Kenyan Bishop detained at Airport:Challenging journey to India and SriLanka
Archbishop John Githiga ventured in mission to India which was challenging and rewarding at the same time. Dr. Githiga is the Archbishop of All Nations Anglican Church, and Patriarch of All Nations Anglican Church which is an association of Churches and ministries in over seventy countries with a membership of 1.5 million.
He has 8 ministries in India and his mission was intended to visit two ministries. The program included two clergy conferences, ministry to orphans, widows, blinds, and leper colony. He was scheduled to ordain 55 clergy and consecrate one Bishops. This is what he reports about the undertaking.
At once the Spirit sent him to the desert, and was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with wild animals, and angels attending him. Mark 1:12. Mark puts in a nutshell what Jesus experience in wilderness and what Martin and I went through during our mission to India and SriLanka. Interestingly our mission coincided with celebration of Lent-Jesus forty days in the desert.
Surprisingly, the lay-over and flying time from Dallas to Chennai was 40 hours which were marked with abundance of grace and maximum of challenge. There was Satan, wild animals, and angels. There were more angels than demons.
Wearing my petro cross, I was treated with great honor in all the way to Frankfort, Germany. Arriving in Chennai, with jetlag, as we were going through custom, we saw a big signboard with this word: “VISA ON ARRIVAL.” In contrary, we were informed that we can get entry visa in SriLanka and we can get it at Colombo airport.We were then led to transit launch and locked in.
Having a bigger cross than Martin, I was given two choices: “you have five minutes to return with the same flight or go to SriLanka to get visa from Indian Embassy in Colombo. I took the second option. So with two other travelers we were lock in. The second dilemma was that we could not be allowed to purchase our ticked to Colombo.
The man who locked us in had to purchase the ticked for us. He asked for our passport and credit cards. As the Kikuyu proverb puts it: When the bull is knocked down it has no power to resist being marked with a hot iron. So we had to choose between the lesser evil-surrendering our passports and credit card to a stranger, or being lock in forever. We, and another American researcher complied.
We had three agonizing hours as we waited for the tickets, passports and credit cards. Our forth inmate who was a flight attendance from Sirlanka is now telling us what we should have not done. “You shouldn’t have given him your credit cards and passport. You should had ask him to allow you to use his telephone and purchase the ticket over the phone.” I felt butterfly in my stomach. Three hours later, the officer appeared with our passports, tickets and credit card. He appeared as an angel. We stayed in the lounge, slept seating up for the whole night. At one time I got thirsty, and the lady inmate gave me a quarter gallon of her apple juice.
At 2.45 we boarded Air India to Colombo. We were so surprised how we were give visa to srilanka. We were however told that we cannot get Indian visa at the airport, and since it was Friday evening we can only get it on Monday. So we took a taxi to Ramada Hotel which was close to Indian Embassy. To our greatest surprise, the door to ministry were opened through, our house keeper, named Pradeep, when he saw our crosses, he showed us a great respect and told us that he is a Christian. He opened his Shirt and show us his cross and informed us that he belongs to two churches- Catholic and Bible Church.
Pradeep knelt down whenever he visited with us. He made our rooms twice a day and gave extra bottles of water. We asked him whether he would introduce us to his pastor. His Pastor delightfully invited us be his guest preachers on Sunday. On Sunday, Pradeep first took us to his home. His wife who appeared to be very godly greeted us with great honor. His children greeted us by knelling and touched our shoes. We are now seeing untold humility of Christ in this children. I taught them a chorus:
There is nothing too hard for thee dear Lord
Nothing, nothing, there is nothing too hard for thee.
After the visit we headed to the Church Where we were warmly welcomed by the Pastor. The service started with praise and worship which was followed by our sermons. After the sermons, we had to pray for and laid hands in each of the 90 Christians. All the children had to kneel and touch our shoes. We experienced amazing love. We now realized that this is where God wanted us to minister. Returning to Ramada, Pradeep came in the evening to find out whether we had had dinner. We told him that were planning to eat chocolate bar. He said: “no you need to eat something.” He took us to McDonald and bought hamburgers for us. We are now experience compassion and generosity of God through Pradeep who had a very limited income.
On Monday we took a taxi to the Indian Embassy where were directed to another location for Visa. Arriving there we were directed to another office for photos. While we were there we were informed that it will take seven day to get visa and from another source we learned that seven days may turn to seven weeks. We quickly decided to return to USA. We had to buy tickets which we had not budgeted for. So on February 24 we boarded Srilankan Airline to Dubai, then air France to Paris and to Atlanta and the Delta airline took us to Dallas .Martin and I parted in Dallas and finally I flew with South West Airline to Amarillo.
Being a student and a researcher by passion, I did extensive research. I found that European and America Church leaders who were attending Christian conferences were denied entry visa. In the same month two Catholic Archbishops who were to attend Liturgy conference were denied visa. This is what Catholic News reported “As Church leaders protested a rising tide of anti-Christian sentiment, India’s government added new fuel to the protests by denying visas to two Vatican officials who had been scheduled to address a conference on liturgy next week. Archbishop Arthur Roche, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and Archbishop Portase Rugambwa, the president of the Pontifical Missions, quickly cancelled their plans for a visit to India after learning that they would not be granted visas. A spokesman for the Indian bishops’ conference said that the bishops would press government officials for an explanation.” We learned that Indian Government doesn’t owe you any explanation when it comes to denial and cancellation of visa. In our case were being killed with kindness.
We further learned that in India Christian are being persecuted by both extremist Hindu and Muslims. The act of violence against Christian includes arson of churches, re-conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.
And thus, by being locked in transit detention, and being dump to SriLanka at our expenses, we were only getting a tiny dosage of what the Saints in India are going through. We now praise God for counting us worthy to suffer with His Chariton. I now can claim: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patience endurance which that is ours in Christ Jesus.” The words which I got from our brothers and sister were very encouraging: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” This include being crucified with Him, so that we may rise with Him. We were assured of his victorious presence: “Fear not for I have redeemed you. You are mine. When you go through waters I will be with you…When you walk through fire you will not be burned. For I am Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isa 43:1-5. We were also convinced that whatever happened will not diminish God love for one another: In the words of St. Paul: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers , neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, which will be able to separate us from the love of God which is our in Christ Jesus. And to all those who are persecuting the Christian I would warn you with the words of third century African Church Father, Tertullian: “The more you persecute us the more we will spread, for the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Gospel.”
Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you to his glorious presence without faulty and with great joy-To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever! Amen. Jude24-25
Patriarch John Githiga
All Nations Christian Church International