In Africa, religion constitutes a big part of people’s lives as they strive to live according to the scriptures with the hope of earning a seat in Heaven. This way of life sometimes makes it confusing and difficult to know where the boundary between religious fanaticism and spiritual growth is. The inability to draw this boundary almost cost me my opportunity to become a permanent resident in America.
In my senior year of high school in Cameroon, a teacher came into our class to inform us of an opportunity to travel to America through the American Diversity Lottery (DV lottery), a.k.a the American lottery. Foolish as I was, I instantly mumbled, “Playing the lottery is against the Bible.” My classmate heard what I said and replied, saying she believed in it as she knew someone who had played and had gone to America. At the end of classes, she joined the queue of those who were ready to give it a shot. For me the idea was tempting, although at that moment I thought it ran against my beliefs and that I was potentially committing a sin and would lose my seat in Heaven. Nevertheless, I mustered up my courage, borrowed money from a friend to pay for the picture fee, and tried my luck.
After classes that day, I went to meet a neighbor who herself was very religious and asked her if she had ever heard of the DV lottery. She was strongly against it and cited Bible verses to back it up, adding how she had applied for a more expensive opportunity that would randomly grant her a scholarship to study in America. She was so confident and forceful that I was afraid to let her know that I was playing the DV lottery myself. Feeling uncomfortable about what I did, I left her house and went home.
About six months later, my phone rang. It was my teacher informing me that I had won the lottery and had to start preparing my processing documents. Unsure, startled, and still numb with disbelief, I met him and got my ID number to check it online myself. It was true! I had been selected to become a potential American Permanent Resident! The news spread throughout our compound but I found a way to convince everyone it was a hoax. Surprisingly, even the practical religious girl who was against it at the beginning was excited for me, though she herself was unfortunately not selected for the scholarship.
What I learned from this experience was that religion ought to help us grow spiritually instead of preventing us from thinking critically. Also, not every good opportunity is determined by its cost. Sometimes we just need to know more about projects we want to engage in and weigh the risks. Religious fanaticism prevents a lot of Africans from tapping into great opportunities in the name of “it is against the Bible.” I was there once and I almost lost my chance to be where I am today, writing the blog you are reading right now.
The American Lottery is real and so are many other opportunities out there. Don’t stop yourself from seeking and profiting from them in the name of committing a sin. We are often so worried about securing a place in Heaven that we forget to explore and take advantage of all the opportunities and gifts God has provided us here on Earth.