My family was gathered around me to wish me farewell at the Kotoka International Airport. After saying our final goodbyes, I boarded the Lufthansa Flight 323. I was mindful of my fellow passengers as I strolled down the aisle of our Flight departing from Accra, Ghana transiting at Lagos, Nigeria, Frankfurt, Germany and arriving in Toronto, Canada. Hamilton, Ontario will be my final destination. My beloved uncle had bought economy tickets seating me next to the tail of the plane. It’s only been three months since Uncle Dan and I began discussing the possibility to studying abroad. I had come to the capital city to wish my two cousins goodbye as they journey to England to further their education. It was my turn next and the world was mine for the taking. One morning, I paid a visit at my uncle’s Kantamanto shop and lying on the dusty floor was the day’s newspaper.The front page had an advertisement that caught my attention. I picked up the newspaper and looked closely, it read “Study Abroad – Columbia International College, Hamilton Ontario. Canada’s biggest International boarding school – Total Care” I tore off the page in a hurry and run up to my uncle’s private office. “Look what I found Uncle” I flipped up my hands to reveal the advertisement and little did I know that a prayer was being answered and a prophecy was being fulfilled.
A prophetic word of exhortation came from the worship song leader, “guys press into God, greater things are yet to come to the City of Hamilton. Call onto the south, north, east and west for a greater harvest, c’mon guys press in …”
Pressed between two overweight passengers, my teenage frame allowed my body some comfort; yet my mind was racing and butterflies filled my stomach. This is my first time in an airplane. Each bump seem to tense the muscles around my chest, my breath was shorter and faster. The plane gathered momentum and began to accelerate; “no, stop this, I ‘m losing my mind, someone please stop this thing” My mind raced. I was cold and shivering. At this point, I could hear my heartbeat amidst the thundering sounds from the Boeing engine. Suddenly I couldn’t feel the bumps any longer and the plane was in an elevation tilted towards the tail. All I could see were the back of passengers’ heads and the storage compartments next to the ceiling of the plane. We were in mid-air and I thought I was deaf and dying.
The fear of death was the reason I first came to know about Jesus Christ. It started when two of my school mates, Eben and Joe sat on the lean tall dormitory bunker beds across from where I lay engulfed in my own reality. Eben was well-behaved but guarded, he was spotted everywhere with a bible under his armpit. He led the scripture union on campus, a pious group that managed to attract all the smart, well-behaved kids to their gatherings. I had been to one of their meetings out of curiosity and I thought it was too organized for me. Eben was busily painting a vivid picture of gloom, horror, despair and hope to Joe. He called it the “The Rapture”. Joe responded sheepishly with blissful expectations. I had pretended to be asleep on my bed but both my ears were dialed into to their conversion. I had mixed feelings about the validity of their stories but I knew I didn’t want to suffer the tribulations he described. That night, all alone on my bed with my pillow soaked in my own tears, I asked Jesus to not leave me behind when he came to rapture his people; and I fell asleep . The Wachowskis of the Matrix series will describe it as, I had taken the Red pill and I now knew the truth about the matrix. Except, I didn’t find myself in a liquid-filled pod, and my body wasn’t connected by tubes and cables to a vast mechanical tower covered with identical pods. I knew I wasn’t the same after that night; something in me had changed and I was curious to learn more about this experience.
I experienced severe cold, snow and wind chills for the first time all at once, when the doors of the plane opened in Frankfurt, Germany. I finally knew, we had left the tropical climate of Africa and we were in a temperate climate. A shuttle services transported us from the plane into a massive terminal. They had eight of those in Frankfurt and they were interconnected by trains, called skylines. The airport taxi’s were Mercedes Benz, the people we met were snubs and the cappuccinos tasted like it needed a lot more than sugar. Our ordeal lasted for only 11 hours and we were onboard our next flight into Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
The plane landed in Toronto at midnight. The runways at Pearson were less bumpy than our first experience at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria. The lineup to see the custom officials were long but I figured if I survived Africa and Europe, North America should be manageable, and it was. We were ushered into the luggage area to pick up our belongings. I looked up I’d seen my name on a cardboard. It read.” Nabil Mensah-Acheampong, Columbia International College” It matched my description so I matched straight to the limousine driver and introduced myself. I knew I was much closer to my new home, it was difficult to contain my excitement.
It was exciting to see about 200 young adults gathered here tonight. Most of them had their arms raised up in abandonment, others knelled and some jumped around intermittently with the change in pace of the music. The musicians had played for about forty minutes then they begun to wind down their songs. The dancers were preparing to step off off the stage. The worship leader was silent and the congregation waited in anticipation.
I anticipated the journey to Hamilton was forty five minutes from my weeks of research. The street lights on the Queen Elizabeth Way were lit and bright but the Toronto skylights were soon receding minutes after we left the airport. Moments later, I faded into a trance at the backseat of the limousine. I dreamed of the life I was leaving behind and the new life I was embracing– home, brothers, sisters, father and mother.
It had taken a while, but I was beginning to find a new home, brothers, sisters, father and mother in this new church. The preacher wore a mustache and spoke so very eloquently. He reminded me of a Middle Eastern man when I first saw him behind the pulpit. It could be his exquisite facial grooming or because he made frequent references to his spiritual experience in Kabul, Afghanistan. Nonetheless the ambiance here bore resemblance to Maranatha, my first church after I returned home to Kumasi, Ashanti Ghana and had told my dad about my faith experiences in school. Coincidently he had had a similar encounter and made a decision to relinquish his will to Jesus Christ. We had an instant rapport on the commonality of interest and it deepened our relationship.
Gingerly, I was developing many relationships with the people that gathered here weekly. Many have become friendly to me but I couldn’t yet call those friends. I stood with the other kids on the left side of the building from the lobby entrance; their presence provided me with an instant sense of belonging and brought comfort to my nostalgic sentiments because they too were Colored.
Multi-colored lights, multi-colored faces shone with hopeful expectation as we waited unassumingly for the closing exhortations from the worship leader. After much anticipation, it came forth. With Unison, we let out a deafening uproar to declare our solidarity to the name that united us…”JESUS!!!”