“It’s not going to happen”.
Somebody had to call it. And Hallie Scott, Brian’s wife, was brave enough to do it. We’d been told that Congo was on the US no travel advisory list and that it was extremely difficult to get travel visas into the country. And yet we still felt compelled to press on. So we’d bought our flights in faith. But we’d been waiting for our visas to arrive for weeks and nothing.
In the mean time I had injured vertebrae in my c-spine and had been given an epidural steroid shot for the excruciating pain. The epidural helped but unfortunately it meant I couldn’t be given the yellow fever vaccination required for travel to central Africa. The entire trip looked to be in jeopardy at that point. Somehow though, as only she can, Jude discovered that that very month the World Health Organization had altered its global rules on yellow fever vaccinations and now permitted anyone who had received the vaccine in their life time to travel. We were golden! Golden that is, if our visas came through in time. But it was down to the wire. It was 12 o clock LA time on Friday afternoon when Hallie called Jude and said it’s over.
“Give me three more hours” said Jude. “It’s not the end of the business day in NYC yet. Give me till 3 pm”. Both Jude and Hallie had been calling the Congolese embassy non stop and been unable to make contact. It was all looking pretty hopeless until the receptionist at the embassy picked up the phone with literally minutes to spare. Jude is a very persuasive girl. Which is how the receptionist found herself first looking for and then hand delivering our passports and visas to the post office at close of day. We were through!!
Brian had to persuade the airline he started his journey with in Idaho to allow him to check in for his connecting flight to Ethiopia. I handed him his passport at LAX where he had five minutes to hug and kiss Hallie and Lainey and then we were off. 25 hours of travel armed only with a hand-pump traction machine and the will to survive! But having come through all the obstacles we’d faced we sensed the wind of heaven at our backs. It was Labumbashi or bust!
We couldn’t have known that the Congo would be as surprised to see us as were to have made it. When we finally connected with Mission Aviation Fellowship on the ground they seemed bewildered to see us and unprepared for our flight into the interior. “What do you mean didn’t expect us!?!”
“No American has been granted a travel visa by the DRC for the last six months” they told us. “You guys shouldn’t have made it in. ”
It was an election year in the Congo which made it a particularly tricky time to travel. There was the expectation of conflict in the air. And the advice from the US embassy was if you do plan on traveling don’t expect any assistance from the US government getting you out of country in the event of a crisis. You’ll have to make it out using your own resources. But the Lord has plenty of resources – something Brian has witnessed first hand on many occasions. The awareness of just how much attention to these details Heaven was paying became clear to me as soon as we landed. We were walked into a side room and met by a colonel. He oversaw our customs and immigration procedure and escorted us to his house. A devout believer and a humble man he shared with us his friendship with Jesus and expressed his thanks to the Lord for the men and women of Congo Evangelistic Mission who had brought the gospel to his nation. My eyes were wide with astonishment at the reach of these humble missionaries who’s steps we’d come to trace.