Heading back south I am compelled to reflect on what was to be one of the more interesting, yet unexplainable experiences ever. I am reminded of the words from a lecturer during mission training who said “when experiencing the unexpected, pause and ask why?”
For three days Christo and I were stuck in Nairobi as we were heading to Cameroon when the airport was on fire just as we arrived to catch our connecting flight. Fascinated by the experience we sad there most of the morning taking photos and making our own short video. Throughout the morning various media agencies approached as for photos, our stories, the experiences we had, and questioning as about our next steps from here. It was our moment of fame as news agencies such as BBC, CNN, KTN, Sky News, Al Jazeera, SABC and many other requested permission to interview us. My Facebook page quickly became a reference point as I posted the progress of the fire spreading through the building on regular intervals.
Later that afternoon Kenya airways indicated that they will book us into a hotel until they have a clearer understanding on their steps forward. This was indeed not an easy place for them to be in as I am sure that no one expected to find what was called their workplace, transformed forever. Neither would we have thought that when we arrived the afternoon before, that we would have been of the last who would make use of the international arrival hall as it was known to be. Many questions and uncertainty were visible on their faces as the day coincided with the 15 year memorial of the USA embassy bombings; many people lost their lives that day, and hundreds were left scarred physically and emotionally.
Cramped in an overloaded bus we made our way to the inner city of Nairobi. After checking in we went for a quick lunch and to explore the city and surroundings. It was good to be back after almost thirteen years when I first came to Kenya as a young inexperienced missionary rookie to assist in the planting of 14 churches amongst 14 of the 100 Least Reached People Groups of Southern Africa. It has always been a dream to return to the forming and foundational ground that shaped my understanding of church planting amongst the lost. However, never would I have expected that an event so drastic would be used to grant me the pleasure.
Just after the main evening news on TV, Kenyan Airways personnel wrote the scheduled flights for the next day on a white board. We immediately knew that our plans to visits Cameroon is not going to be as we thought. Scheduled to be the main speaker at a conference, and expected to have been in Cameroon by now, I emailed the church to inform them to start making alternative plans, as we were to be stuck here for a few days.
With us were people from various countries and nationalities, each with their own plans scattered and leaving them wondering around; for some this was their dream vacation. One couple were heading to Zanzibar, another to meet their husband who was working for the last six months in the Congo. A construction guy I spoke to has been working in south Sudan for the last eight months, and was heading home on special leave to witness the birth of their child. Each person had his/her own story, and so did we. However, the big question in our minds was why? Not just why it happened, but why us? Why are we finding ourselves here in the midst of chaos, disappointment and uncertainty? Why are we not being granted the opportunity to be in Cameroon?
Going to Cameroon was very strategic for me. A few months ago I had the privilege to travel to Ethiopia to assist in the establishing of the MANI Emerging Leadership Network for Africa. This was a historical moment as an official platform was created for younger leaders to express their views and understanding as to how they see their future in relation to global evangelization. Cameroon is directly on the opposite side of the continent, and with the Southern Africa regional gathering held just a few days prior to departure I had ample insight to encourage the west of Africa to discover their responsibility in the Going North Movement.
I can just imagine the frustration and questions amongst those in Cameroon who have planned for such a long time, preparing for our arrival, and yet after all has been going so well, it worked out differently.
Did we all misunderstood the voice of the Lord? Was there something the Lord was protecting us from, something bad that could have happened? Is it the enemy who created an obstacle to prevent us from going to Cameroon? Is there any specific Spiritual understanding we need to take note of? Was what we experienced in the physical merely a manifestation from that which is happening in the Spiritual? Did God allow us to experience something in the physical that He is about to do in the Spiritual?
All I can say is that at this moment I do not know, however I am compelled to rely on that which is written in Romans 8:28, believing that eventually we will have a deeper understanding as to His will and purposes.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Below are some more photos of the fire at the Nairobi Airport: