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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

getting kicked out of a country isn't ideal

Last night I went to my youth pastor's home for a reunion Christmas party for all the high school leadership kids that have graduated.

There are now seven classes that attend, so there were quite a few of us over. We played mafia and banana grams, watched a video we had made five years ago, and all caught up. I was the oldest "kid" there (are you still a kid at 24?!?), so a lot of the younger kids didn't know all of the infamous stories from when I was in high school. I was reminded of one such story that was turned out pretty life changing.

My senior year of high school about 15 or so of the leadership team went on a mission trip to Jamaica. We went for a week, and put on a Vacation Bible School, worked in orphanages, and did work projects at a local church.

This was our third year going to Jamaica over spring break.

At the time, to travel to Jamaica, the only travel documents we needed was a birth certificate and school id or driver's license. I had turned 18 five months prior, so according to the law, I needed a state id or driver's license, not just a school id. I didn't have a driver's license at the time. And we didn't even think about the fact I was legally an adult.

I was in charge of all the craft projects for the V.B.S. and orphanages. We each had a carry on bag, and two pieces of luggage (this was before baggage fees, ah the good ole days) one for personal stuff, and one of random tools, craft supplies, tooth brushes, candy, etc. We weighed our bags, prayed with our families, and left the church for the airport. I have never been a huge fan of flying, even before this day, so there was some excitement and anxiety, but soon we were on our way. We had a layover, but were soon in Jamaica.

We began to pile off the plane, anxious to be there. We gathered in the airport in line to go through customs and immigration. About half the group was on the other side of the checkpoint waiting for the rest of us to get through and grab our luggage.

It was my turn.

I gave Karen, the airport worker my school id and birth certificate. She proceeded to ask my age, and if I had another form of identification. I began to get nervous.

 She called her supervisor over to ask her about me. I was clueless. Everyone else had gone through without an issue. The supervisor came over and began yelling at me. I didn't have the proper paper work...they were going to put me on a plane and send me back to the US...if she would ever come to my country and didn't have the proper paper work, she would be thrown out...who was in charge of my group...etc.

So my youth pastor came over to see what the commotion was about. He explained he didn't know about the paperwork mistake, and explained that we were on a trip to serve. The supervisor was yelling at both of us now.

I was so scared. I hated to fly in general, let alone was terrified to get on a plane alone because I was being kicked out of a country.

They said I would have to sit in the customs and immigration office alone until they figured out what to do with me.

 My youth pastor went to the rest of the group and asked them to start praying. The supervisor went away for a moment, and the original airport worker told my youth pastor and me to go through a certain set of doors.

I was crying and devastated. I had saved money, worked fundraisers, and planned crafts and lessons, I was supposed to be there. I was so close. What was God thinking? Why was everything falling apart?

We went through the doors, and on the other side was our entire group, outside. We were so confused. We looked around, and started to leave as fast as possible. After sobbing for a few minutes, I realized, I was free. We were on our way away from the airport, and I was on the bus.

Karen had snuck me into Jamaica.

We had an amazing week. We had so many opportunities to be a blessing to so many people, and in return were blessed beyond belief. I served the least of these in Jesus' name with some of ny dearest friends, and God used us. We saw kids and adults turn their lives over to Christ. It was incredible.

Any time we saw police, everyone hid me in the crowd. We kept thinking they were coming to take me away for being in their country illegally. I don't think we breathed easy until the end of the week.

Finally it was the day to return to the US. We spent more time in prayer than normal that morning, as I was nervous about all things airport related. We were packed and on our way.

We had to go through customs and immigration on the way out. There were multiple lines, and I chose one, and was shaking as I approached the desk.

I looked up, and it was Karen, the same woman who had risked her job by sneaking me into her country.

She remembered me. She was a Christian, and believed in what we were doing that week. She told me she had prayed for us that week. She asked how my week was, and through the tears I was able to quickly share how God showed up, and people met Jesus for the first time. It was incredible.

Could you call it a coincidence that the same woman who snuck me into the country was the last person I saw as I left the country? Out of thousands of travellers on spring break and vacations, she remembered me? Out of the numerous lines to be in, that I was in hers? That she was a Christian and believed in me and what we were there for? Are they all coincidences? I guess you could call them that, but I won't.

I firmly believe I have a God that takes care of His children, who has perfect timing, and an incredible plan that we often don't understand in the midst of it.

I was supposed to be in Jamaica that week, and there was nothing the government or airport security could do about it. God made a way when it seemed impossible, prayer worked right before my eyes, and I experienced a real God who really does care.

As I prepare for Bolivia in February, I do have anxiety about so many things. I frequently tell God He shouldn't have called me, or doubt that He did. But when it comes down to it, I am going with a big God who brings peace and is real. John 4:4b "because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." He's bigger, greater, and in my side.

So, prayers for safe travel are appreciated...especially for smoothness while going through customs. :0)

Update: I still need about $1,500 by January 14th...please be praying that God supplies the remainder of the funds.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all who have been supporting me financially, with prayer, cans and bottles, and extra babysitting jobs. You are all amazing.

Love you all,
Michelle :0)

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this. I love reading about how God is using you. I cannot wait to read about how He uses you in Bolivia!

    I am praying for you. For God has not given us (you) a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7