Written on May 9, 2011
It is 10:13 PM Israel time, so I guess it must be 8:13 PM here in Nigeria. That means this whirlwind trip started about 25 hours ago
when I left my house for Ben Gurion Airport. The trip to Ethiopia was uneventful other than the fact that the plane was empty enough that I was able to lay down on three seats and sleep for about three hours.
We then flew this morning from Ethiopia to Nigeria. When we landed, we met David who is the assistant to the general manager of ten airports, including the one where we landed. Pastor Mike was there was well. David has proved to be a great resource. When an immigration official walked over to us and started asking a lot of questions, I simply said, “We are with David.” Instantly she changed from interrogator to helper.
However when we actually presented our papers to customs officials, this very serious looking lady asked where our letters of invitation were. I explained that they were at the embassy, where we presented them and they did not return them. At first I was not even concerned as David and Pastor Mike, who wrote the letters, were standing right there.
However she was adamant. “I need those letters!” I explained that I had not needed them the last time I brought a team. Now the original official, that had now become our friend, was lobbying for us. But this woman just got more irritated. Finally, I prayed for this woman, knowing that letting people in the country is a huge responsibility, and suddenly everything changed.
They stamped everyone’s passports and then they found out I was a minister. “You are a pastor?” Now, all the security and immigration officials were asking me to pray for them. The turn around in everyone’s attitude was amazing. Another woman came up to me to and said, “I have a problem with you.”
“You did not bless me!”
So I blessed her and everyone else there and then they told me to pray for the woman who had been giving us a hard time. “I will pray for you, even though you were mean to me.” Now she was laughing. Amazing!
Part of the problem is that I rarely travel in a business suit. It would be unheard of in Nigeria for a pastor to fly without a suit and tie. This American/Israeli showed up in comfortable hiking pants and a t-shirt. One day I will bite the cultural bullet of discomfort and fly in a suit. I don’t know how they do it in this intense heat.
After lunch, giving the team time to get to know Pastor Mike, we went to the regional airport. This place can’t even be described. We do have a clip of it. In Hebrew we have a word: Baligan. It comes from Russian and it means complete disorder. That was this place. Add to it 100-degree-plus weather and you can start to imagine.
While we were all sweating, I felt a lot grace, even as Pastor Mike, in his suit, had to fight to the front of the line to get us checked in – which was after waiting about an hour for a clerk to even show up. Once we got our tickets and through security, David got us into the business lounge – which is not what you would see with Delta or Continental, but at least it was air-conditioned.
Our arrival in Yola was great. As we left the plane there was large group holding a huge banner for the campaign. Keep in mind, the campaign is two hours north and yet they were there. At the hotel Pastor Mike, who discovered from Facebook that it was my birthday, had his team sing happy birthday to me.
Tomorrow we will head to Hong and make official visits to three local governments. Blessings!
(Note: You can go to http://maozisraelblog.blogspot.com to see a few short videos.)