DR. PIPIM'S TWO NEW BOOK RELEASES These latest works are stimulating and inspirational. Hope Through the Dark (subtitled: "Inspirational Nuggets on Failure, Betrayal, and Hurt") and Africa Must Think (subtitled "Thought Nuggets on Africa") are nugget-style books that will challenge and warm yo...
|A Woman To Remember: A Mother's Day Tribute||| Print ||
To a large extent, the measure of a man is determined by the woman who has most impacted his life. And that woman doesn’t have to be a member of his family (whether mother, wife, grandmother, aunt, cousin, or daughter), or the object of his deepest affection (e.g., girlfriend or fiancée), whether past or present. It can be a teacher, nurse, social worker, or some other professional.
For me, the woman who has impacted me the most in life was a very ordinary woman I got to know in an African village several years ago. At the time I met her she had made many mistakes and suffered many misfortunes. But the Lord was very merciful to her, transforming her toils and pains into blessings. Let me explain why she is a woman to remember.
Ellen was orphaned at the age of 14. From that early age she was forced to endure poverty and a life of toil, as she struggled to take care of herself and her four-year-old sister, Esther. Being the older, and playing the role of “mother” to her sister, Ellen earned the distinction of being the “fighter” (very tough, fearless, and even quarrelsome), while her sister was the peacemaker—more gentle and patient. The hardships and poverty that they both endured in their struggle for survival drew the two sisters exceptionally close to each other. Even after each got married, they still lived together and did everything in common.
After having two children, Ellen’s husband left her for another wife. Years later, she was remarried and bore two more children. But she suffered another misfortune when her second husband died. This painful tragedy led her to abandon any belief she ever had in God. She also became a very bitter and angry woman, determined to live a reckless life, in protest against the God who had allowed her to suffer so many misfortunes in life—being orphaned early in life, the hardships of poverty, shame of divorce, pain of widowhood, etc.
During that dark period of her life, Ellen became pregnant with a married man. He had arrived in her village, with his wife and daughter, to serve as a Christian teacher. Because in those days such a shameful conduct was viewed as a taboo in the village, when the news of the adulterous pregnancy became public, the man’s wife died (apparently out of shock). The man himself, unable to deal with the guilt and the consequences of his sin, fled from the village, his whereabouts unknown for about 20 years.
On her part, Ellen was ostracized by many in the village. It was during this dark period of her life, when she was unwanted, shunned, and essentially banished from the community, that she found the Lord.
I am the son of Ellen, and the product of that shameful pregnancy. I don’t need to tell you that growing up with this kind of history surrounding my birth was a painful reality. And yet, the experience of poverty, shame, and pain that I inherited from Ellen totally transformed my life for good. Below is the tribute I read at her funeral. It explains why my mother is a woman to remember.
We Shall Never Forget
We’ve gathered here this morning because our lives have been greatly impacted by a woman who understood the trials, pains, and joys that are common to most of us. During the course of her life, she shed many a tear, made many a mistake, and experienced the harsh realities of many a broken heart, a broken home, and a broken hope. But the Lord employed all these tragedies to develop in that woman some great virtues of the Christian character—love, contentment, compassion, meekness, thriftiness, a sense of justice, courage, and a forgiving spirit. That remarkable woman was our dear mother.
It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of sorrow that I stand here, on behalf of my brothers and sister, to pay this tribute to our mother. Of her seven children, I am her last-born. I was nicknamed Koo, which was a short form for a phrase in my language which meant “the Tuesday-born child who cried a lot.” Since I was called Koo, our mother was fondly named Koo Mui (Koo’s mother).
Permit me now to share with you some reasons why we shall never forget Koo Mui.
1. The Importance of Remembering. My mother taught us never to forget our identity, history, and life experiences. I remember the advice she gave me several years ago, around 3:00 AM, on the last day of a visit I had made to our home-village. I was there to break the news to my mother that the Lord had opened a way for me to go to Sweden, and that if all went well, I would go from there to the United States for advanced studies.
After spending a full day with my mother, during which time she retraced our family history and called my attention to some individuals to whom she owed a great debt of gratitude for their kindness and support at critical times in her life, I finally retired to bed around 10 p.m. By our village standards, we stayed up late—and I needed to get up early to catch the first bus out in the morning. After what seemed like a short sleep, my mother awakened me thirty minutes before the time we had agreed on. I supposed she had made a mistake, not having either a watch or an alarm clock.
But she had not made a mistake. She wanted to talk to me some more. She wanted to give me some final advice before I left for Sweden and possibly for the promised land of America:
“My son,” she began, “in a few days time you will be leaving the country. You will not be the first person from this village to travel abroad, and you certainly will not be the last. It is not my intention to give you a lot more advice this morning, for whatever I need to tell you about life I have already told you in the past. But since it is possible that you will not come to see me alive, I want to offer you three final pieces of advice. If you heed them, the journey you are about to embark upon will be prosperous. Here they are: `As you go away, remember that you are not like any other person; remember your past; and remember the home you come from.'" With these words, she prayed for me.
Those words—“Remember that you are not like any other person; remember your past; and remember the home you come from”—may not mean much to some people. But those very unusual parting words meant a great deal to me then, and still do.
You see, Mother did not offer me an advice regarding how I should physically conduct myself in foreign lands so as to be wealthy, successful, or famous. She did not enjoin upon me an obligation to send money home for her upkeep; nor did she remind me of the urgent need to send some financial help towards the repair of her leaking roof and her mud-house which was then being eroded by the heavy rains.
Instead, her parting words simply called upon me to remember certain facts about who I was, about my past and my family background. She understood that the past, the present and the future are united in the pregnant word remember. The memory of the past (retrospective aspect) is to lead to right action in the present (contemporary aspect), and is to inspire faithfulness in the future (prospective aspect).
Mother wanted me to remember my identity, history, and life-experiences. Those who easily forget the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. That is why we have compressed ourselves into this small village to remember an otherwise ordinary woman who taught us some important lessons about life.
2. The Love for Family. My mother dearly loved all her children and grandchildren.
I remember how she would often employ her wrath against anyone who would attempt to take advantage of them. More significantly, our mother also dearly loved her in-laws. Unlike some mothers who interfere in the homes of their children, our mother embraced her in-laws as her own children and worked to strengthen their homes.
3. The Value & Dignity of Work. Although Mother was poor, she was a strong, hardworking, and resourceful woman. I remember how she would often walk to the banks of the Volta river, cross it by a canoe, and walk several hundred miles to the main town in the Eastern region, to buy and sell petty items.
Through her example she taught us about the value and dignity of honest work. She constantly reminded us that work is not something to frown upon, nor a thing to be considered distasteful, wearisome, or monotonous. It is a gift to be cherished.
This mental attitude to work not only militates against idleness and laziness (2 Thess 3:10; Prov 6:6-11; 24: 30-34), but it also challenges us to be resourceful. If we have no employment, we must look for one; if we lose one job, we must search for another. And wherever possible we must create work for our own selves, rather than looking up to others to give us work.
4. Contentment with Little. My mother was not affluent or materialistic. She was content with the little she had. Instead of demanding from her children and grandchildren, she generously shared with them the little she had. Throughout her life she lived a very simple life. She was a humble woman who practiced frugality so her children would not lack basic needs.
I remember one incident that happened just about four months before her death. Upon hearing of her paralyzing stroke, I quickly came down for a brief visit. We spent about two hours together. While my sister-in-law was clipping her toe nails, my mother revealed to us that in order not to be a burden upon anyone, she had been secretly saving money in her room to cover her funeral expenses. When she disclosed the location to me, and asked me to count how much she had saved, we were surprised that part of her savings were in old currency—some dating as far back as the colonial and post-independent era!
The point is: Even in poverty and sickness, she was planning not to burden others.
5. The Value of Biblical Christianity. Because she was orphaned at the age of 14 and had to take care of her younger sister of 4, and because she had no father or mother to provide for and watch over her, during much of her life she sought spiritual help and protection from different pagan gods. She also sought meaning in life by experimenting with all kinds of animistic rituals and practices that came to her notice. None offered the comfort, hope, and peace she sought.
It was only in the context of biblical Christianity that she eventually found hope in life. In Jesus Christ she found the answer to her heart’s longings. He became the source of her comfort and joy. Since then, she always made it a point to remind us that although human beings, wealth, health, and power would fail us, Jesus would never fail us.
I remember how several times in my childhood years, she would sit me down, narrate the account of her painful adult life and the circumstances leading to her conversion. Each time she recounted those personal experiences, she would conclude by saying: “If Jesus never gave up on me, He would also never give up on you; and neither should you give up on anyone.”
6. Courage to Stand for the Right. My mother taught us to stand for what we know to be right, no matter what. In her opinion, those who lack the courage of convictions never prosper and cannot be trusted.
I remember how often she referred to the difficulties and ridicule they suffered when she embraced the Christian faith. In those days, being members of a new Christian church—a Sabbath-keeping Protestant denomination—in her African village was not easy or popular.
For example, members of the fledgling Seventh-day Adventist church experienced ridicule for keeping God’s seventh-day Sabbath (they were referred to as Memeneda foo, “the Saturday people”). The few women who joined their congregation were also mocked and considered ugly because they would not adorn themselves with ornamental jewelry. And since they were very poor, following the Bible’s health teaching against eating unclean animals was at times extremely difficult. Also, returning tithe and offerings on their meager resources was equally not easy. Even the first song they learned in their local language to express the newly found freedom and assurance in Christ (the song was “There’s Power in the Blood”), earned them the nickname of Mogyamto foo (the “in-the-blood” people, an expression that was calculated to suggest that their faith involved some bloody pagan rituals).
Mother recounted these experiences, not only to highlight the need to stand for what we know to be right, but also to emphasize (with examples) that those who took their biblical faith seriously were relatively more blessed than those who buckled under peer pressure.
7. Selfless Giving and Service. My mother was willing to give her best and her all to the Lord who had saved her. Having experienced in life the pardoning grace of God, she was very desirous to honor God and to contribute to His work, though she often didn’t have the means to do so.
I remember how she was so eager to give to the Lord that, on one occasion, after successfully raising enough capital to purchase two live chickens (hens), she dedicated one of them to the Lord. The eggs laid by “God’s hen” were always sold and the proceeds were gladly returned to God as tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10).
God blessed Mother abundantly. The other hen laid enough eggs, hatched many chickens, and the proceeds of the sale generated a steady source of income to supplement her meager resources to provide for her family and also to help other needy people—both individual people and the community.
8. Concern for the Needy. Because of her early life as an orphan, she was very sensitive to the needs of the poor and defenseless. One expression of her concern for the underprivileged was her impatience for anyone or anything she perceived as unjust.
I remember how our mother would sometimes take it upon herself to ‘borrow’ other people’s quarrels and fight on their behalf. Though she was not always successful at it, somehow she saw herself as the defender of the despised and oppressed.
I also remember how she always managed to reach beyond her means by providing for the needs of many strangers (especially travelers from despised tribes) who were always welcomed into her small home whenever they passed through our village.
From Mother I learned that giving is not just the responsibility of wealthy people but also the privilege of the poor. She also understood that true giving comes from a willing heart—a heart that is totally surrendered to God. She had experienced God’s grace when she was delivered from the darkness of paganism, and, overflowing with joy, she gave freely in spite of her poverty (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
9. Importance of Education. My mother had no formal education. The lessons that formed the foundation of her character were derived from the school of life’s experiences and from the biblical instructions she later received when she became a Christian. But even though she herself never received any formal education, she saw the value of education. Thus, she encouraged and supported her children and grandchildren to seek education.
I remember the fact that she literally sold everything she had to ensure that I received a secondary school (high school) education and took personal interest in my success at school. I recall, for example, when I was one of the only two day-students in the boarding secondary school of our village, Mother would often wake up early, cook and pack my food, walk me through the forest to the gates of the school, and then before bidding me goodbye she would pray to God to help me in my studies.
This is why, for me, the most tangible way to honor her memory is to live the life she sought to impart and strife to raise up many more future Koo Muis—women who aspire for excellence, academic, professional, and spiritual excellence.
10. Re-Gifting Forgiveness. To ‘regift’ is ‘to give a gift one has received to someone else.’ Forgiveness is one gift we must always regift. From my mother I learned that the greatest gift we can give to the needy is the gift of forgiveness: Forgiving people who have seriously hurt us. We should be always gracious, never giving up on anyone.
As she would often say to me, “If Jesus never gave up on me, He would also never give up on you; and neither should you give up on anyone.” The implications are at least two-fold. First, because Jesus never gives up on us, we must never give up on ourselves. Whatever the besetments in life, we should keep going on.
Second, if Jesus doesn’t give up on anyone, we shouldn’t either. We shouldn’t give up on anyone who has failed and anyone who has failed us. We must we reach out to those who are struggling in life and be ready to forgive those who have hurt us.
Because of Christ’s treatment of us, the FORGIVEN must be FORGIVING. We may have had no choice over the actions of those who betrayed, wounded, or abused us, but we can choose to re-gift to them the divine forgiveness we ourselves have received. When we don’t forgive, we become the slaves of those who hurt us. We also risk losing our salvation. For, whereas a forgiven abuser would be saved, the unforgiving abused could be lost!
When I remember my mother’s words, I think of the words of her Savior on how we are to treat our enemies. Jesus offers four ways to deal with those who have hurt us: “LOVE [be patient and kind to] your enemies, BLESS [speak well of] those who curse you, DO GOOD to those who hate you, and PRAY for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43). If we are to do these four things for our “enemies,” how much more to a friend or loved one at home, work, neighborhood, or church? Believe me, consistently displaying these four graces to those seeking your hurt takes the pain and bitterness from your own heart.
The Women to Remember
Indeed, the measure of a man is determined by the woman who has most impacted his life. In my case, the woman who has impacted me the most in life is Koo Mui. She is a woman to remember.
Far more important than her last name (Korantemah), which I bear in the masculine form (Koranteng), my mother has been the most influential human being in my life because she’s taught me the importance of remembering, love for the family, the value and dignity of work, contentment with little, the value of biblical Christianity, courage to stand for the right, selfless giving and service, concern for the needy, importance of education, and re-gifting forgiveness. .
My mother’s life on earth was marked by many sorrows and pain, all of which developed in her some precious Christian virtues. Ironically, it was my mother’s life of suffering which propelled me to seek meaningful answers to the universal problem of human suffering. That quest ultimately led me to the Lord.
One of my best-selling books, Patience in the Midst of Trials and Afflictions, is my partial answer to this question. The book was dedicated to my two mothers—Ellen Korantemah and Esther Nsiah. It is rather unfortunate that Koo Mui never got to see that book, nor receive it from my hands. Two days after I decided to take my son with me to visit his grandmother, we received the news of her death.
On June 10, 2003, at about 1:30 pm, she took her last breath and went to her peaceful rest at the age of 97. She awaits the glorious resurrection at the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Job 19:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:52-55; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
For a woman who lived a life of toil and pain, her longevity can only be ascribed to the goodness and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At the time of her death she was survived by forty-two (42) grandchildren, seventeen (17) great-grandchildren, and four (4) great, great-grand children. Her favorite Bible passage was Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”). And her favorite hymn was “Ntwa Meho Agyenkwa Brefo” (“Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior”).
This year’s Mother’s Day brings to my mind Koo Mui and the many sacrifices she made for me and several others in her capacity as a mother. She has been gone for some years now, but the principles she held dear and taught me are as profound as when she first shared them.
To all the mothers out there, whether your life has been smooth-sailing or beset with tragedies along the way, thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for teaching us through your life experiences, both your failures and your successes. And thank you for not giving up on us. You are the women to remember. Happy Mother’s Day.
 My mother, Ellen Korantemah (c. 1906-2003), died at the age of 97 after suffering from a stroke. Prior to that time she was a strong woman, able to walk two to three miles a day. Her funeral took place on Sunday, July 13, 2003 in her village in Ghana. Present at her funeral were many church and political dignitaries in the nation. The tribute I read on behalf of my siblings was titled “We Shall Never Forget.” This article is a slight modification of that tribute. I should also mention that in the home in which I grew up, we were privileged to have my mother Ellen and her sister as our two mothers. They taught us to relate to each other as though we came from the same mother and father. Thus, the tribute to my mother was also a tribute to our younger mother Esther.
 In Ghana, the nickname Koo has many meanings. But in my case, “Koo” was abbreviated from the phrase Komla Otsu (a phrase in my mother’s dialect that is equivalent to the Akan expression Kwabena a osu—meaning “the Tuesday-born child who cried a lot”).
 Koo Mui was actively involved in the life of her village community. She was very knowledgeable of the cultural norms of the village. She also seemed to know almost everyone in all the ten villages of her tribe. Thus, until she was physically unable to do so, she attended all funerals, and often served as an undertaker, preparing bodies for burial. She was regularly consulted on the traditional customs and religious practices of her tribe and she actively contributed to the social needs of the people.
 To this end, all the monetary donations/proceeds that were given in lieu of her funeral went to establish a scholarship fund—the Ellen Korantemah Educational Scholarship Fund. This educational scholarship was used to assist needy, but academically worthy, students (a larger percentage of whom were girls) attending the Nkonya SDA Kindergarten, Primary, and Junior Secondary Schools.
*Samuel Koranteng Pipim, PhD—a US-based Ghanaian author, inspirational speaker, and advocate for youth empowerment—was trained in engineering and systematic theology. He is the Director of the EAGLES and ANANSE Centers for Leadership Development. He has authored and co-authored about sixteen books—including his bestselling works Patience in the Midst of Trials and Afflictions, Healed Wounds but Ugly Scars, This Is Love, and Not for Sale. He also serves as a special consultant on Bible projects for Remnant Publications. His latest book is Six More Chances: Success in the Midst of Failure. For more information about the ministry of the author, visit www.EAGLESonline.org.