The Price of Integrity

The day we were to leave for the bush country, our local missionary host and translator, Pete, had taken one of the vehicles to the shop to have some repairs done. We were driving through Ouagadougou (the capital city of the nation of Burkina Faso) picking up a few last minute items, and we passed his vehicle on the side of the road surrounded by local law enforcement.

Sure enough, the mechanic had taken the truck out for a test drive to check on the repairs he had made and, while out, had run a red light. Pete informed us that this could mean as much as a day in our departure as he would have to drive into town and take care of all the paperwork and then make arrangements to get the vehicle released from the impound lot. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us.

Pete pulled our vehicle off to the side of the road to see if he could plead our case to the officers. He was going to try the ‘ol famous excuse:
*I’m a missionary,
*I have all these people from America who are here to identify villages to build deep water wells in,
*we are trying to leave soon,
*this is the mechanics fault not mine so please don’t punish us and keep us from helping others in our country”

Come on, be honest, how many of us have tried that old lame excuse…

Well. to make a long story short, the officers would have nothing of it. They were bound and determined to write this thing up and impound the truck. Pete persisted in stating his case and was pleading for them to make an exception.

Eventually the officers decided that Pete could make the whole problem disappear if he would just make a “cash donation” right there on the spot.

I am embarassed to admit that I thought this was a great solution to the problem…let’s just pay a bribe to the officers and be on our way…after all we had lives to impact!

Pete, unfortunately, would not budge. I couldn’t believe he would be so selfish as to ruin the start of our trip by not simply paying these guys off.

The officers clearly wanted to make a quick buck (and I wanted to help them so we could get moving), but Pete was not not about to cave in to their demands. The officers payoff amount then started to diminish as they asked for less and less money until finally, in exasperation, they said, “Just give us one American dollar.”

I thought to myself, “Pete, you da man!!! I would have caved 20 minutes ago and had to pay a whole lot more, but look, you got them down to a buck! Pay ’em and let’s go…here, I’ll even give you the dollar.”

You can imagine how shocked I was when he not only flatly turned them down but now he was getting angry and his voice was getting louder and louder. Honestly, I was thinking to myself, “Pete, it’s a buck…who cares…we’ll never miss it.” Sadly, I was also thinking, “This could be an answer to our prayers…look, they are letting this go away for 1 dollar. Pay them and let’s get going.”

Then Pete made a statement that I will never forget, “My character and integrity are not for sale…not even for one dollar.”

I am so glad that my son, Logan, got to see what a real man of integrity acts like when times are tough and the pressure is on. But I wish it had been me.

One thought on “The Price of Integrity

  1. kg

    Thanks for your honesty in sharing this story with us! As someone who lived for two years in Burkina Faso, I'm glad your friend didn't cave in. I saw how rampant corruption in government areas such as the police force leads to major issues in the country. People don't trust the government; only people with money can get justice; police and customs agents routinely extort money from average citizens who can't afford it. When we as Americans give in to these bribe requests we condone and perpetuate a system that does major damage throughout the developing world. But when we refuse, we stand up for justice and set an example for Burkinabe who don't realize that this system isn't normal or acceptable. Thanks for sharing this story, and I hope more people follow your friend's example.


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