Yesterday evening, I went for my first bike ride with my grandson. We live on a cul-de-sac so he has learned to ride there, but this ride was 2km with the two of us riding side by side. The day was beautiful, and there were many people cutting their grass, so Alex asked me, "Is this grass cutting day, Grandpa?" He is such a delight to be with, always full of questions and observations.
As I sat down to write this prayer letter, I started thinking about some of my firsts. One immediately came to mind: the first time I shared my testimony, I was traumatized! How could I fill the 3 minutes I was allocated? What would I say? Well, you all know that I no longer have any trouble speaking for 30 minutes!
In July, we will complete 30 years of official service with TWR; Sandy and I were accepted and told that the greatest need for us was on the island of Bonaire. The first thing we had to do was look at a map and find out where Bonaire was. The second place they mentioned was Swaziland; we had to look again to find out where that was as well.
We have had many more firsts since then. The first we arrived on Bonaire as a family we had miscommunicated the arrival time, so there was no one there to meet us. We sat at the airport waiting for someone to arrive so we could spend our first night on Bonaire. There were many firsts on Bonaire: it was the first time our children went to a school in a language they did not speak; the first time we went diving; the first time we went sailing. However, the most important first was realizing the role that radio played in reaching the world for Christ. I clearly remember my friend, Dan Canfield, who oversaw the programming aired in Brazil, sharing stories from the Amazon Basin of Brazil. Those stores are what got me up in the middle of the night when there was trouble with the generators that powered our super-powered transmitters. Years later, when I was living in Africa, I would meet a listener in Angola who told me that it was because of those broadcasts that he was a missionary in Angola. (read that story here
Another first on Bonaire was my serving in an administrative role with TWR. When I was asked to do this, I thought that this was not a wise idea. I was a technician and loved being a technician; I had no aspiration to be in an administrative role. In fact, I didn't always have positive thoughts toward administration! Yet God had other plans, and eventually I agree to take a role in administration. This was the first time I realized how difficult it was for those leading the ministry.
This position started me on a journey of endless firsts: first time I led a team; first time I led meetings; first time I prepared budgets, to name just a few firsts. I came to the realization in this process that I couldn't do what I was being asked to do using my own skills and my own wisdom. While I had trusted God in many ways, this job took me totally out of my comfort zone, and I had to put everything into God's hands; I had do say to Him, "I can't do this myself. The only way I can do it is if I totally depend on you." God gave a portion of Scripture at that point in time that I have read and shared many times; it is Joshua 1.
The firsts continued beyond Bonaire. I was asked to go to Africa and take the leadership of the station in Swaziland. Another first for our family. We had gotten very comfortable on Bonaire. I had become the Program Director for ministry in Latin America and the Caribbean, and was the Interim Station Director. Going to Africa was going to be a stretch for us; we were so comfortable on Bonaire and didn't really want to leave.
The firsts in Africa were many as well: first time to a game part; first time summiting the highest peak in a country; first time meeting with the king of a country; first time meeting with a prime minister and a president of a country; first time really seeing poverty, war and the effects of a pandemic (AIDS). All of these deeply affected me in ways I could never have imagined. My passion to share the Gospel increased; the urgency of sharing the Gospel increased. This was the first time all of the above were at our doorstep. The poverty wasn't a country away; it was at our doorstep. AIDS was affecting our staff as many of them had relatives who were dying of this deadly disease.
During our time in Africa, God opened a door for TWR to build a new station in West Africa. This again was a first for me as I was asked to be the project manager. That meant I had to work with government officials to finalize a license. We had to arrange for a transmitter, antennas and heavy equipment. We had to raise the resources to build the site. These were all firsts for me.
I have shared mostly about my firsts, but this was not just about me. It was about a family who was willing to go through all these firsts right alongside me. The journey was not an easy one. We had challenges with education. We had to deal with living and adjusting to multiple cultures, with the stresses of living in countries where crime was epidemic. Not only did Sandy walk the journey with me, my children did as well.
This prayer letter is dedicated to my family who have walked with me through many firsts and who have supported me through the entire journey. This prayer letter is also dedicated to all of you who have been a part of an extended family who have carried us in prayer for over 30 years. I am thankful for all of you.
There is much more to this story. One thing that stands out is the support Sandy and I received during Sandy's illness. It was overwhelming. You will never know how much your prayers, cards, and phone calls were appreciated.
Thank you from the Alary family.