Do you ever wonder what it looks like to obey and surrender to what God is asking you to do? Ray continues taking us through the years of his surrender and ministry in this series on his 30 years with TWR.
Having to make choices for our family was something that Sandy and I had grown accustomed to. Had we done right by Erin and Ryan by sending them to Nairobi? The start of our African adventure was not without its challenges.
The story of going to Africa starts on Bonaire. As I had demonstrated the ability to lead, there was talk about where I would go. Both TWR Asia and TWR Africa needed leaders. Sandy and I wanted to stay on Bonaire, but realized that was not possible. We decided to let the HR team make the decision of where we would go.
The process started with an interview with the international director for Africa, Horst Marquardt. Horst had been a part of TWR since the early days of the ministry, and it was an intimidating experience for me! When the interview was finished, I thought to myself, I guess I won’t be going to Africa. My assessment of the interview was that it hadn’t gone very well. But apparently it had. To my surprise, I was being considered as a candidate for the next station director in Swaziland!
The biggest issue in this transition was Erin and Ryan’s education. Where would they go to school? What were the options available to us? In Africa, many of the missionary children go to a boarding school, Rift Valley Academy (RVA), in Kenya. RVA was a long way from Swaziland. If our children went there, we would see them only three or four times a year. Because this was the norm, we decided to apply, but they were put on a waiting list. Based on our limited knowledge of the system, it did not look good for them to be able to attend.
All of sudden we didn’t have a place for our children to attend school, and we didn’t know any alternatives. Then we learned that a new Kindergarten – 12 grade school was starting in Nairobi. They were able to accommodate our kids, and arrangements were made.
Arriving in Africa was so different. Nairobi was nothing like anywhere I had ever travelled before. It seemed like there were no rules! When we arrived at our accommodations, we discovered Sandy and I were staying in a dorm style room with bunk beds and a shared bathroom. This was a surprise to us! In later years, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but to arrive in a hot, dirty African city where we knew no one at this point was traumatic. Sandy and I looked at each other and said what we had said on our first night on Bonaire: what have we gotten ourselves and our children into?
Next we went to where our children would be staying. Rather than a dorm, they were staying in an apartment with a total of six high school students – two boys and four girls. The apartment had no fridge or washing machine. The dorm parents had no car to run errands, and they were no better prepared to be in Africa then we were. Ryan’s roommate was Korean and spoke no English. Erin’s situation was a little bit better, but not much.
Ryan was used to wide-open spaces and spent his free time outside. Now he was going to live in an apartment in a city where crime was everywhere and even crossing the street was dangerous. In addition to this, the schooling had not worked out. Now they had to go to Rossyln Academy, a Christian school in the city that was a 45-minute bus ride on a good day. All of these things added up to put an uneasy feeling in our stomachs. We contemplated not leaving our children there, but knowing so little about what we were getting into, we decided to see what happened.
In the meantime, we got word that now there was room for the children at RVA in Kenya. Since we had paid a substantial non-refundable fee, we stuck with our current plan. We didn’t have the resources to pay double, so we decided to see if we could make this work. In hindsight, we should have found the funds.
After a few days with the Erin and Ryan, Sandy and I headed to the airport with a lump in our stomachs. We were on our way to South Africa. Yes, South Africa, not Swaziland as was the original plan. How did this happen? After it was decided that we were going to Swaziland, I asked for our shipping address there. To my surprise, I got a fax back telling us that we were now being transferred to South Africa!
I hadn’t agreed to this! In fact, I didn’t know anything about it! There was no real discussion about this change; however, I did as I was asked and arranged for my container to go to South Africa.
It turns out that leadership in Africa felt we should go to South Africa first (our African Regional Office is there) so I would understand how Swaziland fits into the overall ministry in Africa. This meant I would need to travel extensively throughout the continent to each one of our ministry offices.
I knew very little about Africa. I had no clue that there were 54 countries in Africa. I had no clue that TWR was working in over 40 of those countries. I would learn a great deal over the next 13 years!
In the next blog, you’ll hear why Ryan and Erin ended up transferring schools and how we were once again faced with culture shock.
Did you miss the first chapters? Find them here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4