'You can't be doing this here, you need to leave right now!'
"You can't be doing this here, you need to leave right now!"
Another day, another angry hostel administrator "escorting" us from the building.
I don't think I can tell you the number of times this has happened while working with Elim City this month. At first, the part of me that is stressed out by confrontation with authority was kicked into high gear. But as it happened at nearly every student hostel we visited, I came to expect it.
We've been going to these hostels to get students pumped up for Elim City's campus ministry and invite students to the youth service every Saturday, as well as tell them that a bus comes to the campuses each Sunday to bus students to first church service (I greatly admire these college students that willingly meet the 6:30AM bus). College students in Sunyani stay at hostels near the university campuses, so that's where we go to reach students when we're not on the actual university campuses.
And it seems, more often than not, that we aren't too welcome there.
Various administrators have given us all kinds of rules or stipulations about if/how we are allowed to invite students. Sometimes they're upset because we've gone door-to-door; I get that, after working for the Residence Life department at my university. Soliciting is never cool. Sometimes they say we were supposed to have received some kind of permission to enter the hostel for this purpose, or a stamp on our handouts. (Once, when I was told this, I flicked my narrowed eyes to the giant bulletin board behind the angry woman, where the exact same handout I had in my hand was hung, blown-up to be poster-sized. And was there a stamp on that one? Nope.)
At first, I was puzzled at how this could be happening almost every time. Our ministry hosts who go around with us have said they've talked to the hostel administrators, so what's the issue? Our ministry hosts, rather than letting the situation frustrate them, call it what it is: minor setbacks and the work of the Enemy.
And so, here we were at another hostel on a first-year student move-in day, going down the corridors and knocking on doors. We'd passed out fliers and invited the student union representatives with their table by the stairs, we'd passed them out in the lobby and even outside the building-and still hadn't been stopped.
Esther, JJ, Jon and I were on a girls' floor and had just had a super fun interaction with a girl named Felicia. We were yelling, "Bye, Felicia!" and laughing with her when a man approached us.
We knew what was coming. We greeted him amicably, and he stopped us, pointing to our fliers and saying, "You can't be doing this here. You need to be leaving. Now."
This was an instance in which God totally came through and made it happen on His own.
We followed him back down to the lobby, the student union table eyeing us with curious apprehension. However, the administrator apparently wasn't that dedicated to escorting us, because he lost interest and left us (probably having spied the other Racers) standing in the lobby. We still had a few fliers, so we continued to stop people and invite them. Meanwhile, group after group was escorted out of the hostel—right past us (we joked that apparently we were just the least efficient missionaries since we weren't a priority to escort). Eventually, he seemed to remember us and we then left the building to join the rest of our group outside.
We stood in the parking lot next to our big, dead-giveaway vans with Pastor Gospel's picture printed on the sides of them. Our ministry hosts were having a mini-meeting, and we Racers stood in random groups, warming up as the morning showers started to burn off.
Pastor Charles called us to gather around him. "I'm sorry if you're discouraged by this. We ask beforehand, we talk to the owners, and still we get stopped. This is just how we know that what we're doing something good—Satan works against us and wants to stop us from doing what God wants. Today, they're telling us that a new rule was passed "just yesterday" that we can't go door-to door-like this. We will not lose hope."
A hand at my elbow distracted me. I turned, finding a girl about my age standing there, with a friend. They both looked vaguely familiar.
"Brittni!!" The girl who'd gotten my attention beamed and held me at arm's length. So she knows my name...My mind raced—I've met so many people over the last two months! I recognized her for sure, but from where?
"Hey!" I said cheerfully but uncertainly.
"Do you remember me?" She asked brightly.
Oh no. "Uh..." I smiled like a fool, trying to place her.
"From Côte d'Ivoire!"
It all came flooding back: the day we had the mall evangelism challenge at our Ivorian church last, there had been other visiting missionaries that day; missionaries from Ghana. I remembered talking to one girl about her passion for reaching teenagers—we'd stood outside the church in the waning daylight after that service. I told her that we'd be in Ghana during the month of September.
"Where do you live in Ghana!?" I had asked.
I grabbed my journal. "Spell it for me!"
And so I'd had the name of our beloved city, Sunyani, written on the front cover of my journal before I'd even known that I'd be spending a month here.
For the past weeks, I hadn't forgotten that she'd lived here, but I'd certainly been doubtful of being able to meet up with her without a phone or access to wifi.
And now here she was!
"Oh my gosh, yes! You were the Ghanaian missionaries doing the youth ministry, Teens Aloud!"
"Yes! I'm Winifred!"
"I remember! Winifred, HELLO!"
"I saw you from the window upstairs!" She turned, pointing to a window a few stories up. "And then I saw Jon and JJ and I was like, 'That has to be them!' So I ran down! We're having a fellowship meeting up there and it's almost over!"
"We were just in there, inviting students to church and our concert, but we got kicked out."
"You can come to our meeting if you hurry! It's not over yet!"
I smiled, starting to get excited. "Oh my gosh, Winifred. We would love that."
Esther, Emily, Meghan and JJ came over, and they too remembered her and got excited. I introduced her to Pastor Charles and she told him about the group she was a part of, and he introduced the campus ministry to her.
Winifred mentioned the meeting again, and we followed her back to the lobby of the hostel. The same administrator stopped us just inside, but he let us go when Winifred explained that we were with her. She talked to the front desk people-in we went. We breezed past every obstacle that had been there before.
Winifred took us to the room where their meeting was, and we were met by a room full of young Christians. One young man was giving a testimony/encouragement and when he was done, Winifred introduced us to the group.
JJ and I then stood up in the middle of the room and told the group about how we'd met Winifred and the other Ghanaian missionaries in Côte d'Ivoire last month, about the World Race, and about our currently ministry with Elim City, introducing Pastor Charles.
I got to tell them all about the youth service, church pick-up, and invite them all to the concert we'd be putting on. JJ then felt like he was lead to share with them, so he encouraged them to keep pressing on. We gave them all fliers for the campus ministry and plugged our concert one last time.
We all said goodbye and left the hostel. I just kept thanking Winifred-she was so key! We hugged her goodbye and she hurried to get back to catch the end of the meeting.
I was still kind of in awe. We'd just met probably 90% of the students in the hostel who were Christians. I mean, students here are a lot like those back home: they probably identify as a Christian, and we invite them, but they haven't come, for any number of reasons. And that's okay! I know that we will not see much of the fruit of our month in Sunyani. But it just made it that much cooler to be able to meet, invite, and encourage a room full of young people who identified as Christians AND were taking steps to seek out fellowship and growth.
What are the odds that Winifred was at this hostel? That she happened to look out the window and see us in the parking lot? That their meeting was taking place at the same time we were here? Friends—don't do any statistics because I'm just going to tell you, it wasn't about odds. This was an instance in which God totally came through and made it happen on His own. Where we'd just had stumbling blocks placed in our path, God showed up and made our way straight and perfect to those who He knew needed to meet us. I did nothing-I just got to be a sheep that walked the path her Shepherd cleared.
AND IT WAS SO COOL. God made the way—and may I continue to watch for the other ways He will make for me. They are so much better than paths I try to clear on my own.