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I had the privilege of going to Africa a few years ago with ADRA Canada. A small crew of 3 of us went to film documentary footage and a music video for a song I had composed for ADRA, across Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan. The travel plans leading up to the trip went smoothly except for our Visa’s to enter the tumultuous Sudan. Even upon leaving for Africa our Visa’s had not yet been approved for Sudan. The day of our flights to Sudan came and went as we did work at an orphanage in Tanzania. Placing it in God’s hands I said a silent prayer “If it is thy will Lord, we will go, but if it is too dangerous, have the Visa’s denied”. And with that, the answer came… our Visa’s had been approved by the head of government who signed every single passenger traveling in and out of the country.
I was told that video and photography were strictly prohibited and illegal in the country, and one could be arrested and tried as a spy if caught doing either, yet here we were flying in with suitcases of both professional video and photography camera’s.
After an intense two hour wait at the airport immigration we were miraculously approved entry, camera gear and all. I grabbed my long scarf and placed it over my head for the duration of our our week long stay. We traveled deep into the Sahara dessert, took a boat ride on the river Nile, and shared many nerve racking situations as we saw and filmed, inspiring and other tragically heartbreaking scenes.
When it was time to leave each of us had a different departing schedule. The director was leaving first, I second with the camera man third. The flights departed at 3am out of the Capital Khartoum. Once again your Visa had to be signed so that you could leave the country. It was 11pm and my Visa was still unsigned. by 12:30 we received word that it had just been signed and I could make my way to the airport. A local, Muslim staff member, who spoke broken english, drove me to the airport, unloaded my luggage on the curb and pointed ‘that way’ for me to enter the small airport. I was surprised at the large crowd of people waiting outside of the airport at 1am. I made my way through the crowd feeling the uncomfortableness of many piercing eyes. You see, in my American way of thinking I was going to the airport and therefore no longer needed my head scarf to cover me. There I was, the only female uncovered wearing slacks and a blouse with my blonde long hair blowing in the breeze. When I got to the doors they were blocked by security guards. I showed my ticket print out but was denied access. Not being able to speak the language I tried again only to be motioned at once again that I was not getting in. Confused and beginning to panic I realized I had no phone, no number, no address of the home I had come from or my crew. I held a list of instructions of what to do once I entered the airport, but none on how to get in! The longer I stood in plain site on the curbside with the throng of people the more eyes began to turn toward me. As my heart began to pump out of my chest a hand grabbed my luggage handle and said “Come on, follow me”. I didn’t know who this man was, but he spoke english! So I was surely going to follow him and my luggage which was quickly disappearing amongst the crowd of people. He walked me back to the two security guards and exchanged a few sentences as he pointed back and forth at me and the gate inside. He told me to ‘wait’ with him and said “we will be first in line. they wait until 2am to open the doors”. Sure enough at 2am the doors opened and he took me straight to the check in counter, I was first in line. But I knew I had to go pay a fee before I could have the next stamp on my Visa. He said “You go. I will wait here with your luggage”. If I had been anywhere else I would have politely declined the offer to leave my luggage but in this situation I went in blind faith, trusting this man to be good and true. My instinct and prayers were answered when I returned and there he was. I handed my printed boarding pass to the attendant only to be told “Not ticket. Need ticket” I handed it again and she repeated her words. My panic began to silently rise up my throat as my heart pounded in my chest. “Need Ticket” she said “This IS my ticket!” I firmly said back as though she could not see it. As we exchanged our frustration my suitcase was being lifted onto the conveyer belt. And then it hit me! I had been given a receipt in Nairobi, Kenya from the Director when the ticket had been purchased. It was in my bag of receipts in my suitcases that was quickly moving away. I motioned frantically to ‘Stop that suitcase!!’. I flipped it open and rummaged through the receipt bag. Sure enough, there was the receipt for the flight! I handed it to the agent as she smiled and said “Ah, Ticket!”.
The man had stood by me this entire time. He lead me to the security line and said “I can go with you no further but you should be on your way now.” I read through my final instructions with him to get through security and immigration and he said “yes, I believe you have everything you need”. And with that he walked away.
In life I believe we encounter many angels in plain clothes. God’s messengers to keep us safe in times of trouble and tribulation. I do not know, and I may never know until Heaven, whether that man was an angel or just a gentleman sent to me in my time of need. But he saved me that night.
Cast your cares upon Jesus, because he is always with you. Always there to give us the support we need, right when we need it.