Sammy had lived in London for five years. He was from a poor home in Ashaiman and had entered the UK by the most difficult means possible. He had bribed some Lebanese people to get him and 20 other Ghanaians into Morocco, and then they found some really dubious men who charged two thousand dollars per head to ferry people in fishing boats across the sea into Spain. Only eight of the Ghanaians he had come with could afford the fare.

In Spain, Sammy had hit the road, travelling from one town to the next by bus and on foot, from Malaga to Valencia to Barcelona and finally crossing the border at Andorra. After a week of bussing and hiking, Sammy made it into France.

It took twelve abortive attempts and one actual arrest (where the brutality of the immigration officers was caught on camera, leading to the release of all those arrested) before Sammy finally crossed the Channel Tunnel into England. It had not been easy. Neither had been the five years that followed, during which he had done every possible menial task he could find, from cleaning abattoirs to washing old people’s chamber pots to digging graves. But finally, today, after all these years of sweat and toil, all these years of avoiding the authorities, of walking past police officers without daring to look them in the eye, of being knocked over by careless drivers and not being able to claim compensation because he had no legal identification, finally, today, Sammy had his one chance of putting all his problems behind him and gaining legal status in the United Kingdom.

He had found himself a drug addict in the elevator of the council flat where he lived. Her name was Emma. After three months of feeding her and giving her fivers to “buy tampons”, Sammy had finally convinced her to go into an arranged marriage so he could gain his papers. She had played along, and they got married at the city hall. Today was the day he was attending his interview at the Home Office to receive his official five-year visa. Today was the day. And he had been in the washroom for thirty minutes, sick with nerves. There was so much at stake. But he had come too far to give up. So he prayed.

“Oh God, you see all and you know all. You hold our destinies in the palm of your hand. You control the sun, the sea and the skies. You know every hair on our heads and every thought on our minds. I cannot do this, but You can. Please, take control of this interview. Take control of the mind of the interviewer. Fill it with favour. Let him take one look at my documents and approve my application. I cannot do this Lord, but you can. In the name of your son Jesus, I pray, Amen”. Suddenly, he felt calm. He walked out of the washroom with a serene smile on his face. He sat down next to Emma and patted her hand comfortingly. Everything was going to be alright. God was in control.

One hour later, they were both in jail.

Now, how many of you are surprised? How many of you came along with me through this story, believing that it was all going to end well for long-suffering Sammy? After all, he had said such a beautiful prayer. Well, he had. He had prayed beautifully to God, asking for help to break the law. Or maybe Sammy simply deserved a break because he had worked so hard to get where he was. Well, he had. He had worked hard doing the wrong things. He had illegally crossed seven borders and illegally got seven jobs to get where he was. If he had applied the same energy he had directed into all that illegal activity into one legal business venture here in Ghana, Sammy would probably have been a millionaire in five years.

My friends, God is not a genie in a bottle. He is not some deity with a shrine who grants us wishes and curses our enemies. This world exists on the principle of balance. Positive efforts yield positive results and negative effort… well, you can complete that sentence yourselves. If you have been praying all this time for just one dodgy government contract to save your business, for just one crooked headmistress to accept your fat envelope to give your lazy child admission they didn’t qualify for – if you have been praying all this time for your boss to be sacked so you can get promoted… then don’t be surprised that it hasn’t happened. You can’t dip a bucket in a septic tank and come up with pure water. Put your energy into positive things and positive things will happen to you. Good will always produce good.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I want the best, so I do my best.