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  • Writer's pictureRandall P Garretson

Cabbie Hat Crossing

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

It was Tuesday August 1st, 2017, the morning of our second day in Kigali, Rwanda at the Isimbi Hotel, two days before our departure to Democratic Republic Congo on our second mission trip to the region. We had landed in Kigali the previous evening around 7:15 PM and we were exhausted from the two days of travel to get there. I woke up early as usual and felt so refreshed however I was left with a vision stuck in my head from what I thought was a dream. Now, I will say that when I do dream, I don’t often remember them but when I do it feels significant. I’ll be honest, I didn’t consider this a dream. To me, a dream has moving parts, like a movie, this vision was like a photograph with no moving parts. The vision was of a young black man wearing a brown New York style cabbie hat and a burnt orange polo shirt with horizontal black and white stripes. I only saw him from the waist up as if he was sitting in a chair posing for a portrait. The image so profoundly clear and so unusual for me to have.

After getting ready, I went downstairs to the hotel café and met the rest of the team there for breakfast. With the vision fresh in my head I shared it in detail with the team and asked them to help me keep an eye out for this young man as I felt this overwhelming desire to approach him and pray for him. I thought the task would be relatively easy because this type of hat would stand out in this part of the world and would be something very rare to see. Rare things such as this are likely very expensive therefore you wouldn’t find too many floating around in Rwanda or Congo.

After Breakfast we went about our day meeting with and interviewing Jean Pierre, a Rwandan Genocide survivor and then we toured the Rwandan Genocide Memorial to brush up on our history of the Country and region. I’ll have to admit that after starting out strong with a watchful eye for this “cabbie hat”, my attention was taken away by all the new, strange and exciting things that we were seeing and understanding. There is much to process when visiting a foreign country with so much history, especially when you recall these things taking place on the news 23 years earlier. As another day had passed and our time zone adjustment period in Rwanda come to an end, it was now day four and I had forgotten all about the cabbie hat vision.

For time sake I will fast forward to day seven. We had already flown from Kigail to Kamembe, Rwanda and crossed the border at the Bukavu, DR Congo entry port and been in country for 3 days now. With time spent introducing team members to our Congolese family, visiting key locations and settling in to our Swedish Compound, Sunday morning came quick. Sunday is a special day in Congo as the sounds of church choirs throughout the mountains and valleys fill the air. Our team of six were split up into pairs and headed to different churches within Bukavu to speak the good news from America to the locals. Rachelle (my wife) and I were invited back to Merisa Church where we had spoken the previous year and developed a great relationship with Pastor Jeremie and his wife. Upon being picked up in the morning by Pastor Jeremie he told us in his broken English that he had a big surprise for us. Apparently, he turned his old house into an orphanage for the children and wanted to show us the skilled trade programs they were teaching the children like, Mechanics, woodworking and sowing. This is where we met up with our old friend and translator Florubert (Robert to us). Pastor Jeremie had some of those children and women sow us African clothing as a gift, which they insisted on us wearing for the day. So yes, out of honoring them, we put them on and wore them. They made Rachelle a beautiful dress in a green/yellow material and made me a shirt to match. I didn’t find my shirt too terribly comfortable because of the wide opening collar, Rachelle calls it my Moses shirt, nor was it very breathable but honored for sure. After seeing the transformation of orphanage home and meeting fifteen of the children he explained the plans for the day. You see, church in Congo lasts all day. We were going to speak at his church, come back to the orphanage bless the food for the children so they could eat, go to the property they bought on the outskirts of Bukavu so we could bless it, as it would become a newly built and much larger orphanage after they raised the funds. Once all that was done, we would then go to lunch at a local restaurant called “Salt and Pepper” as their treat. They didn’t know this, but we were not going to let them pay this year after discovering last year the congregation saved up several weeks to buy us lunch during our 2016 visit.

The day went on as prearranged. We left the orphanage in the early morning walking through the city, two blocks away to his community church. We worshiped, gave a message to the congregation and afterwards as planned, we went back to the orphanage to bless the food for all the orphans. At this point in the day, we were super hungry, so we were excited to see the opportunity approaching where we could eat. It’s not like you can stop at a McDonald's or a local gas station to pick something up to hold you over. The walk up hill from the church back to the orphanage was an awesome one. It was more like a parade or a celebration as we made our way through the city on the very narrow red dirt path. The whole congregation walked with us singing and praising God all the way. This drew much attention from the local community and everyone along the way came out to see what was happening. Children who had never seen a white man before stared at us in awe, but everyone was warm and welcoming. As we entered the property gate of the orphanage at the top of the hill, the worshiping was only amplified by a massive group of ninety plus children. All the orphans waiting for us to come and bless the food before they eat were singing us a welcoming song. We stood there crying soaking up the sounds of these amazing people singing in Swahili. It was so amazing and beautiful. After the singing had ended, Rachelle and I blessed the food, we dished out the rice and beans one plate at a time as the children patiently waited. There weren’t enough plates for everyone, about fifty, so once the first round of children had eaten, they handed the plates back, so the remaining children could eat. We sat there blown away by the honor of being called mama and baba to these ninety children having lost their parents and literally having nothing. We just loved on them with tears rolling down our faces as they sat there and ate their food with their hands, an unusual sight to us but completely common to them. My Lord, if you have never been to a third world country this will completely put things in perspective and wreck you emotionally.

At this point of the day my hunger ceased to exist or even matter so spending more time late in the afternoon to go bless the property without food was totally fine. We drove maybe 20 minutes to the out edge of the Bukavu limits where nestled in a valley between two large hills/mountains was a plot of land that they purchased and planned to build the future home for the children. We blessed and prayed over the land and without further ado we got back in our land cruiser with Pastor Jeremie, his wife, our interpreter, his fiancé, Rachelle and me and headed out for lunch.

Driving in Congo is very interesting. The red dirt roads throughout the city are in very poor condition, so much so that when driving on them, one is often tossed about the cabin of the vehicle. Rachelle enjoys this and laughs as if she was on a roller coaster ride while I am left thinking, how does a vehicle sustain this type of abuse. It was during one of those thoughts on our way to Salt and Pepper that I heard a small pop followed by a repeated thump, thump, thump. Just then we got a flat tire and needed to pull off to the side of the road. I didn’t think of it at the time, but we conveniently got the flat right in front of a tire fix-it dude, a roadside tire guy with a compressor and some hand tools. Congo is not like America, there are no Belle tire, Discount tire or any tire stores within the city and Bukavu is a large city. We pulled a U-turn and the Pastor asked us to please get out while the tire was swapped with the spare and the damaged tire was fixed.

It took about an hour to swap and patch the tires, but we occupied ourselves during that time on the roadside sharing with our friends and showing them recent photos of our family on our phones. We decided to move away from the busy sidewalk where hundreds, maybe thousands of people were walking up and down the roadside as it is not common for white people to be found in the city and our appearance draws much attention, especially my pasty polish wife with long blonde hair. It was while we were sharing the photos that I took notice of two young men that broke away from the crowd on the sidewalk coming straight for us. I did not perceive them as any kind of threat but watch them as they got closer. Mind you, I am carefully watching these guys as they got closer and curiosity brought them close enough to where one looked over our shoulder to see what we were sharing, paused for a brief second and then continued his way.

Though I observed him from a long way off and watched him come all the way up to us, it wasn't until he walked away far enough that something struck my spirit as if to nudge to look again. It was at that moment that I realized and saw with opened eyes, he was wearing a brown cabbie hat and a burnt orange polo with brown and white horizontal stripes. This was the young man that I saw seven days earlier in a vision and I was to pray for. All I could squeak out was “Chelle, look” as I was point towards him and she replied “Go, chase after him”. As I turned I grabbed the arm of Robert, our interpreter, and ran after the man. The excitement, emotions and fascination coursing through my mind and body of actually seeing what God had shown me seven days earlier was all too real to be true, it’s difficult to explain. I yelled out “Hey wait” as if he could understand me but it got his attention. He turned and with eyes wide open as if to say “who is this white dude chasing after me” he stopped walking and I approached him. As everything around me faded to nothing I asked Robert to tell him I needed to share something with him. I had Robert translate and explain that I was from almost 10,000 miles away and that five days earlier God showed me a vision of him, a picture in my mind, a dream of him wearing this cabbie hat. I told him that God was obviously crazy about him, heard him and thinking of him because he guided me to him to share how much He, the creator of the universe, loves him. I explained how important of a divine connection this was and Gods focus was on him today. This day was all about this young man. How stinking cool was that! As my excitement of sharing God’s love subsided, I remembered it was my assignment to pray for this young man. I asked Robert to asked him what he needed prayer for and his reply did all but knock me to the ground.

He said “I go to church on Sunday, I worship and pray to God every week asking for help, for a better life and I feel like he doesn’t listen to me or even hear me, I desire for him to hear me”

After processing what I just heard I realized I already prophetically answered his request. I prayed a general prayer of provision and purpose, then reminded him that father God loves him so much that he purposefully planned this very day just for him. I don’t recall much after that, meaning I had just encountered the God of Heaven and the Universe in a unique way and was in complete awe!

The odds of this happening without God were very slim to begin with and to think, I literally saw him head on with my own eyes but did not see him. I believe it was Holy Spirit who nudged me to take a second look once he walked away. We serve an awesome loving God! His perfect timing is amazing. The delays throughout the day that would put us at the right place at the right time to run into each other. The blessing we received by the tendering of our hearts to sustain us physically, mentally and hunger wise throughout the day. The convenience of where the flat tire took place and especially in front of a tire fix it dude. The odds of having an interpreter with us so I could even speak to this young man who spoke Swahili. This day was not just for this young man but for me the encounter and intimacy with God in the entire experience is something I will NEVER forget. Such a blessing and this was only one of many too come. My expectation of his goodness is through the roof and my desire to share of that goodness and love is intensely profound

We need to share our testimonies to excite others into knowing Father God and of his amazing love for his children. Adventure is on your horizon and I believe that if he can trust us in sharing the small stories, greater ones will come. I’m excited for the greater ones.

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May 25, 2021

Praise God! As you said, you had already answered his request to be heard by God. It is amazing that out of the millions praying, the Lord sent you to that one young man. I hope that forever he will remember that God hears him.

Randall P Garretson
Randall P Garretson
May 25, 2021
Replying to

Amen brother, may God bless you so abundantly that it knocks your socks off.... love you brother

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