build on what God has given you. God prepares us with our daily experiences. We learn by tuition, experience and observation.
5. Intricately linked with the fourth point was an unflinching policy of David not to touch the Lord’s anointed and to honour the leadership of Saul. I talked about faithfulness begetting faithfulness. David exhibited it and by this gave an example to his men that you don’t kill the person God has appointed over you. As my friend Geoff Anno likes to say, “Don’t election people and turn around to punish them [with your lack of support]”. I am crazy about this policy. When God elects a leader over me, I give 150% support and respect to that person. I don’t care whether that person is young, old, male or female. At one of our Quality assurance team meetings when I was in Unilever, we did a pick and act session and our oldest employee then, Ataa Sowah, picked a question: “Does it matter if your boss is younger that you are?!” His answer has stayed with me and it will forever. Ataa said: “It doesn’t matter. Just respect the chair.” In other words, whoever sat on that chair becomes sacred. Two examples. Following the threat issued by two Asante groups lately, one of the leaders of those groups was interviewed on Joy FM, and he reiterated that the Asantehene is not to be discussed at all. When the interviewer pressed that this was untenable under the constitution, and in this era of freedom of speech, the man retorted that as far as the Asantehene was concerned, there was no freedom of speech. He ended by saying: “Let me put it this way: He is our God! As soon as he ascended the throne, he ceased to be an ordinary person.” In the film Johnny English, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) was the top agent in the British spy agency. When he managed to foil the attempt of a French impostor to become King of England (after getting the Queen to abdicate), Mr. Bean by mistake found himself sitting on the throne of England, with the crown on his head! At that very moment, when he issued an instruction to arrest the impostor, it was obeyed with dispatch. Let’s follow David’s example in this regard.
6. I believe this next lesson from the life of David follows from the respect David had for authority. He elicited massive loyalty from his men. 1 Chronicles 11:10 – 47 describes some of these men. Read the account of Three who broke through Philistine lines to draw water for David, because he had said that he longed for water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem. And you know, David didn’t drink that water at all, offering it to God. He even had defectors joining his ranks. I believe apart from reaping the fruits of the respect and honour he had sowed into Saul, this loyalty also came to David because of his human relations and management, and his ability to identify with his men. He was able to weep with his men when the Amalekites raided Negev and Ziklag (1 Samuel 30). He wasn’t afraid to let his people see him broken and weak. Why is it that as leaders and managers, we are so afraid to do this? For me, not drinking that water from Bethlehem, obtained as such great cost, was a great symbol to his men. David honoured his men, as depicted when Abner was murdered, when the King himself walked behind the bier and wept for Abner. As King, David enjoyed massive loyalty as well. 2 Samuel 3:36 summed it well: “…indeed, everything the king did pleased them (the people of Israel).”
7. I like David’s ability to love and to forge friendships. His friendship with Jonathan is deep, and I have a complete article on this that I will make available on the notice board. 1 Samuel 18 recounts this friendship. In the article, I noted the following attributes of this friendship: love, trust, sharing, identity, togetherness, affirmation (bringing out the best in your friend).
8. I admire David’s ability to laugh, to dance, to weep, to mourn. As men, we have a lot to learn from David about that. As a leader, I found weeping before the Lord to be great therapy. David did it and he found strength in the Lord his God. He wept for Abner, he wept when his first child with Bathsheba died, he knew when to weep. But he also knew how to take comfort in his God and to move on in life. He knew when to leave things in the hands of God and to acknowledge that God knew best.
9. David was a family man. He loved his children, even when they rebelled. Enter Absalom. Even in the heat of his son’s conspiracy, he was able to say that the army should be gentle with his son. For his sake. And he cried that he would have died instead of Absalom. What love from a father. This lesson comes stronger to me now, for my son Nana Kwame. David ended on a good note. Check how others ended (I Chronicles 29: 26-28, II Timothy 4:7).
10. I will end with this final attibute: David kept his promises. He kept his promise to Jonathan to look after his descendants, bringing Mephibosheth to the palace to live with him. He kept his promise to Abner and was distressed when Joab murdered him. Actually, in his handing over notes to Solomon, David asked that Solomon dealt with Joab. He was a man of his word.
I could go on and on, but I have to end somewhere! I haven’t touched on the lessons from David’s fight with Goliath; I haven’t touched on the fact that he was human, like us, sinning and yet having the heart to confess and to come stronger to his God; I haven’t touched on his desire to have his bed kept warm, and so marrying Abishag at a tender age. The Bible is careful to note that David didn’t have intimate relations with her, just heat exchange! Ei, David!
David was a man, just like us, but he walked with God so well, that God declared him a man after his own heart. He became a mighty man, a great King, and a wise ruler. His humble roots remained with him and he always remembered where God had brought him from. May the lessons from the life of this great man teach us also to trust in our God and to serve Him with all our heart.
God bless you richly.
Nana Damoah
Accra, Ghana
October 2006

40 Years On The Joyful Way

It takes courage, grace and strength to nurture and begin a vision, but greater still is the challenge to sustain this vision and to keep the focus. For 40 years now,Joyful WayIncorporated,Ghana’s legendary gospel music group, has ministered to many audiences all overGhanaand to a far extent abroad, pioneering good and quality gospel music with touching messages of the gospel. If there exists any major group with a rich history of passion for music as a ministry, Joyful Way Incorporated will definitely come to mind and this is owed to steadiness in ministry by the group ever since its inception and release of debut album, ‘Joyful Noise’ in 1978, together with a music evangelism focus that even established the group’s cells on tertiary and high school campuses. 

For four decades, this group of ministers has remained evergreen, focused and relevant. For four decades, these young music evangelists have traversed the length and breadth of this nation – and nations abroad – spreading the fragrance and love of Jesus Christ wherever their feet shod with the gospel of peace have stepped. For 40years, this group has blessed their audiences and theChurchofChristwith numerous songs of worship, praise, encouragement, doctrine and instruction.


The group was formed in the hearts of young men and women in Mfantsipim, Adisadel and Wesley Girls, beginning in the year 1971. The founder of the group, Rev. Professor Emmanuel Lartey, recounted how the idea ofJoyful Waybegan as a thought impressed deeply on him whilst in prayer in October, 1971 in the lower dormitory Prefects Room, Balmer-Acquaah House, Mfantsipim. Brother Lartey, together with ‘Sir’ Joe (Dr. Joseph Quist) had began experimenting with creating gospel music with a piano and guitar, while waiting for their GCE ‘O’ Level results in 1970. ‘Sir’ Joe provided the guitar backing, singing and the needed degree of enthusiasm.


Soon, some of their mates from Mfantsipim and Wesley Girls, who had become friends through meetings at Scripture Union (SU) rallies, were recruited into this “experiment” and were meeting for practice. The group was named “Noise of Joy”, literally from the ‘noise’ they made! Back at school, in sixth form in their respective schools, they continued to practice and began singing at services in theCapeCoastschools. The first outing of “Noise of Joy” was the 1971 Easter House party atWesleyGirlsHigh Schoolwhere they sang and shared testimonies – obviously the first group to use guitars at an SU meeting. At this same meeting, they heard of “Evangels”, a group led by Brother Emmanuel Frimpong (Odas) made up of student from Adisadel and Wesley Girls. The two groups realised the common nature of their missionary thrust and explored ways to work together, to share their new-found faith in Jesus with their fellow students.


After much prayer and meditation, a deep impression dawned on Emma Lartey that the two groups should become one! He ran to share the ‘vision’ with the rest. Together with Evangel, they commenced prayer and fasting to seek God’s face on this matter. Soon the two groups were meeting together. What to call this new group? Once again, a 3-day fast was embarked on, seeking the face of God. It was at the vestry of WesleyGirlsHigh Schoolchapel and to Ellen Ampofo that a revelation came. It was this: JOYFUL SINGERS – simple and direct. On further examination, she shared that in between the two words, she had seen ‘something like a path’. The group was called Joyful Way Singers. A phenomenon was born, a vision was launched and God had found an army of ministers for His vineyard!


From this humble beginning, and armed with a passion to affect souls of their peers, the church and the entire nations, dedicated to prayer, fasting and waiting on God for anointing, these young ones set out on a nationwide tour in 1972, which took the group to Cape Coast, Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani and Tema. That was the foundation year of the ministry.


Four decades have gone by and the fruits of theministry of Joyful Waycontinue to be brought in.Joyful Wayhas come to symbolise quality, well-rehearsed gospel music. The group is associated with commitment to spreading the Word of God in the villages, in towns, in the schools, churches, wherever the word of God needs to be spread withinGhanaand abroad:Gambia,Benin,Germany,United KingdomandUnited States of America.


Joyful Wayepitomises the power of God that is available to willing hearts – both young and old – whose lives are dedicated to God and who have a passion to impact their generation. Almost every school campus has been impacted by the power music andministry of Joyful Way. Presently,Joyful Wayhas produced several high calibre Christian leaders all over the nation, and is still winning several people for Christ. In applying excellence in ministry, members of Joyful Way Incorporated also exercised same in their studies and professional careers, churning out teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, architects, financial experts, diplomats, ministers…the list is as endless as the global spread of its members and associates, present in each continent in the world. 
Joyful Way Incorporated, this year, marks its 40th year of ministering the gospel of reconciliation, making a joyful noise of the Lord’s salvation, with the theme – 40 Years on the Joyful Way and Beyond. Joyful Way celebrates this milestone with the millions who have come to know the Lord through their ministry, who have been encouraged and strengthened by the members’ love for the service of God and their tenacity to hold on to the vision and mission of its founding fathers.


The key highlight of the year-long celebration which kicked off officially in April 2012 will be 40 events/programs, in line with the main mission of spreading the gospel of Christ. The events will consist of crusades, which started with the group’s annual Easter crusade from 6– 9 April, this time to Abesim in the Brong Ahafo regions and surrounding towns (Yamfo and Susuanso), partnering with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana; medical outreaches, outreaches to schools, seminars on effective music ministry, concerts and church visitations. Members and associates outside the country were not left out of the ministry of salvation, with their first program for Easter holding atElimPentecostalChurch, Brockley London, during Easter (7 & 8 April).


Through the years, the acknowledged pioneers of Gospel music inGhanahave continued to remain on the trail; actually blazing the trail and mentoring many groups in their wake. It has always remained a wonder to the many admirers who follow the exploits of Joyful Way how they are able to renew their membership and yet retain the flavour: the sweetness of their music, the deeply spiritual cords in their songs and, oh, the well-choreographed dances that go with their music.


Consistency has been the word used to describe the ministry of Joyful Wayover the years. The ministry has 13 albums to their credits, including hit songs like Osabarima, Jesus Thank you, Osee Yei, Begye W’ayeyi, Ose Soronko, Guanhwefo, Barima Yesu, Higher Praise, Nyame Ye Ohen, Dromo, Wonji Oyi and the award winning Ejaake Ehi.


Joyful Wayhas continued to remain relevant to its generation by being contemporary. The grace of God has been sufficient for the ministry through these forty years. In the coming years, the prayer is this: “Lord, we are your instruments. Use us to your glory!”


Happy, happy 40thAnniversary Joyful Way! And may you continue to be a blessing to the body of Christ, may you continue to impact the Christian leadership of this nation and may you be ever-fruitful. Occupy till Jesus comes!


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