We landed in Bangui at the beginning of the day, before the heat became unbearable – 7am. There are no fancy gates sliding out to meet the airliner, just simple steps rolled out and down we go down to the tarmac in front of the dingy airport which has lost all of its glass to the war.
We aren’t alone. Other mission travelers joined us in Paris. Z’s returning to see what is left of their belongings; returning to see if the proposal of working for a private well drilling company is feasible. Can they do it psychologically? They left their house by the back as the rebels came in the front and that whole experience still stings. Are they ready to try this again? Can they subject their children to this again?
G. L’s are, like us, transiting to the Congo, only in Bangui long enough to visit a few friends and stock up on staples for the stay at Karawa. We (my girls and I) are only in Bangui overnight. In the morning we will take a small SIL plane to Gemena in the Congo.
We see our contacts waiting in the reception area, just past immigration. In Africa, if traveling by air, it is essential to have contacts someone who knows the routine, someone respected and recognized by the local authorities. You do not want to arrive alone, easy prey for the immigration officers, the customs inspectors and the hordes of porters all waiting to exploit the unwary traveler. They wait for you and your luggage like crows after road kill.
All of a sudden, a woman turns back to the gates barring her return to the plane where luggage is being off loaded. She is screaming; the soldiers are holding her back. Hysterical, sobbing and screaming she is creating a scene worthy of an African woman of high standing whose bags are being pilfered. She claims the bag and continues to sob for the things she has lost.
We are still waiting for our paperwork to be completed. Waiting, part of a moving mob of people, jostling to stay close behind our friends. Knowing that pushing will not make the line go faster, but also knowing that we do not want to be the last in line the last chance to become their victims till the next plane arrives. First our health cards are checked for vaccinations. (One does not want to travel without the required stamps in this card risk of being vaccinated right there in the airport, dirty needles and all.) Then our visas are examined slowly what is the rush? Passports are stamped. We are in oh no another line the passports must be checked to make sure they were really stamped!
Finally we too are in the baggage claim area – about a hundred people and luggage in a space only marginally larger than my living room at home. We and our traveling companions claim a spot by the wall and begin collecting our bags which amazingly come in on a turning carousel. As I sit on one waiting for the others, I realize that here I am in Africa again. In the midst of all this confusion God comes. I realize that the bags will come and that even if they don’t, we will be just fine. He will arrange for us to have just what we need. There is none of the panic and anxiety that I remember from years gone by. This is God’s trip and I sense his control in the chaos. Our bags arrive all seven trunks.
Romans 8:31 What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”