TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
This blog is going to be a trip down memory lane. I landed in South Africa at 2:45 a.m. By the time I left the airport, it was almost 4 a.m. There were no real problems; it simply took that long to get through immigration, pick up my luggage, pick up my car rental and get out of the airport. The first few kilometers of driving on the opposite side of the road are always a bit unnerving; you have to concentrate on turning corners! Fortunately, I switch over pretty easily. After all, I did drive on the opposite of the road for 13 years. When I finally got to the TWR Guest House, it only took me a few minutes to fall asleep.
When I come back to South Africa, it is like coming home. The office is familiar, and many of the staff give me a great African hug, making me feel like I have never left. We are family to each other; we went through so much together and that truly bonded us together in a very special way.
Lydia used to make coffee for me, and, within a few minutes of being there this time, she asked me if I wanted a coffee. I had brought Burundian coffee for the office. It is my favourite coffee so not only did I get a fresh, hot cup of coffee, it was also my favourite flavour. You might wonder why someone was making me coffee. I can’t answer why as I never demanded it or even asked for it to be done for me. What I do know is that Lydia liked doing this for me; in return, when I lived in Johannesburg, I responded by helping her with things without being asked. That’s how family works.
As you know, one of the things I always enjoy is sharing stories from my latest adventure. I do that here in Canada, and I did it while I lived in Africa. On this trip, I was asked to share in both South Africa and Swaziland. They gave me 30 minutes to share a devotion and some stories. This is extremely difficult as I am not a man of a few words! I went overtime, but no one seemed to care. Again, it was just like I was right back in Africa with the people that we loved so much. There is a saying, “You can take a man out of Africa, but you can’t take Africa out of the man.”
Juliet is one of the people I was close to. We have laughed many times together, and we did it again on this trip. I am known for the commotion and loudness I cause. When Juliet and I are together, it's even louder! Sandy was not with me, and, if she had been, the level of noise would have been even higher. My beginnings with Juliet go back to England. I traveled there when I was in Africa to interview her and her husband. They are Ghanaian by birth but were living in England when I interviewed them. Obviously, they came to South Africa and joined our team, and the rest is history. Juliet has a level of commitment I have seen in only a few people. She now oversees a major portion of the ministry. However, Juliet doesn’t do it by herself. She has a team: Hanna and Jackie are just a couple of her team members and are also long-time friends of mine.
I could tell stories of so many others in Africa, others who are so special, not just to me, but special to TWR. They serve faithfully and put their heart and soul into the ministry. They have gone through difficult times. Some have experienced family tragedy, and they could have gotten mad at God, but they didn’t. They have continued their journey with God and continue to serve.
The person I have the longest history with is James, and I have written about James in past blogs. James is semi-retired, so I never expected to see him in the office, but he was there when I arrived. James’ history with TWR is long. He started his ministry building Radio 540, a 50kW AM TWR station in Bophuthatswana (now a part of South Africa), then went to Swaziland and then back to South Africa. My first night ever in South Africa, I had supper in his home. Everything I experienced, he was right alongside of me. James is an amazing person! His love of reaching out to the people of Africa has kept him working and serving. When I asked him what he was doing now, he said he was working full-time with Garth in the planning of the “Oasis Transmitter” for West Africa. I shouldn’t have been surprised. James had been instrumental in the first transmitter project there. The experiences around that project made a deep and lasting impact on both James and I.
Writing this blog is very emotional. As I write, there are tears in my eyes. What a privilege it has been to work with this group of people and have the privilege of coming back to give them an African hug – that’s what we do, we hug. We are a team. We work together with one purpose in mind: to bring Christ to the nations of Africa.
As I end this blog, I want to share something I learned from Juliet. I want to share it because it tells me our work is not in vain. This small fact comes from Nigeria. Our West Africa transmitter beams in there, and last year, we received 17,000 responses. Keep in mind that this is from a country that is approximately 50% Muslim!
Our working together as a team is not in vain. People are listening, and their lives are being changed. If I had the time, I would sit down and write about each individual in that office: Anthony, Karen, Gottfried, Nathan. The list goes on and on. They all make it work. Their work is done with purpose, and if you are reading this, you have some tie to me which makes you part of our team as well.