THE CRAZIEST DAY of MY LIFE!
We have our plans and God has His
No money, buses leaving without me, rush hour traffic on foot,
and a motorcycle chase!
Our bus from Kampala, Uganda arrived at the Ugandan/South Sudan border at 4 am. We then had to stand in line for 2 hours to have our passports stamped to show we were leaving Uganda. While in line we recruited 2 young men to attend our training the next 3 days.
After this we walked about a mile, in the dark, across the border to South Sudan. In South Sudan I learned that I (we) didn’t have enough money for all 4 of us to gain entrance to the country. So Henry and I hopped on a motorcycle taxi and drove back to Uganda where there was one ATM at the one bank. On arriving at the ATM we learn that the bank doesn’t open for another ½ hour and we didn’t have that kind of time. Then Henry remembered that he had a large bill tucked into his passport so he thinks that with that we will have enough.
Next we went to immigration in South Sudan to obtain our visas to allow us into the country. I was informed that, as a US citizen, I needed to get my visa from the South Sudan Embassy in Kampala (where we had been 8 hours earlier). We gathered to pray and asked to speak to the manager. She, of course, isn’t in yet so we wait for her hoping that our bus doesn’t leave without us, (containing my luggage).
Finally, I get to speak to the boss (a large police woman) at around 8:30 am only to find that they can’t (or won’t) make an exception and issue me a visa at the border. I told her that we have a saying in the US that, “rules are made to be broken” and asked if they had that saying in South Sudan. They don’t! So, feeling desperate, I asked, “Is there anything I can do to get arrested for 3 days?” (I was thinking of free room and board) She said, “No, sir we are not going to arrest you.” At this point the bus driver informed us that he is leaving in 20-30 minutes. Incidentally, my companions were all able to get a visa at the border because they are from the neighboring countries.
We decide that our only option is to send two of them on to conduct the training in Juba (another 4-5 hours north). Now the problem is that we don’t have the money to even conduct the training because it has been sent to my name via MoneyGram into South Sudan. AHH…What to do? We determine that we should try and get the money from a MoneyGram location in south Sudan while still hoping that we can get back in time to catch the bus. Not thinking about the fact that I am entering the country illegally, I jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi and make a run for the bank (about 5 miles into the country).
At the bank everything went smoothly except that it took forever to get the money. Once I had the money, I rushed out of the bank, hopped on the back of the motorcycle and began speeding back toward the border. On the way south toward the border, we pass our bus heading north in the traffic. I yell “STOP” to my motorcycle driver and I jump off the moving motorbike while he is slowing down. Then I begin running north, in the heavy traffic, dodging semis, other busses, cars, suv’s and many motorcycles, to try and catch the bus. Thank God the traffic was moving slowly so I was able to catch the bus and get them to pull over. I then gave most of the money to cover the training expenses to my companion Samuel who was on the bus. Henry, who was supposed to travel with Samuel, had stayed behind with my luggage so we gave the rest of the training funds to Henry and were able to get him on the last of a long line of busses heading north to Juba.
Still no money! more chases! and a Border Angel
That left Isaac and myself at the border trying to figure out how to get back (5 hours) to Kampala so I could obtain a visa. The first thing we did was to walk the mile back to the Ugandan side of the border where we were greeted by a host of young men trying to sell seats on their busses going to Kampala. We settle on a nice air-conditioned bus with reclining seats and climbed on board. I quickly drifted off to sleep (go figure). Eventually, (about a half an hour before the bus was ready to leave, they made everyone get off the bus and have their documents inspected before getting back on the bus. (My luggage and lap-top bag are now on this bus). I assume this is all a formality and was frankly a little irritated at being woke up and forced off the bus. Well I REALLY woke up when they wouldn’t let me back on the bus because (they said) I’d be entering the country illegally. I thought “WHAT?” They were right. It turns out that once immigration stamps your passport “exited” that your (single entry) 30 day visa is cancelled. At that moment some young guy, who just happened to be standing outside the bus, grabbed Isaac and myself and said, “Hurry!” so we ran with him to the immigration counter, only to find out that it is going to cost me another $100.00 to re-enter the country of Uganda. That wouldn’t have been a problem except that I had just spent my last $100.00 on the seats to take us back to Kampala. “No problem” I think to myself because the bank is now open and the ATM will be powered up.
About this time there is some commotion about our bus leaving without us. So we (Isaac, Myself, and this young guy who we do not know) grab 3 motorcycle taxis and have them chase down the bus. This begins about a 5 mile high speed chase on dirt roads. When we see the bus it is pulled over about 300 yards PAST a police checkpoint. When we try to run the checkpoint (on motorcycles), the police start yelling for us to stop. So we decided to stop. We figured that it wasn’t worth it to get shot over a laptop and some dirty clothes. We still aren’t sure why the bus was pulled over (miracle). Eventually the police allowed me to retrieve my bags and head back to the no-man’s land of the border area. The bus company would not even issue a refund for the tickets but instead promised to give us seats on the next bus (in like a day). So again, I found myself short of the funds I needed to re-enter Uganda.
Therefore, the next thing I thought I needed to do was to get some dollars out of the ATM, to get the entrance visa back into Uganda. After that I would need to find a way back to Kampala (5 hours south with no busses), so I could go to the embassy and get my entrance visa to South Sudan. I hurried to the bank, only to find that the ATM does NOT work with VISA cards. I inquired with the security guard and she told me that the nearest ATM that accepts visa cards is in a town 2 hours south of us.
Am I dreaming? Jesus I trust you
Through this whole ordeal I kept either thinking, “OK Lord, why is this happening” or, “Jesus I trust you.” Not knowing what else to do, I went into the bank and sat down at the desk of a banker to discuss options of getting funds to me where I was. After discussing all my options, he said, “Let me make a call. I know a guy who works with immigration.” So he makes his call and 5 minutes later, you guessed it; The Same Guy who helped us to chase down the bus walks in the door. His name is Francis. He came over and said, “Well, you are going to have to go to the town that is 2 hours south of us, get the money you need, come back and then gain legal entry into the country.” This is NOT what I wanted to do but I resigned myself to my fate and said, “Ok Lord, if this is what you require of me then this is what I’ll do.”
Francis walked me back to the immigration counter so we could get approval of this plan since I would be temporarily in the country illegally. Immigration says it is fine because they see that it is my only option. My companion Isaac, who is now guarding my luggage, was waiting outside so we shared this plan with him and he suggested borrowing the money from someone using mobile money transfer through cell phones. (I had never heard of doing this but apparently it is common in Africa). When Francis heard this suggestion he said, “Why don’t I just borrow you $100.00?” I was floored. I said, “You’d do that?” He said that he trusted me and that I was trying to do a good thing and that he wanted to help if he could. I couldn’t believe it. I was overcome with gratitude to Francis and to Jesus. Why would a moneychanger/shop owner loan money to an American, whom he had met only about an hour earlier? (Loaning someone $100.00 on the border of Uganda and South Sudan is NOT the same thing as loaning someone $100.00 in the US. Considering how little these people live on, it would be more like a US citizen loaning someone they had just met $1000.00. All the Glory goes to God!)
So Francis runs off to some place, I don’t know where, to get the $100.00. 5 minutes later, he appears with a smile on his face and a new $100.00 bill in his hand. I felt like I should pinch myself to see if I was dreaming but this was really happening. I took the $100.00 bill and marched right back into the immigration office to get my visa into Uganda. The immigration officer accused me of lying to him previously because I was able to come up with the money so quickly. It really was not easy for me to convince him that Francis had loaned it to me. Then, I said, “you ask him yourself” and he said, “Ok, but you had better pay him back.” “Of course I will pay him back,” I said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.”
Five minutes later, Isaac and I found ourselves inside a little food shop, which Francis operates, having a plate of rice and beans. There we learn that Francis is a follower of Christ but has had little fellowship since moving to that area. He says that he has not attended church since moving there. We tell him that we would like to show him how move beyond simply going to church and learn how to BE the church. He expresses interest and we commit to discuss this more the next day when we thought we’d be back on our way into South Sudan. (That meeting was not to take place).
Next, Francis took it upon himself to find a car that will take us to a town 2 hours south where we can find a bus to take us to Kampala. I said to him, “Are you sure you’re not an angel?” He laughed and said, “I’m sure.” I’m still not convinced.
A few minutes later Isaac and I were climbing into the back of a compact sized minivan type vehicle that I wasn’t entirely sure was road worthy. On the way (just in these 2 hours) we almost hit several goats and at one point we actually hit a cow and broke its leg. I mean, I live in the dairy state and I have NEVER been in a vehicle that hit a cow. We certainly were feeling the opposition of the enemy. We arrived just in time to catch a bus that was just about to leave for Kampala. I was never so happy to be on a crowded bus of Africans in my life (Photo attached). We finally made it back to Kampala around 10 pm. We found an ATM, a $10.00/night hotel, and a $3.00 meal.
Then just before collapsing into bed, I notice that my passport is no longer in my pocket. Panic stricken, I make a quick search of my room but know that it is probably still on the bus. I assume that it worked its way out of my pocket while I was shifting sleep positions on the bus. Isaac immediately rushed out the door of the hotel to see if he could find the bus. I’m thinking, “What are the chances? It was an independent bus and this is a city of 6 million people.” Thankfully Isaac had saved the receipt and there was a phone # on it. He learned t the bus had been parked outside the city and would be leaving again the next morning. So, the next morning at 4 am, Isaac got up, hired a cab and went to the location of the bus to wait for the driver. The driver arrived to open the bus just before 6 and there sits Isaac. Isaac walked back to where I had been seated and there was my passport! Glory to God!
At 7:30 he arrived back at the hotel and you can imagine my joy at having found my lost passport. I shouted in the street, “Praise The Lord!”
Go without money??? God’s Ways are Higher!
This was an absolutely amazing series of events but the thing that dawned on us was that we had our plan and God had His. We planned to train in Juba and God wanted us to connect with Francis, our border Angel. Toward the end of our ordeal we recognized a biblical principal at work here. We recognized that it was because I had so little money that God could expose Francis. You see much of this DMM ministry is based on Luke 10:1-11 and in those verses, (v.4) Jesus says, “Do not take a purse” (i.e. no money).
Often, in these trainings, there is a discussion around the reason Jesus would tell us NOT to take money. Usually the group agrees that if the workers have needs then these people of peace (that we are looking for) will make themselves known by helping meet our needs. That is exactly what happened with this young man that we met at the border. He met several of our needs because we had no way of meeting them.
Therefore, God allowed all of this (lack of dollars, chasing down busses, ATM’s that don’t accept VISA, etc.…) to unfold in order to create the right circumstances for us to meet Francis. Now we pray that he will be the person through whom the movement will start in this border town. Please join us in praying for this as well.