Since I am the financial secretary banking has become a part of my life. I remember the "old" days of name recognition and trust. In the newspaper business you deal in a lot of cash. I would take six or seven open bags of mixed coin to the bank in a wagon and just wheel it behind the counter. When the teller had time he would count it out on his machine and the next time I went to the bank he would enter the deposit amount in the bank book. I must admit I did a little audit from time to time on my own and found a difference of perhaps a dollar or two that could have been my mistake or theirs.
Now let me introduce you to Standard Charter, the bank the church has chosen to deal with all over South East Africa. It is a very large account.
You might remember that we had an excursion to the main office in Lusaka to turn in our signatures so I could write checks on the mission account. This was rather critical as the previous financial secretary had departed six weeks earlier and the mission president was to leave in three weeks.
You also might remember we had failed to supply a cover letter or letter of introduction. This was added the next day. One unforeseen circumstance was Ms. Jane Daka was home sick those two days and the very kind fellow who seemed very knowledgeable was out of his area of expertise and the forms were "lost". They were very apologetic and all was made right and the paper work was now sent to Kenya for approval.
The mission needs money to keep going. We checked but no word from Kenya. They had to do a police check to see that I wasn't a criminal of any sort, spending money they could attach.
The bottom line was no approval, and the old mission president left town. The mission had another couple arrive unexpectedly and we rented an apartment for them. Furnishings and end of month items for all apartment rents, utilities, drinking water, and phone time, plus numerous unexpected items make the 10 pre-signed emergency checks a little inadequate.
Finally, it was time for Sister Chasinda to go to immigration and she had to have a cashier check. No exceptions.
It was time to test the system that had failed us and go to the one branch that we were assured would recognize me and my signature and take care of business.
As you can see a modern branch with 14 teller stations, all manned and the usual 40 -50 people waiting. Going into a bank here usually takes an hour out of your life. You would not believe the patience of these folks. They queue up like good British folks and wait patiently. Very quiet. I do not here whispering, just the TV talking about Mandela and his relatives and the three hearses that are going up his driveway. We are representatives of the church and America and white, and need to be circumspect. We wait patiently until our number finally comes up after one hour.
Then the real waiting begins. Ms. Jane Daka has assured us that the manager will recognize me and my scratchy signature and we will be on our way. We talk to several kind people, including the 3rd and 2nd Branch managers but NEVER see THE manager.
I kept my iPhone so I played games.
The Elders slept.
The Elders went for lunch as they knew they were going to miss dinner.
I WAS LOSING IT! If you know me I really do have a breaking point. At the two hour point I told the two Elders to leave. I was going to take off my tie and badge and raise my voice. It was going to be ugly and from past experience, it does work! You are happy you are correct in your assessment of being wronged but in the end feel bad that a ruckus had to be raised to achieve common courtesy and a correct outcome. Elder Stewart and Elder Shurtz told this old man to "get a grip", and I finally did find a new game to play. They eyed me suspiciously and one or the other stayed very close.
Finally, two hours and 30 minutes after we got our number, a little clerk appeared, smiled and handed us our certified check for 1000 kwacha or about $180 US dollars.
Above, I submit my evidence of 2 hours and forty minutes of standing in the Standard Charter Bank.
Ms. Daka had previously apologized and offered to come to the mission home for our next signature additions to the account. On July the 4th after several failed appointments she appeared and we filled out all the paper work with passports and passport photos, multiple pages signed with the correct boxes "ticked" and then whatever was "ticked" was written out and initialed. It was all preceeded with a cover letter or as they call it a letter of introduction for our newest signatories, President and Sister Erickson.
On July 5th I had to go the bank again. I went with fear and trembling. I went to the same branch where the manager "knew" me and lo a miracle from Kenya had arrived. My little white cherub face and my little pen scratch were in the system.
My new prayer is that in three weeks the Ericksons will be able to sign checks too.
I know this is very trivial but you have heard just a small portion of the back and forth over this matter with many, many people trying to understand their own system of banking. For me, it was the culmination of too many "end of month" items.
I am beginning to understand the accountants I know and should now plot their mood cycles on a monthly and quarterly basis.