May17ThuMay 17, 2018
We landed, and, for the first time in my life, we were received officially by the government. While there was no band, there really was a red carpet. They took our passports and took us to the president’s waiting room. They told us they would get our luggage as well, but it never arrived. We had no luggage, and we didn’t have carry-on suitcases with a change of clothes either. Literally all we had were the clothes on our back … and we were going to have an audience with the president.
We were panicking because we didn’t have anything suitable to wear for the visit. We thought our luggage would arrive the next day only to find out the flight we were on only flew twice a week. Our luggage was not coming anytime soon. It turned out our first two appointment times to meet with the president never happened. That meant we had time to purchase some local clothing. Mine was green, and Stephen’s was gold. To me they looked like pajama’s, but this was all we had. We would visit the president in our pajamas.
On Thursday we got the call. The president would meet with us. We had 30 minutes to present our plan to him. This was not the first time Stephen or I had met with a head of state, and we were not uncomfortable with the meeting itself. We ended up meeting in a room with couches, so it didn’t feel really formal. The president had found out we hadn’t received our luggage so at first he was more concerned about that than our agenda. He called someone in and told them to find our luggage. Finally, we got down to why we were there.
He had been briefed; he knew who we were and why we were there. He made us feel very comfortable. He listened; he asked a few questions, and then told us he would endorse our project, but that we needed to follow the proper protocol and meet the government requirements to get the license. He finished with saying, “I have one condition in my endorsing the project and that is that you will guarantee me that my people will hear the gospel daily.” We had no problem in making that promise!
After many years, God had opened a door for a station in West Africa. It hadn’t been our country of choice; in fact, we didn’t really know a whole lot about it in those days. We were just happy that we could move ahead. We never thought about the challenges we would face. God had opened a door that we could not open, and we were going through it!
We finally got our luggage the night before we left. Our next challenge was to get home. Our plan was to drive to Accra, Ghana, where we had a flight home. When the president learned this, he arranged for a government driver and an official vehicle to take us to Accra.
We had one final surprise in store for us before we left the country. We had been staying in the most expensive hotel in the city. Several times I had told Stephen we should move to a less expensive place. However, all the arrangements had been made by someone for us so we decided to stay. It was my job to pay for the hotel rooms. When I went down to pay, the clerk told us that our bill had already been paid. Impossible. We hadn’t paid. I asked the clerk, “Who paid the bill for our stay?” All he would tell me is that it was someone very high up in the government. In fact, it was the highest person in government who had arranged for the bill to be paid. It was the president himself.
We had come to the country to ask for a license. We didn’t expect this kind of reception from the president. We had come expecting to have a short meeting with him. We knew he might say yes, but there was a bigger chance he would say no. Yet we left with the president not just endorsing the project but caring for us like we were his own family.
The fact was that we were part of the same family, the family of God. Years before we made this visit, the president’s life had been changed. He had accepted Christ as his Saviour, and that life-changing moment had changed him completely. He had become a new creation. He knew that the answer for his country's problems would not be solved just by good governance. He knew that Christ had to be part of that equation. The reason for his favourable response and his generous hospitality was based on his relationship with Christ.
We arrived back in South Africa. The news was positive, and we were over the moon! God had opened doors we could not open. We didn't know that this was the easy part of the process; the hard part was yet to come.