This is the second part of a series on our West Africa transmitter site from the personal involvement of TWR Canada president Ray Alary. You can read Part 1 here.
I started my West Africa trip with a visit to Ghana to meet our partner there; then it was on to the Ivory Coast. I had been told that I didn’t need a visa to enter the Ivory Coast. The fact was that Americans didn’t need a visa but Canadians did. Apparently, the people thought Canada and the US were just one big country!
I got on the plane in Accra, Ghana, and headed to the Ivory Coast. When I arrived, there was a long line at immigration, and I was one of the last to get through. The immigration officer asked me for my visa. I didn’t have one. He called someone over, and I was led to another part of the airport. To this day, I don’t know where they took me!
They put me in a room and locked the door. There was no one around … just a lot of mosquitoes. I think they released a fresh crop of mosquitoes into the room every 30 minutes. I amused myself by killing them. I’m serious. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t worried about what was going to happen to me. I figured sooner or later someone would come and put me on a plane back to Ghana or South Africa.
Fortunately, I had called the national director of the Ivory Coast to let him know what flight I was on. He knew I was somewhere in the airport. Eventually he showed up with an immigration officer, who took me to an office and promptly took my passport away. It all ended well; he gave me a pass to stay in the country for 48 hours, fined me and said he would give me my passport back when it was time to leave. While I wasn’t in a panic when I was sitting there by myself, the whole experience was still a bit unnerving as this was during my early days in Africa.
Becoming a Big Voice
For 45 years, Radio ELWA had been the big voice proclaiming the gospel in West Africa. They were doing a great job so TWR focused on southern Africa. When their station was destroyed in Liberia, it all changed. Suddenly, TWR was trying to fill the role of being that big voice in West Africa. Yet, at this point, we didn’t have the infrastructure to do it in the way it needed to be done.
I had already been to several offices in Africa, so I thought our office and studio in Abidjan would look the same. This was not the case. The first thing you saw when you came onto the property was a badly built wooden structure. I thought it was a storage shed; it turned out it was a makeshift office. The director lived in the house on the property which also functioned as a studio. The producer of Thru the Bible would sit under a tree in the backyard and prepare his messages. He would only go into the director’s house to record his programs.
It was an amazing experience in many ways. In all my visits, I had seen needs in the other offices, but these needs were at a totally different level. I remember coming away understanding that while we were birthing a ministry there and it would take time to get a proper structure in place, I wanted them to have better facilities. I left with a burden to help them get a better place.
God in his time provided financial resources to begin planning for an office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It was the first step, but it was challenging to purchase land in a city you visited infrequently for only a day or two at a time. But just as God had directed us before, he would do the same here.
We did find a property that already had the beginning of a structure on it. The first floor needed to be torn down and rebuilt. The property was owned by foreigners, and they desperately needed to sell it. We made the offer, and it was accepted. We still didn’t have any idea who would build the building. Would we hire a local contractor, or could we find someone to go there and oversee the project? The latter was our typical process.
Thankfully God was already working that out too; he just hadn’t revealed his plan to us. Rev. Stephen Boakye-Yiadom (international director for TWR Africa), Abdoulaye Sangho (national director of the Ivory Coast) and I chose the property. The actual building of it would have to be handled by someone else. Stephen basically told me to make a plan, figure out how much more we needed to raise financially and then to make it happen.
Fast forward. I returned to South Africa, and I got a brainwave: Garth and Fiona Kennedy! They were members of our local church in South Africa, and they loved adventure. They could oversee building our office in Abidjan. But would they do it?
God had his hand in this. The financial resources were available to cover the cost of the project. Garth and Fiona accepted the challenge: they would move to the Ivory Coast and oversee the building of our new office there. This couple was amazing. They accepted the challenge without knowing the language, without going to the Ivory Coast first and checking it out, and without knowing what they were getting themselves into regarding the building. They just went and began to make things happen! They even took on the challenge of learning the language as they would be the only missionaries on the project.
As construction began, there was increasing tension in the country. The government in power was not in a stable position, and there was constant threat of civil war. At one point in the project, I wanted the Kennedy’s to leave as government forces and local rebels were fighting in the neighbourhood where they were staying. They chose to stay. They weathered the tension and continued with the project.
It is amazing to see how God works in and through our lives. We hope you are encouraged to hear of the steadfast commitment that Garth and Fiona have to the ministry of TWR. Next week we’ll dig in a bit deeper! We look forward to having you read along with us.