(1 of 3) We Enter the Holy of Holies
The First of Three Reasons for my Journey to The Gambia Revealed
TLDR: The fast on my first day in The Gambia led me to a chance encounter with an epic worship leader on my second day in Western Africa. Tears were shed.
My first day in The Gambia was met with much opposition. When I touched down on the smallest country in Africa, I heard the Lord tell me to “Read the Book of Job”.
That’s a terrifying thing to hear when entering a new land, but after an exhausting three-hour journey to my guesthouse, I had forgotten all about Job and the harrowing instructions to read.
As my eyelids came unglued mid-morning of November 11, however, I was reminded that this was not to be an easy journey. I woke with a fever, cold-sweats and aches all over my body. I had entered into a new principality, and I was here for war. It was clear that whatever cosmic forces were in control of this land were different than back home (and they didn’t want me here). Too bad.
I rolled over in bed and prayed. Why am I here?
I quite literally came with no agenda. I flew halfway around the world to an impoverished land filled with 95% Muslims simply because I heard God say “go”. What am I to do while I am here? All I know to do is pray, so before I leave the guesthouse for the morning jaunt in a new land, I stretch my aching body, wipe the sweat from my brow and pray.
I heard the Lord clearly. “Fast and pray today.”
So, I scrapped whatever plans I thought I had and committed myself to a day of prayer. Perhaps, in this way, the Lord would reveal my purpose. I know from previous revelation that He called me to The Gambia, The Gambia, The Gambia for three specific reasons.
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
Never have I entered a country before and not immediately began exploration. This journey is the beginning of an entirely new manner of travel: what does it mean to be fully submitted?
I sat in the guesthouse that had been selected for me by a fretting friend who was worried about where I would go when I arrived in this new land. Weeks prior to my departure, she got online and found a missionary family that had been called to The Gambia several years ago. This family runs a private guest house not open to the public, but set aside exclusively for missionaries as “a place to rest, retreat, refresh, and refill after a long plane trip…” My 26-hour journey certainly fit the bill.
It was Saturday (Shabbat), so I found it fitting to simply rest.
In my mind, I expected the Reed family to stop by and welcome me. I expected them to spend some time with me explaining the nuances of The Gambia and how ABWE (their sending organization) was impacting this tiny nation. Frankly, I expected them to invite me to their church the following morning. …but, alas,—as I fasted and prayed—none of these things happened!
As the sun set and Shabbat came to a close, I sniffed the tube of essential oils labeled “Havdalah” that had been gifted to me just days before my departure (Thanks Debby!).
The security guard pounded on my door.
Prince introduced himself as I greeted him cheerfully. He mentioned he was checking on me as he had not seen me leave my room all day. I explained that I was fasting and praying for direction and he nodded. “I’d like to invite you to my church tomorrow.”
I’d been asking for direction. Lord, where would You have me go? And now, it seemed, I had my answer. I quickly accepted the invitation and was told to be ready to depart in the morning by 9am.
That night, the fever and chills grew more intense. I didn’t sleep. Instead, I prayed. I was reminded again to read Job, but—at this point—I was too tired to read, so I again tucked the gentle reminder away and drew myself a hot bath.
I soaked. I slept. I woke exhausted, yet fever-less.
As Prince and I stepped out of the ABWE missionary compound and walked down a dusty road, I realized that, while I had been in Africa for more than 24 hours, this journey to Prince’s church was my first excursion. Worshiping with Truth Gospel Ministry was, quite literally, my first activity in The Gambia.
Prince and I arrived early, around 9:30, and waited for others to join us. We were in a quaint cinderblock structure with a tin roof. The gap at the top of the structure let a gentle breeze flow through and allowed for the heat to escape as the morning light sent sunbeams dancing wildly on the blue and yellow striped interior walls.
At around 10am, the service began. The first song: Paul Wilbur’s “I Enter the Holy of Holies” led by a worship leader named David (of course!).
In a time of sharing testimonies, David would reveal that just this week—after years of obstacles—he received his passport. While he is teaching both science and music at a local school, he’s never been formally educated because he’s never had his documents in order. Later, he would reveal that this came through hardship of a broken family. His father is from Nigeria (the country that finally issued his passport, despite being born in The Gambia) and his mother is from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
NOTE: Weeks later, I would learn that David is currently sleeping on the floor of the pastor’s office while he works to save enough money to rent a basic apartment. While rent here can be as low as $50 a month, it is required that you pay the entire year up front (and $600 can be a nearly impossible sum when earning a teacher’s salary: less than $150/month).
If you would like to help change David’s life, you can read more about him here and sow into the life of one of God’s chosen worshipers.
As the worship service came to a close, David looked around the audience he knows so well and casually asked if there was anyone new visiting. His gaze wandered for a moment before focusing in on the only white man in an otherwise black congregation. He smiled and invited me to the front to share, “Please, tell us who you are, who invited you to TGM and how long you are in The Gambia.”
I went to the front and shared about how I met Prince. I also briefly shared my testimony of being called to The Gambia, The Gambia, The Gambia. I reminded them that one year ago, I did not even know The Gambia was a nation, but God is speaking about this tiny nation. Be of good cheer. He hears your cries, and He is sending workers for the harvest!
The worship service closed with an invitation to join another ministry at 3:30pm that afternoon for the 6-year celebration of a different congregation.
And so, after I spent a few hours with Prince learning about the transportation system here in The Gambia, we joined more than ten churches coming together to celebrate. It was at this place—at a church called Christ Alone—that the Lord spoke to me about the first of three reasons regarding why He called me to The Gambia.
Various worship teams from each of the churches represented got up on stage to sing and dance and praise the King. One individual, however, stood out from all the rest.
As Emmanuel Anderson, a missionary from Ghana, graced the stage with his guitar and incredible falsetto voice, something remarkable happened.
God gave me tears for Emmanuel Anderson.
Anyone who has spent time with me in ministry knows that Holy Spirit often gives me tears when something significant is happening in the spiritual realm. This is a gifting I do not fully understand; I have no control over my tears, but it reliably serves as a confirmation to pay attention.
And so—on my second day in The Gambia (after spending an entire day fasting and praying)—the Lord drew my attention to a 26 year-old worship leader who left Ghana as a missionary at age 7. It was through this “coincidental” meeting that Emmanuel became involved in my call to minister to the tiniest nation in Africa.
The following day, the second of three reasons (2 of 3) would be revealed, but even then, I had no idea how instrumental (pun intended) both David and Emmanuel would become as we fasted and prayed forty days for the OIC in The Gambia, The Gambia, The Gambia!