PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN CAMEROON (PCC)
Office of the MODERATOR
3rd October 2020
Keynote Address at the Budget Meeting of Heads of Services in the Health Services of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon,
Today the 15th of October 2020.
TURNING ADVERSITIES INTO ADVANTAGES
TURNING OUR “A”s INTO “A” s
Dear brethren and leaders of our Church, I welcome you all to this special Budget Meeting in the name of the Triune God. I thank God for travelling mercies, considering the insecurity that currently prevails in our country in general, and the Anglophone regions in particular.
Dear friends, as a Church, we are facing three complex crises which are taking their toll on us. First, is the crisis of trust. The elections of last year have come and gone; the hate and smear language we used on ourselves created mistrust and a deep divide amongst us. Today, in some of our congregations, pockets of persons still form groups of hate and sabotage for anything Synod related. Some of these groups are sponsored by church workers who feel aggrieved for one private reason or the other. The once big and dependable congregations have become breeding grounds for resentment and hate. One can hardly measure how much we have lost, or are losing, through Christians who have decided not to give, or give as much as they used to do, or give to other places of their choice.
Recently, a former official of the Church was weeping sentiments amongst his tribe’s people not to give any franc to the church, the very church which feeds and pays him. I have chosen this seemingly unnoticeable form of crisis because I believe that our Christians are the greatest resources we have as a church; and that even in times of crises, our Christians still have what it takes to support the preaching of the gospel, especially where there is the will.
The second crisis is psychologically oriented against anything which is institutional and official. This is the spirit of populism brooding all over the world; sad enough, it has entered the Church.
The same Christians we expect to be pious and obedient are the same resisting actors in the “Ambazonian crisis’. The same Christians we expect to be honest in business dealings are the same people immersed in a desperate fight for survival in the toughest economic reality. The average Christian is a fighter; he/she fights the good fight of faith, fights the fight for survival and fights for freedom. Such a Christian is a complex personality; these complexities confuse his/her faith responses and his/her Christian stewardship. These are the challenges that should shape the nature of ministry and leadership in times of crises. What we preach and how we carry ourselves can determine the efficiency of our leadership. We cannot preach a gospel without comfort and hope today. We cannot parade ourselves with so much arrogance and plenty when our units and institutions are barely surviving. This will undermine our mission and will be unacceptable to our clients.
The third crisis is the global financial recession, with its ramifications on local economies. The political upheavals in the North West and South West Regions worsened our financial situation. The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened our financial crunch.
According to Ayhan Kose, the acting Vice President of Equitable Growth, Finance and Institution, in his June 2020 publication in a World Bank Blog said; “The COVID-19 global recession is unique in many respects. It will be the most severe since World War II and is expected to trigger per capita GDP contractions in the largest share of economies since 1870. It is also associated with an unprecedented weakening in multiple indicators of global activity, such as services and oil demand, as well as declines in per capita income in all Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDE).” What then is our pastoral and economic response? That should be what undergirds our budgetary decisions during this meeting.
Sensitive Spiritual Care
We must be reminded daily that whatever or whichever unit or sector we have in the Church, is first and foremost, for evangelization. Therefore, evangelization precedes and proceeds all of our endeavours. Every worker or leader of the Church is, first and foremost, rightly viewed as an Evangelist and it should be so. The work of evangelization in the Church is not just for those in the ministry of Word and Sacraments, but for every worker and Christian of the Church. The Head of Institution or Department may not necessarily be a preacher of the Word but must be a doer of the Word. Of course, it is true that actions speak louder than words. Our attitude towards work, our rapprochement with other co-workers, colleagues, hierarchy, customers, brothers and sisters of the same Church and institution may either strengthen our image, institution and Church or destroy it. When the image is strengthened, that attracts more commitment, and when there is more commitment, the door for more generosity and sacrifice to the vision and mission of the Church is opened. This is possible when we begin to view the Church not as somebody else’s thing, but our God-given heritage.
When the workers of the PCC will begin to view the Church as their gift from God to be embraced whole-heartedly for their present and future sustenance, and their physical and spiritual sustenance, then the PCC and Christians will see heaven kiss them here on earth. This is the sensitivity of our spiritual attachment to the PCC, her institutions and flock. Once we ascertain this ministerial sensitivity, then our intensive spiritual care for the flock of our Church becomes compelling on us.
It is a conventional truth that during moments of crisis, people seek the face of the LORD more than when things are placid. Every sensitive Church leader is to seize the situation by providing extra spiritual care to the battered flock and make the difference. During such moments, people feel a greater need to get closer to God and rather tend to give more to the LORD than in normal times. The Leaders of the Church may miss out on this if they are insensitive to provide the needed intensive spiritual care by the flock.
Our intensive spiritual care during a crisis moment demands that we become conscious of the demands or needs of the Church and respond to such needs appropriately. The Church’s mission and vision must be sustained by the leaders and the Christians through “Economic Theology”- our new concept.
Our Eternal Currency
Our eternal currency is faith in the Lord, and in His ability to provide for us. We are the body of Christ, so, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah41;10). Furthermore, we must never forget that God’s grace is ‘sufficient’ for His ‘power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).
In 1 Kings 17: 7-16 we are told of a widow who obeyed Prophet Elijah and emptied her storehouse for him. Yet her storehouse was never empty. Little did this widow know that the Lord had great plans for her. In the midst of scarcity, the God of abundance made it abundantly available to the Widow, her son and prophet Elijah. The miracle of multiplication and abundance can still occur in our time. In this obnoxious moments, we need to exercise faith to take each step of faith in this budgetary meeting. There are usually hidden blessings behind our little acts of faith. Dear friends our Church is going through a famine of faith. Thus, at this budgetary meeting, we need to take steps of faith to quench this financial famine plaguing God’s Church. The PCC must live in the multiplication and abundance of the LORD no matter the times!
We should never forget that “… the gates of hell shall never overcome the church of Christ” (Matt. 16:18). This is not a mere promise. It is at the very heart of our faith and the foundation of the church. If we do our part, we can be sure that God will do His. (I hope I wasn’t preaching a sermon at this point).
Peter Drucker, the father of modern leadership and management, used to say: The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic’. The times are changing, we cannot lead the Church the way we used to do, as if all were fine. We need to step away from routine activities and be more proactive. The global economic meltdown is not ending today.
During moments of crisis, the best approach is to be very prudent in selecting and setting one’s priorities. Even more is to see how more resources are mobilized and expenditures reduced and prioritized. 1his is called efficient management. Efficient management here beckons on our collective effort to decipher our resources clearly and set our needs rightly. In this case, we do not talk about our wants because our wants in our present crisis context are considered as luxuries, not necessities.
We are here again reminded of our SLEM (Spend Less, Evangelize More) policy which can really become our miracle wand in times like these. Crisis can be a unique opportunity to redirect our steps, to explore new opportunities, to become the real reflection of our potentials. We are the elephant in a groundnut farm. We must live up to our strength. Five critical questions to be considered are:
- What are the new sources of income at our disposal?
- What are the new gifts or talents in our human resources?
- What added values or how can we maximize or optimize these new resources?
- How can we safeguard these resources?
- How can we be more responsible in our stewardship?
Management of Surpluses
An organization without a reserve in a monetary economy is treading on very slippery grounds with no stamina. The advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic has exposed us, but also sounded a very loud caution to us to ‘Wake up and Watch Out’ and prepare for rainy days.
Meeting our set targets should be our priority to pre-empt the rainy days.
When I returned from the UK in October 2011, East Mungo South presbytery had replenished the church only with 6 million out of the assessed 34 million. I was called up to Buea by the Moderator and the Financial Secretary who told me that I must make the difference of 28 million in 2 months. I went back to Douala that day confused. The whole night I was awake praying and seeking God’s face for the way forward. All night I was urged by God to make a tour of all the congregations from Edea to Foumban. Which I did and in November we collected 15 million and in December Bonamoussadi alone raised 19.5 million and the rest of the presbytery, another 13 million. Thus, in 2 months we raised 47.500.000frs. Thus, our final replenishment that year had a surplus of 19.5 million.
Dear friends, it is possible to distinguish ourselves and do great things. If you have been assigned a territory, own it, expand it and grow it. We do not need routine officers anymore. In this crisis moment, our operational guiding principles should aim at more income and less expenditure. I, therefore, recommend an increase in income in the Health Services reviewed budget of 29% for units that have budgeted for an increase and for units that have budgeted for a decrease they should not go below 5% decrease.
Dear friends, I have a dream. Yes, I have a dream that when the Child Eye Clinic in Limbe to be completed before December this year and the state of the art hospital in Bamenda will be completed by next year then, the dream will come true that by 2024 the Health Services of our Church will clock 10 billion. I look forward to that day when the term replenishment will disappear from our financial transactions. I dream of a great boom and financial autonomy of our church in the days ahead. It is a dream that must come true God being my helper.
This wake-up call demands a watch out approach in our financial stewardship that will lead our church into a vibrant self-sufficient Church. Dear friends, we have the potentials. I know we can make it. It is do-able all we need is the spirit and the mindset to do so.
Robert L. Stevenson (1850-1894) tells the story of a ship caught in a whirlwind. The Captain advised the passengers to be still and ready for any eventuality. But they were wailing in panic. Disregarding the orders of the crew, one young man ran up to the top and entered the Captain’s control cabin. He saw the Captain very skilfully steering to save the ship. The Captain looked at the young man and, smiling, continued his work. The young man came down and told the passengers, “Do not fear, I saw the face of the Captain. He looked at me and smiled. All is well”
In our stormy days and troubled nights, what should support and strengthen us is our gaze on the smiling face of our Divine Captain. He will protect us, guide us and take care of our needs.
Let me end with the words of the 16th President of American Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural speech to the Americans concluded that, Americans should be sure that God was on their side, but wondered whether Americans were on God’s side. Yes, God will always be on our side no matter tides and let our good works take us to God’s side.
Yours for the Sake of the Faith
Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba