Colonel Jonfia goes home!
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Colonel Jonfia goes home!

On Friday, June 14, 2024, the funeral service of Colonel (Rt Rev) William Jonfia (Rtd), former Chaplain-General of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), was held at the Garrison Methodist-Presbyterian Church, Burma Camp. 

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He was also the first Chaplain-General of the Ghana Prisons Service, having been seconded there from the Ghana Armed Forces from 1982-1985 to set up a Chaplaincy Department.

Born in 1936, “Uncle Old-Man” or “Paa Jonfia” or “Sofo” as he was affectionately called, died at a ripe old age of eighty-eight (88) years. Commissioned in 1973, Col Jonfia’s 20 years service in the GAF saw him serve twice as a peacekeeper with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The funeral was attended by the top brass of the Ghana Armed Forces led by the Chief of the Defence Staff, retired Generals and Senior Officers of the Ghana Armed Forces, family, MPs, Chiefs, Prison Officers, representatives of various churches he served in, and a cross-section of Society.

As would be expected, the Clergy were very heavily represented with over 50 revered ministers. Also in attendance were the Garrison-Methodist-Presbyterian Church Choir, the Ghana Prisons Interdenominational Church Choir, the Ghana Armed Forces Band and the Prisons Dance Band.

Tributes read about him extolled his virtues as a humble, hardworking, humourous and honest man who from humble beginnings became the great man of God he was.

Sermon

Delivering the homily, the Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church of Ghana, Most Rev. Dr Paul Boafo, spoke on the theme, “What is your Life?” Talking about the brevity and transience of life, he quoted from James 4. 14 which reads,

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!” He humorously said between the year of birth and year of death, as inscribed on tombstones, in the case of Col Jonfia, 1936-2024, is a little hyphen/dash. That little hyphen represents the legacy one leaves as an individual.

He exhorted the congregation to avoid the negative and arrogant attitude that success often brings. He asked us to remember our Creator in all we do quoting James 4: 15 “Instead, you ought to say “if the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that’’

He also reminded the congregation of the expression “memento mori” by the second century Christian writer Tertullian, who said that, during the triumphal procession after success in war, a victorious General had someone standing behind him, holding a crown over his head and whispering, “Remember you are mortal. You will die!”

The Presiding Bishop added that death was a journey every human being would undertake. He therefore questioned the irrational greed that makes human beings amass everything in sight.

On death, I would add that, even Methuselah died after living for 969 years.

Discussion

Known for his humility, sense of humour and affability, Sofo Jonfia had a reputation of offering his visitors tea irrespective of the time of the day they visited. Similarly, his hosts were made to know that, Sofo must be offered tea anytime he visited. Indeed, he was known for regularly visiting his church members wherever he served.

A retired medical doctor shared an experience he had as a young doctor. A very rich man who had been on admission started telling the doctors and nurses in Twi that, “owuo mpe sika,” to wit “death does not like/accept money!” Asked why the statement, he said he realised he was going to die. If death accepted money, he would have paid death off for his life.

In recent times, there have been a few examples of very rich relatively young people who would happily have paid off death with their unimaginable unexplained wealth, for their lives.

What legacy did they leave? A legacy of wickedness and evil as in Genesis 6:5, and corruption and violence as in Genesis 6: 12-13? Sadly, graft/greed has so contaminated our society that, doing the right thing looks wrong. While the wrong and indefensible are defended as one hears on radio/TV routinely, evil never wins!

As the Presiding Bishop concluded in his homily “What is your life?” we must remember that, there is a day of reckoning where we shall all have to account for our lives here on earth.

While James in the Bible describes life as a “mist,” Shakespeare in his tragedy Macbeth, says “Life is but a walking shadow….!”  “Mist” and “shadow” emphasise the brevity and transience of life, hence the need to eschew greed/avarice!

In the words of the English poet Chaucer in his book “The Canterbury Tales,” “radix malorum est cupiditas,” to wit “greed/the love of money is the root of all evil. Remember the dying words of the patient who repeatedly screamed “owuo mpe sika” (death does not like/want money!” For those happy to destroy Ghana for personal gain through galamsey, remember that, even Methuselah died!!

Mahatma Ghandhi said “there is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed!” May the soul of Col Rt Rev. William Jonfia (Rtd), who left a solid legacy of Honesty, Integrity, Respect and Selflessness rest in peace for his service to Ghana and the world through United Nations Peacekeeping. Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!

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The writer, Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (Rtd) is former CEO of African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya/Council Chair Family Health University College, Accra. 

E-mail: [email protected]

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