What have I gotten myself into? I wondered as the reality of the situation seeped in.
The request had first been made by Elder Frank Gyambibi Kwasi who was the head elder of the Akrodie Seventh-day Adventist Church. After I had heard some reports of the work that the Akrodie church was doing from a retired pastor living in Canada, I was at once interested. I made plans to visit Akrodie, sometime during my stay in Ghana.
Elder Frank had requested that either myself or my father prepare to deliver some messages for the youth program that week, and I had agreed at once. I already had a set plan in mind, to pass along Elder Frank’s request to my father, who I felt would be more suited to preach. He had been an elder for many years, and could speak twi fluently.
Later, upon asking my father, he declined. This was not according to my plan. I told him he had to do it, as a sense of panic flooded over me. I started listing some reasons why he would be the best person for the task at hand.
My father seemed to think that as a young person, it would be a blessing for me to share my testimony with the youth of the Akrodie church. He also thought it would be a good idea to share the experiences that I had gained from travelling. He seemed to think that I had lots of stories to share, because I had travelled a lot.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I told my dad that I had not travelled all that much, and reminded him that because he was older than me, he would have more experiences. Still, my dad was not convinced. He told me matter-of-factly, that I would do it. After countless attempts of trying to persuade him and God, I resigned to my fate. Even up until the last minute, I had tried to get out of it. I had never liked speaking in public, and I reasoned with God that it would be better that He choose someone who spoke well, and knew the language, who I figured would be better qualified. Back in Canada, when someone had asked me if planned on preaching while in Ghana, I laughed. “No way!” I had said then. God certainly has a sense of humour…
But the Lord had spoken to me through the means of a taxicab…seriously. On the day that I was scheduled to speak (after arriving in Akrodie the night before) the words at the back of the taxicab that we took that day, jumped out at me: Fear Not…At that moment, I felt at peace.
While I prepared to share my testimony on the Friday evening, one thing troubled me. Who would translate? I did not speak the language, and was concerned that the message would not be properly communicated. I made mention of this to Elder Frank, who told me not to worry. He would take care of it.
On the Friday, an hour or so before the program was to start, it started to rain heavily. As the staccato rhythm of the raindrops pounded in my ears, I heard Elder Frank tell my dad in twi that he thought it would be best if we cancelled the program. I did not like the sound of this. Frank suggested that I present both messages on the Sabbath back-to-back, but I thought I would be too tired for that. However, I decided to be fully prepared to accept whatever the Lord willed.
A half an hour before the program, the rain stopped. Elder Frank then told me that he thought we should drop by the church and see if anyone would still show up, despite the rain.
When we got to the church, there was only one girl present. She looked at me strangely, but returned my greeting. As I stared at the empty seats, I was already convinced that no one else would show. When it was half past eight, Elder Frank was counting heads. However, soon the number was close to 30, and Elder Frank told me to get ready to speak. I tried my best to mentally prepare myself, but now I had another concern. As I looked into the audience, I realized they were all young children. I had not prepared my testimony for an audience so young. I said a silent prayer, asking the Lord for guidance.
Minutes before I was to present, I also met the person who was going to be translating for me. He was a theology student, and was used to speaking in front of the church. This was comforting.
What happened next was simply miraculous. After I was introduced, I walked to the front, and started speaking. I put aside my tablet and notebook (which contained all of my sermon notes) and eyed the children, who stared back at me, with blank faces. I began sharing a story of how I was quite accident-prone as a child. As I shared my testimony, I asked the children questions, to encourage interaction, although I had not prepared to do so. I ended up sharing my testimony completely from memory. There was not one hint of fear in my voice.
On Sabbath, I became nervous all over again, this time for a different reason. The message that I was to present was heavy on my heart. I knew that it was as much for them as it was for me. I planned to speak on not being afraid to stand for Christ, no matter the persecution that we would face. As I prepared to go on stage, all of a sudden, I became very weak. I felt nauseous, and I grew faint. I smiled and nodded at the young boy sitting beside me, who was gracious enough to translate the service for me. Despite my sudden weakness, I was calm.
Soon, we had gathered outside of the church for prayer. At that moment, I no longer felt weak. When I stepped behind the pulpit to speak, I was instantly strengthened. A divine force had come over me. I stepped from behind the pulpit, and greeted the audience. My shyness and fears had disappeared. God had given me the strength I needed, to present His message with power.
The more I stood on stage speaking, the more I was assured of a divine presence. At one point, the lights had gone out during the service, cutting the power from the microphone. I saw my translator put down the microphone, as he quietly informed me. I copied him, and then started speaking in full volume, not wanting to lose momentum. Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite soft-spoken, and do not usually project in this way. It was nothing short of a miracle.
I was also quite pleased that my aunt who is not a Seventh-day Adventist had been in the audience to hear me speak.
During the times that I spoke, there has been some challenges with the translation, as I had suspected there would be. In my Sabbath message, I had asked everyone to come forward as part of the final appeal. I was perplexed at the time, as everyone had remained seated. My dad told me later that my translator had told the audience to stand up instead. Also, on Friday, I had shared a story of how I had been hospitalized due to dengue fever at one time in my life. The translator had mistook the word “dengue” for “dumb”, and interpreted it to the audience this way. Yet, later when he realized his mistake, he was quickly able to redeem himself.
Still, at the end of the day, I had been more than confident that the Lord had been with me. He took a shy, insecure, and fearful young girl, and used her for His glory. What a great God we serve.
It has been a humbling experience here so far, but I know that the journey isn’t over yet.
“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (Exodus 4:11)
Glory belongs to God.
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