The Door of Return – Aliyah’s Story
The humid air licked at my fringe as I waited beneath the bell tower on the grass of a wine farm in Cape Town, my beloved home town. The air played with the rope that hung from the brass bell and as I looked up, I noticed a plaque to the left of where I stood. It was just a normal day out for me, acting like a tourist in my own city. Yet this bell unnerved me, as I stood waiting for my husband on the lawn. Curiosity gripped me and I walked over to the plaque. It held the words slavery on it and bled with the slave stories of the Cape. Small drawings were etched in to the brass depicting what life had been like for the slaves who lived on this farm. I turned away and joined my husband. My mind thought over all the slave narratives I had written and read; all the poetry God had allowed to drift up into my heart, about this scourge that spanned nations and hundreds of years.
That night I prayed in tears for the broken lives left behind in slavery and for those that still live as modern day slaves through human trafficking and abuse. I heard His words fill the air, I am the Door, I am the Return. These words were truth and though they referred to the beauty of Grace’s redemption I knew they meant something more. A week later someone we knew via social media, invited my husband and I to preach the word of God with her on a mission trip to Ghana.
We were excited and within a few weeks, our tickets were bought, our sermons prepared and our hearts hungry to serve. We flew from South Africa and journeyed up in to Takoradi on the Gold Coast, where we stayed for two weeks. My husband preached in the main congregation during the weekend of our arrival and on the Monday evening I was asked to speak at the local women’s gathering.
I entered the hall dressed in black, 300 women stood to greet me, smiling, dressed in white. As I stood up to share the word of God with them, I was overcome with what I felt in my spirit, deep divine love.
On our way in to the Gold Coast we passed the infamous Elmina Slave castle, a place I had read so much about. A place that spat out thousands of slaves through its infamous door of no return, a place that drained life and taught powerlessness. I thought about my home, South Africa, only thirty years ago at the time of my birth, I would not have been allowed to speak to so many African people. I would not have been permitted to hold their hands or touch their tears, I would not have been allowed to wear their dresses or sleep in their homes as I had done in Ghana.
As I thought about these two worlds, I realised how the enemy uses the shackles of fear, hatred, hurt, woundedness and other pains, to render love something powerless. He uses slavery in all its forms to break our unified love, to destroy our soul and imprison our faith in to compartments of secret division. I was overcome with deep emotion and started to sob, right there in front of the women.
When I finally found my voice, I whispered over the microphone ‘can I just hug you all!’ At once they jumped to their feet and started sending me air hugs. I opened my arms wide at the front of the hall and started receiving it. A white woman dressed in black, black women dressed in white, we rendered our histories powerless, and we rendered love, powerful in all its forms. The two weeks passed quickly and as we packed our suitcases in the car, I knew I had to see the Elmina Slave Castle before we boarded our flight home.
We had a challenging and unpredictable seven-hour drive ahead of us. I was hesistant to ask the driver to detour to the castle. As I watched the palm trees float by the window I was lost in silent prayer ‘please God, somehow make it possible’ was all I managed to whisper. Suddenly our driver tapped his indicator and turned on to one of the busiest streets I had ever seen. People thronged around the car, children washed in the streets, hawkers bartered and people screamed. I was startled. We tumbled up a hill barely able to move among the crowds. As the crowds eventually thinned we pulled up on to a beach lined with palm trees. ‘There it is,’ our driver said with a hint of enthusiasm. I opened the door and there it was, Elmina Slave Castle. ‘We cannot visit it because it is under construction, this is as close as we can get,’ said our driver.
The others snapped photos but I just stood with my feet in the sand, trying not to cry. One by one they tumbled back in to the car but I just stood looking at her forlorn, faded body. ‘What is it God?’ I whispered. Then I saw it, the exit door that lay between her bosom. The door of no return, the one thousands passed through, knowing there would be no home to come back to. I heard His voice leap across the sand, ‘I am the Door of Return.’ I finally understood, in Christ our redemption is not just forgiveness, it’s a status change, an identity shift, we are no longer slaves but free. How can we overcome a painful past whose wounds still lie embedded within? Through Redemption whose Love bled to undo our chains. I turned my back on Elmina, let her face slip away and contented love to take her place as I closed the door behind me.