Rev. Kenety Sonsanah Gee, Associate Pastor, St. Peter’s
Our nation is rich with natural resources such as iron ore, gold, diamonds, natural rubber, vast forest for logging and timber harvesting, and massive agricultural land to ensure abundant of food for the population. Thanks to the Almighty, who endowed our nation with such riches. All these natural resources and rich agricultural land should to an extent make any nation self-reliant. Yet, according to the World Food Program, Liberia ranks 182nd of 187 countries in the human development index. An estimated 64 percent of our population lives below the poverty line and almost 1.5 of our 4.5 million people live in extreme poverty. This means they live in very poor housing conditions, unable to afford daily meals and with no descent clothing. The country is vulnerable to economic shocks as we are witnessing right now, with the daily climb of the exchange rate and corresponding rise in commodity prices. We are a people thirsty in the midst of rivers of waters, poor in a rich land.
So, who is the enemy to Liberia’s progress and where does it reside? There is a proverb that says, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.” Liberia has an enemy within the confines of our borders. An enemy that resides in the land with us, yet opposes our progress and advancement. The enemy lives here, eats here and enjoys every national privilege, yet still opposes the advancement of this nation. It is a stubborn and relentless foe; an adversary and unyielding antagonist that won’t let this country take its rightful place within the community of nations. Until this enemy is captured, expelled and exorcised from among us, our motherland will continue to struggle and our population languish endlessly in poverty.
It was the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self. To be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”
The enemy within is our collective thought process as a nation. We have a thinking problem in this country. First, we think our salvation will come from the outside. Yet, at 171 years as an independent nation, that has not happened but we continue to think and act the same way, while expecting a different result.
God has endowed our nation with wealth, yet we never thoroughly exercise ourselves in the proper management of our natural resources. Instead our leaders spend millions each year, traveling to beg other nations to support our wellbeing although that has not worked for almost two centuries.
Being a begging nation and expecting to be a successful country does not work. It has not worked! This is not to say that as a developing nation, we should reject outside aid, but outside aid should serve as supplement to the management of what God has given to us. What brings success to a nation is rightful thinking, hard work and proper management of our God-given resources, including the intelligent and capable people among us.
Our collective thoughts as a people have the power to shape our collective lives and the destiny of our land. We think our nation will be developed by the tax dollars of other nations; so, generations after generations of leaders are on the road weekly seeking donor money, yet never spending enough time to think of the management of our God-given natural resources and their right management.
Our present President didn’t beg to be the World Best, Africa Best and Europe Best. All the accolades he received during his football career, he earned his honors by digging deep and working hard for it.
We should learn from the life our President. He put his natural talent to work for him, so why aren’t we putting our natural resources, including our intelligent and capable people to work for the prosperity of our nation? The life of our President teaches us that if you do the right things, success will come to you. If the President had done shady things and cut corners during his football career, he would have never reached the pinnacle of the game.
We do not think that Liberians can own big businesses such as supermarkets, manufacturing plants and others, so others enjoy the cream of our land while we are left with the crust.
Right thinking comes with right words; words we use to refer to our population.
I am just thinking, why instead of “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” as was in the previous administration, we replace it with “Wealth Creation Strategy” in this administration. How will that help people think differently? instead of “Pro Poor,” we have a “Pro Wealth” — a government agenda that seeks to create wealth among its citizens.
Now with the “pro poor agenda,” we see around our nation today, everything is “pro poor.”
These days people can be heard saying, “I am in my pro poor corner. Eating my pro poor food,” etc. We even now have songs promoting the idea of pro-poor.
Whether, it’s “Poverty Reduction Strategy” or “Pro Poor Agenda,” how are these catchy phrases helping Liberians think of our population? If we had a “Pro-Wealth Agenda,” what would people think and say; ‘I am in my pro wealth corner?’ or ‘Eating my pro wealth food or pro wealth song?’ If “pro wealth” was what people heard and said every day, it will certainly ignite different thinking among our people.
Poverty begins in the mind. As a nation, let’s feed our people positive thoughts and positive words, from government agendas to the way we treat one another at our businesses and offices. Helping people to think and act for themselves is the best way to empower people to better living.
In addition to being an ordained minister, Rev. Gee works in strengthening healthcare systems, and building career pathways and work force solutions in Liberia. Currently, Executive Director at Liberia Career Pathways, Rev. Gee, was founding President/CEO of Chicago Global Health Alliance also served as Executive Director for the Chicago Diabetes Project at the University of Illinois at Chicago- School of Medicine, Division of Cell Transplantation. In his previous role as President/CEO of Chicago Global Health Alliance, Gee lead the effort to develop a global team of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and clinical psychologists to make lasting social impact in underserved communities in Chicago and the developing world.
The Rev. Gee served as a pastor at Chatham Fields Lutheran Church in Chicago, for about 14 years, where he strived to balance his pastoral heart and entrepreneurial/philanthropic spirit. Gee holds a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary– St. Louis, MO., a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Management from the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, and a Master of Science degree in Global Health from Northwestern University in Chicago. He has also done additional graduate work at the University of Chicago. An avid runner, Kenety has run a total of 10 marathons, in Chicago and New York. Last year Rev. Gee, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, making him one of very few Liberians to climb the third highest elevation in the world. Gee speaks four languages including fluent conversational French.