This is the final blog in the series on our West Africa transmitter site from the personal involvement of TWR Canada President Ray Alary. Catch up on the ones you’ve missed:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
Sandy and I were so convinced that we would remain in South Africa that we applied for permanent residence there, and it was granted. We loved Africa! We loved our life, and most of all, we loved the ministry. TWR Africa had experienced years of rapid growth. The impact was great, and we had the privilege of having a part in all of it. Our lives were full; we were established in a local church, and we felt like we were part of the South African community.
Then, when I was 45 years old, I was asked to consider coming back to Canada to take a leadership role in the home office. Sandy and I didn’t even have to think about that: the answer was no. We loved serving in Africa! We loved the scenery, not just the beautiful scenery you could see with your eyes; it was much more than that. It was the people and the ministry. It was everything about Africa.
But then the scenery changed. Stephen Boakye Yiadom, a leader who had instilled in me his passion for Africa, suddenly died, followed by the passing of Andrew McDonald. These names may mean nothing to many of you, but they were part of what made the ministry in Africa such a beautiful thing. It was the three of us in leadership, working together towards a common goal. While we didn’t always agree with each other, we worked together in a way that brought glory to God.
If you have been following my blogs, you have already read how the deaths of these two brothers caused me to come to a point where I had to return to Canada. In every way, this was a significant change in scenery. Africa and Canada are in many ways such direct contrasts to each other. Canada has good roads, good hospitals, and, for the most part, we are a land of plenty. Africa is, in many places, a place where people have nothing.
For 21 years I had told everyone I loved living overseas … and I meant it. Why would I return to Canada when I was happy overseas? All of sudden I had to be careful about making that statement. God was speaking to me. He hadn’t just brought me home to rest and recover. He was about to reveal to me that it was time for a change in scenery again. He had given me 13 wonderful years in Africa, but as it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything. I realized that there was a time to be in Africa and a time to be in Canada. God was clearly showing us that our ministry in Africa needed to come to an end. After 22 years, it was time to come back to Canada.
I wish I could tell you that I just simply said yes, that I immediately was ready to leave one place and go to another, but that wasn’t the case. Both Sandy and I knew that every transition is difficult, and we were conflicted. Who would fill my position? We had great friends we would have to say goodbye to. It wasn’t going to be simple. Even though we knew it was time and we knew that there would be a position for me to serve in, we still wanted to be in Africa.
We had all the common struggles that many people have when it is time to return home. Would serving at home have the same value as serving abroad? Would the people I was serving with look down on me because they would continue serving in Africa and perceive that I was taking an easier path by returning home? What would my supporters think of me returning home? Had I failed in my missionary service? There were many other questions. Would we be able to make friends back in Canada after being away for so many years? How would we fit into Canadian society? In many ways, we were more African than Canadian.
It is amazing what happened next. God simply gave us peace in our hearts that this was the right thing to do. It was indeed the right time and, even more than that, God had a role for me in Canada: TWR Canada President. Interestingly, I had already said no to this position 10 years earlier! In fact, I had told the then-president to ask me again in 10 years. Almost to the day, I was asked that question again by the next president, who had no idea I had been asked the same question 10 years earlier. God had allowed me to serve for 22 years overseas so I would have the skills to take on this new challenge. And God had prepared our hearts for a change in scenery.
As I pen this blog, I am fast approaching the 10-year mark as president of TWR Canada. Over the last 9 ½ years, I have seen a lot of scenery as I have criss-crossed the country many times. I have completed 31 years of service, and while the scenery has changed many times, there has been one scene that has not changed since I began the journey: the presence of God in my life.