On the 16th of May, I boarded a plane for West Africa. Along with me were two staff members and 5 friends of the ministry. There were many reasons for us to make the trip. I had meetings with associates who wanted to strengthen their relationship with TWR Canada, launch Discipleship Essentials in Africa, and dedicate the new sawmill.
When it’s this hot and humid, your energy level is greatly diminished. You cannot imagine having to be out in heat like what we experienced in West Africa all day. You have to drink lots of water just to stay hydrated, and you are so happy when you get back to your air-conditioned room at the end of the day.
There were 7 Canadians wondering why they agreed to do this trip with me.
When I lived in Africa 20 years ago, the heat seemed normal after living in the Caribbean. Now, I wonder if it really was this hot and this humid 9 years ago. I’m told it was, but it felt a lot hotter this time.
TWR Canada has had a passion to reach into this part of the world for many years. Most of the countries in West Africa are divided by a Christian south and a Muslim north, and we want to minister to both of these groups. From our transmitter site in West Africa, we can reach 9 countries and an estimated population of 185 million people. TWR Canada’s latest project was to raise funds for a backhoe and sawmill for the transmitter site. (You can read more about this project here.
Speaking at the dedication for the sawmill.
The sawmill will be used to mill the white teak trees we have planted and will harvest on our property. (The sawmill will turn round trees into flat wood planks for construction.) We started planting these trees when we began the transmitter project 15 years ago and in two years, the first of those 26,000 trees will be ready to harvest.
The trees are a renewable resource and our plan is for this to be an ongoing source of income. Initially, we thought we would start harvesting sooner, but we need to be patient and allow the trees to grow to maturity. In the meantime, the team will become familiar with the sawmill and how to use it by milling the wood stockpiled from clearing the property. It will be sold or used for onsite construction projects.
Every member of our team worked at the transmitter site doing repairs or by assisting a sister mission with projects they wouldn’t normally get to. One of our team members, who by the way is 79 years old, taught a local worker how to use a bulldozer to repair roads. We used the newly arrived backhoe to dig a trench to install a culvert for drainage. Maintaining the property in West Africa is no easy task and the seasonal rains require constant vigilance and the right equipment to ensure that our property remains accessible.
Ray and a Canadian volunteer burying a culvert to help maintain an access road during the rainy season.
Ray using his mechanical skills to assist with repairs on an electrical problem at the guesthouse where we were staying.
The team in West Africa is a very committed group. Missionaries Garth and Fiona Kennedy rely on a team of local staff to keep the operation running. The team they have is amazing. Garth and a former missionary with TWR trained the local staff. Many of them had no experience when they joined the team using this kind of equipment, and today they can run the operation in Garth’s absence.
This station is a light in a country where Voodoo is a recognized religion and a third of the population is Muslim. The station shines in the midst of all this. The transmitter site broadcasts our radio programs, but also supplies maize (corn) grown on the property to widows in town, and a lake we made on the property allows staff and local women to take fish from our pond. Garth and Fiona have a burden for the people that surround them, so they are seeking to ensure staff children get an education so that they can look after their parents in their old age. We have started this process by planting cashew trees and we will in time sell the nuts in the local market.
Coming to West Africa always reminds me of how privileged we are here. It’s a six hour drive to the transmitter site from the coast. On the road we passed hundreds of transport trucks that are all underpowered. The poverty here, the lack of reliable electricity, lack of reliable water systems, makes me appreciate Canada even more. God used Africa to mature me spiritually and to make me sensitive to the people of this continent.
With privilege comes responsibility. Christ gave us the Great Commission to bring the gospel to the world. TWR has taken on this responsibility and is broadcasting the gospel message so that the people in West Africa can hear the Word. The team at the West Africa transmitter site has taken that command to another level; they live it out in front of their family and neighbours on a daily basis. What a blessing it was to be there in spite of the conditions and the hot weather. For more pictures about this trip, make sure you visit our website here. *Featured photo at top: Ray with Station Director Garth Kennedy in front of the generators that have powered the West Africa transmitter since 2008 when it first began broadcasting.*Save