Apr19ThuApril 19, 2018
This past March, missionaries Garth and Fiona Kennedy joined the TWR Canada team on our Alberta ministry tour. This prompted a lot of reminiscing of the time Ray spent in Africa and specifically of his instrumental leadership in the ministry in West Africa and in the obtaining and building of the transmitter site in the West Africa region. This time of reflection combined with the celebration of 10 years for TWR’s West Africa transmitter site brought several stories back to mind for Ray. These are stories of miracles, rejoicing, uncertainty, pain, loss and most importantly, learning to trust God.
We’re about to embark on a blog series where we will be hearing Ray’s perspective of that impactful time. We invite you to sit back, grab a hot beverage and read on!
From Ray …
During my first eight months in Africa, I would visit Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Mozambique. Each experience was different; each country brought the reality to me that Africa would be a totally different experience than Bonaire had been for me. Angola was in the midst of a civil war; Mozambique was so poor that it overwhelmed me. Malawi was the first country I went to where most people on the street were familiar with TWR. It had already had a huge impact there. Zimbabwe was beautiful and prosperous when I arrived; within a year, the county would be in shambles. Kenya seemed dirty to me; traffic congestion in Nairobi overwhelmed me. Kenya was also familiar with TWR, largely because of a single radio program, Thru the Bible, in Swahili. I was so impressed by the impact that TWR was having in Kenya that I wanted to be part of making it possible for the entire continent to hear the gospel.
However, this story doesn’t begin in any of the countries listed above. Trips and the stories that go with them need to be told another time. This is the story of our transmitter, and it begins in West Africa.
The Rest of the Story
I just reread the book, “Reaching Beyond Barriers,” which is the story of how the West Africa transmitter site came into being. I also spent a week with missionaries Garth and Fiona Kennedy who serve in the region, where they have been for 13 years. Reading the book and spending time with fellow workers in Christ brought back a flood of memories for me. As I read the book, I realized that there is much more to the story than we could tell in one book, so I have decided to tell you the rest of the story.
This story is my personal journey; parts of it have never been told before. It will tell about how this project affected not only me but my family as well. It will tell how it brought me to a point where I thought I was experiencing burnout. It will tell in more detail how the deaths of two of my closest friends and co-workers made me question if God really was in control and how I learned the importance of grieving. And it will tell in more detail how we got to meet the president of the country that our transmitter is now in gave his endorsement for this unprecedented project.
There are happy points and sad points in this story. Looking back, I can see that God is sovereign and his ways are perfect, but I didn’t see it at the time.
Let’s begin with a bit of background on our ministry in West Africa. When I came onto the scene in 1996, there was one office in the Ivory Coast (actually it was a house and a studio with a desk in the backyard). From these very basic facilities, we produced programs that were being aired by short wave to West Africa from South Africa (and for a short time from the Ascension Islands). In addition to this, we were on FM stations in the countries surrounding the Ivory Coast. In many areas the signal was marginal, and we knew that this was not a long-term solution. There was a great need to improve our facilities in the Ivory Coast if we were going to carry on long term. We needed to be a big voice in West Africa! There was simply too much territory to cover by low-powered FM stations, and we needed a big solution.
This is where I enter the story. And shortly after, Garth and Fiona would enter.