“When I close my eyes, I see Africa”
May 31, 2023
By Ray Alary, THRU the BIBLE Canada Executive Director
Recently when the THRU the BIBLE staff was gathered, Ray told us three stories from Africa that you just need to hear …
Serving with TWR for three decades, I’ve seen God at work in a lot of places around the world. But Africa changed my life. We lived in Swaziland when the AIDS pandemic was at its worst. We buried people we loved every week. Others died in the 21 civil wars that were waging on the continent. You don’t forget their faces.
I had the privilege of going to meet listeners of THRU the BIBLE. And I tell you, this is why we do what we do, why THRU the BIBLE exists.
For many years I was willing to take the risk to go meet people in dangerous places. Once while in the Ivory Coast, we were invited by a warden to his prison. This was during a very tense time of civil conflict. The prison was probably 350’ x 600’, and it was crammed full with over 2,000 men. If there is hell on earth, it was inside this prison. Across the compound sat 200 men waiting for us. And here is the story: Somehow a prisoner had a smuggled radio. Every night, he would sneak into a corner and listen to the news. He scanned the dial and discovered THRU the BIBLE, and he listened. The next day, he got into his corner again and listened more. Next night, next night, next night. Dr. McGee asked in one study if someone would like to meet Jesus Christ, and this prisoner bowed his knee and surrendered to Jesus Christ. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the other prisoners saw the change in him and asked what happened. The reason we were invited to that prison was by that time 250 men had accepted Christ as their Savior. The warden wanted us to see the impact of what the gospel can do.
Eventually a civil war erupted, and all those prisoners were freed. By that time, 650 men had accepted Christ. Those men went back to their families and began the process of changing entire communities.
[Outside the prison in Ivory Coast.]
[Ray’s colleagues from TWR with the prison warden (far right) who invited them to witness how the gospel was transforming the hearts and lives of prisoners.]
Other occasions sent me places I shouldn’t have gone, dangerous places during genocides. But we found a way to get in—this time to Burundi. We couldn’t fly into the country in a civilian airplane, so we landed in Rwanda and drove over the border. We heard gunfire from the genocides the whole night. (Over one and a half million people in total died.) Now, here’s the story. A man came to our office, wanting to tell us his story. The whole time, he is crying. “Soldiers came into my community,” he said, “and shot every member of my family. I am the only survivor. I decided to shoot five soldiers for revenge of every member of my family.” He got a radio to listen to the news. One night he heard THRU the BIBLE. The next night he listened again. Second night, third night. Over time, he made the very same commitment to Christ as the prisoner from the Ivory Coast. The exciting part of this story is that he took the lessons from THRU the BIBLE and made a curriculum. He then talked to his Burundi government and convinced them to share those lessons in the schools. “This is the only way we’ll not have another genocide in this country. My people need to hear about Jesus.”
[Ray and others pray with the man in Burundi who abandoned his plans for revenge.]
God opened the door for us to put a transmitter in Benin. (That’s a story in itself.) Let’s talk about the impact that transmitter had. The next country to the east is Nigeria, where in the north they practice the most strict adherence to Sharia law in the world. There, a man was searching the radio dial, looking for news, and found THRU the BIBLE. This made him extremely angry—that someone would dare to put Christian teaching on the radio. But he listened the next night, and the next, for eight months. Then he called our office and said, “I need a Bible. I have a Quran, and I need to figure out what the truth is.” This man knew if he was caught listening to THRU the BIBLE he would be stoned to death. He needed to find a place to listen where no one would suspect him. So he went to the mosque. With a Quran and a Bible, he searched for the truth of the gospel every night. One day he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and that is all he needed to know. That man was the imam of the community (the one who leads Muslims in prayer). I know of three other stories of imams coming to believe in Jesus Christ. It’s the gospel that reaches into our hearts. It’s not Dr. McGee or any other preacher; God’s Word speaks to our hearts—His Word is living and active and breathes life into us.
This is why I can’t stop, I can’t retire. I can close my eyes right now and see that prisoner in the Ivory Coast and see the man in Burundi and the man listening to THRU the BIBLE in the mosque. And I know God sees them. He sees their seeking hearts, and He saves them. It’s the privilege of my life to be used by God to bring them His Word.