My first, and hopefully last, “arrest”.

While we live in Togo and have an airport 6 hours from our home, we usually drive the 11 hours over into the country of Ghana to use a less expensive airport in their much more developed capital, Accra. So Saturday I drove the 6 hours down to our capital of Lomé to take care of some business there and spend the night before heading on to Accra the next day to drop off my dad at the airport and wait for Heidi and the girls to fly in.

A few days earlier our market in Kara mysteriously caught on fire, then as we were approaching the capital of Lomé I got several phone calls telling me the market in Lomé had also mysteriously caught on fire. The US embassy had already sent out an email advising us to stay away from certain areas in the capital where a political opposition group had organized a three-day demonstration. These types of demonstrations have sometimes ended in the past with the vandalism of cars and private property, road blocks, burning tires and clashes with security forces that use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. Thankfully we did not encounter any problems at all in Lomé.

On Sunday we spent a couple of hours at the border and then took off for a 200km drive to Accra. Along the way from Lomé to Accra, there are many police check points where you may be asked to show your car paperwork to enter Ghana, international driver’s permit, proof of insurance, passport, first aid kit, triangle and fire extinguisher. During a stop at one of these checkpoints, I was asked by the police officer to show him my fire extinguisher and when I did, he turned it over and looked at the expiration date on the bottom of it. It expired during our furlough.


Did I get a warning? A slap on the wrist? A small fine? Nope. He led me over to the police chief who processed me for about 45 minutes giving me paperwork to sign that said I was “arrested and self bailed”. I was then given a court date for Tuesday at 9:00AM and was to face a fine of 1,000 cedis ($530) if I did not appear. He kept my International Driver’s Permit and sent me on my way. Let’s just say that was not the way I expected that to go!

My greatest concern at this point was that my wife Heidi and our three girls were flying in on Tuesday and I was very concerned that I would not be able to be there to pick them up from the airport after their long trip. So I scheduled a driver to pick them up if I could not make it back in time and take them the to the Southern Baptist Guesthouse that we stay at here in Accra.

That night I providentially ran into another missionary who lives in Accra and offered to help me out of this pickle. This missionary was such a great help to me as he taught me a lot about how to handle these types of situations. So, Tuesday morning we drove back about an hour and a half to the small town where I was to appear for “court”.

We got there at 8:55 and carried a case of bottled waters and several New Testaments to the Police Chief. I told him that I respect Ghana, their laws and the police. I also told him that they were doing a good job and that I apologize (did I forget to tell you that I told the police chief that I was going to burn my Ghana visa when I got back to Togo? oops). No sooner had the words left my mouth, and my International Driver’s Permit was back in my hands. He told us “safe journeys” and we were out of there in under a minute and on our way back to Accra! God was so good to us!

But the story gets better. As my missionary friend was buying some food from street side vendors, another police officer approached me and asked if I would transport her sister back towards Accra. I gladly accepted and Gladys got into the back seat for the long ride back. During the trip I started talking to her about the “Presby” church that she said she attends. I told her that I’m not real familiar with the Presbyterian Church in Ghana and wanted to ask her some questions if I could.

After asking her a few questions about their liturgy, I asked her what I would be told if I went to her church on Sunday and asked what I would have to do to go to heaven when I die. She gave me the patented “be a good person” answer that we have all heard a thousand times. She was a sweet young lady who was very willing to have this important conversation, which was good because she was going to be stuck in my truck for another hour!

We started talking about that if God is a good judge, and He obviously is, then He can’t overlook our sin, even if we have done a lot of “good” things too. She agreed and I had the wonderful privilege of clearly explaining to her the One and Only Way that a just and holy God could forgive us our sins. I then asked her to read John 3 out loud and I carefully explained each verse to her. We spent a long time talking about the gospel and then she said these words, “I use to think that I knew Jesus, but now I really do”. I believe she does and I believe the wind of the Holy Spirit (v.8) was blowing through the back seat of my truck yesterday and doing His miraculous work of the new birth!

30 thoughts on “My first, and hopefully last, “arrest”.

  1. what a great story.. I know God is walking with you daily and I’m so proud to tell people about my neice and family live in Togo and what you are doing. I hated to have missed you guys while you were here. Glad you are back safe and that you are doing such good works.
    give all a hug from Aunt Gail
    love you all

  2. Wow, what an incredible journey and an incredible opportunity God gave you to witness to this young lady. We know God is completely in control of every situation and yet we are amazed at the same time when He does such amazing things. I don’t know why, just unbelief on our part, I guess. We truly do serve a wonderful and caring God.

    I hope Heidi was able to reschedule her flight for Thurs. We are praying for each situation and pray God would be glorified in each one.

    Judy Garris

    • We do serve an amazing God. Heidi was able to reschedule the flights for Thursday and did not even have to pay a single penny, even though she changed the flight dates on the day they were supposed to take off.

  3. Your story reminds Sheila and me of our days in Ghana and dealing with police along the roadside check points. But again, “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Praise the Lord for Gladys’ salvation. Hope things are going well for you and family.

  4. John, you lead such an adventurous life. I am sad to say that I would have reacted to the police chief in a like manner, but you have taught me that it is best to wait till God get through with the lesson, before I spout off any answers. Love your work and life for our Lord. Thanks for giving the Lord your life to use and touch the lives of others.

    • God is teaching me to swallow my pride and humbly handle these situations better. I think your smile would win over any police officer. Thanks for putting us here and making it possible for us to reach people here with the gospel.

  5. Great testimony – glad you were sensitive to see whether the church girl knew Christ or not. There’s lots of great Pres churches, but sounds like hers is not so great.

  6. Came over from Challies blog and loved your story! My husband and sons are passionate evangelists and use the very same approach when talking to people here in North America on the streets. Love how sharing the gospel this way transends all cultures, countries and barriers! A crazy arrest leads to a divine appointment where the Holy Spirit worked. Our God is sovereign and oh, SO good! Thanks for sharing! By the way, we are friends with the Weston family serving in Togo. (with ABWE) Do you happen to know them?

    • Hey Sherry. Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to write. Our God is sovereign and the way He brings people into our lives that we might share Christ with them is always amazing. It seems like the Westons moved to Togo while we were on furlough in the States these past few months so we have not yet met them, but I’m sure we will as we have several ABWE missionary friends in Mango where they are building the new hospital. I just discovered their blog and subscribed to it.

  7. Remind me again why you go to Ghana? :-) So glad it worked out and that you weren’t locked in the slammer! Awesome what God did through that crazy situation. Thanks for sharing.

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