Donning a green T-shirt, Pastor Todd Smith paused for a few seconds.
The Valencia man was carefully choosing his next words, grappling over syllables as his next remarks didn’t equate to the average announcement.
Smith’s voice punctuated the silence.
“I get to introduce to you right here, right now on stage, our very first student attending The Masters University who moved into his dorm yesterday, and is going to be standing here in just 2 seconds,” the energetic pastor bellowed.
“I get to introduce to our family, Davies Kalange, from Zambia, Africa,” Smith said.
The congregation rose from their seats to applaud as the young man walked across the stage under a brilliant blanket of emerald green light from the flood lamps above.
Smith quickly embraced the boy as more people took to their feet.
“How awesome is this?” Smith’s booming voice questioned over the loudspeakers.
The moment was two years in the making, a journey commencing when the church set out to find 10 orphans and fund their education.
Smith said the program, called TEN or Touch Eternity Now, started in January 2016. The overarching component of the initiative is to fully support ten orphaned international students in obtaining a bachelor’s degree from The Master’s University.
“We began networking with orphan organizations and agencies in March of this year in an attempt to locate viable candidates that might know the Lord,” said Kim Miles, a church elder tasked with leading the direction of TEN.
The church contacted Lifesong for Orphans in Gridley, Ill.
The Crossroads staff found it challenging to locate a qualified individual to participate in the initiative. After a monthslong exercise of patience, breakthrough arrived — the church narrowed a short list to one candidate — Davies Kalange, a young man from Africa.
Hailing from a small tribe in Zambia, Kalange experienced a rough childhood as an orphan with the death of his father and his mother’s abandonment, Smith explained.
“My father died from tuberculosis when I was young,” Kalange said. “I thought if I was there in that moment as a doctor, I might have saved him. Growing up, I always had that guilt on my mind.”
From that point, he was passed along to an uncle and then to an aunt, both unable to care for him. In 2009, he entered an orphanage called Bushfire. Two years later, Lifesong for Orphans, an organization with a boarding school program, took Kalange in and taught him English and other necessary skills to prosper, Miles said.
Kalange decided to take on the medical field and become a doctor, but the introduction of religion changed the notion the young man held.
“The moment I discovered that death is in the hands of God, I realized that it’s not really up to me to save somebody and only God can,” Kalange said.
He changed his studies from one area to another, floating from astronomy before biochemistry tugged at his heart.
At the time, Kalange fostered aspirations of becoming a biochemist to help research and eradicate deadly diseases decimating his home.
“Studying molecular biology and organic chemistry was really wonderful,” Kalange said. “God still wants me to help people through this area of science.”
For nearly a year, Smith, Miles and the staff worked with the United States Embassy in Zambia to get a visa and clear Kalange’s path to America.
“I thought for a moment how cool it would be that Crossroads changes the entire country of Zambia because of this young man and because of God’s faithfulness to this body,” Smith said.
But the journey was not without hurdles. Kalange had to test for English fluency and clear acceptance requirements for The Master’s University, and obtain a student visa.
“I got denied for my first visa,” Kalange said. He continued to study and made the 6-hour trip back to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city.
A photo captured the moment Kalange fell to his knees as the embassy granted his student visa.
“It was really so epic,” he said. “I thanked God.”
“Kim (Miles) chased it day in and day out through emails, calls and conversations,” Smith said.
Everything came together at the last minute.
“We needed him to be here no later than a Saturday in August,” Smith said. A mere two days before the deadline, Kalange was granted his visa.
What came next was an abundance of culture shock for an African man who had never been out of his country, let alone his village.
“To go to the U.S. embassy was a brand new trip for him and he had never been on an airplane before,” Smith said.
The 37-hour trip from Zambia to Los Angeles involved four connecting flights to reach the southern California.
“In terms of emotions, I was really scared,” Kalange said of the flight. “I never imagined how it would look like to be in an airplane and be up in the air flying.”
He struggled the adjust to the pressurized cabin, but some passengers on board the plane gave the young man a tip –– chew gum.
Kalange’s plane landed at LAX a few hours before he was expected to be at orientation event at The Master’s University in Newhall.
“God is never early, never late and always on time,” Smith said.
The following morning, the church’s 12th anniversary, Smith remembers best. Davies Kalange was introduced to the congregation.
“It was emotional,” Smith said. “People were literally crying, not tears of sadness but tears of joy.
“They saw this young man who landed on American soil and with an opportunity to flourish. With Davies, the trajectory of Zambia, Africa has changed,” Smith said. “Let’s go change the world.”