By Goh Bee Lee

“NO… NO… NO!  NO..O..OOO!”

My broken shrieks got louder and more desperate.

The animal bounded hungrily towards his morning snack. Me!

I turned and ran, almost tripping on my flip-flops.

I looked back. God! Help! It was almost upon me.

Suddenly, I stopped and turned. Why, I don’t know. But it was now right in front of me. I screamed at it. Did I sound fierce? I don’t know. Certainly I was the more petrified. But it too stopped. Glared. Curled its ugly lips. Never in all my years had I laid eyes on a more evil-looking creature.

A full-grown pit bull!

Eyeball to eyeball now. Pitted against a killer canine.

I let out more screams.

Suddenly, it turned and padded back the way it came. Once or twice it turned, as if unsure. Perhaps I did not come on as a succulent snack. Or, perhaps, like Balaam’s donkey, it had seen my angel!

I almost collapsed from relief. But I wobbled off in the opposite direction.

When I came to my family and gushed out the incident, everyone paled. All my son, Jimi, could say was, “Your heart is still strong, Mum.”

We were on a strawberry farm in George, South Africa (SA). It was Chinese New Year and Jimi, with his wife and young son, and I were visiting my daughter.

But first, let me get to our journey there. It was a scare on another level.

Have God will travel
Unforgettable vacation… Bee Lee (seated 2nd from right) and Jimi (standing far right) with Frank towering over the rest of the family at 6’ 5”.

Drama at Changi

Feb. 12 saw me making my way from Batu Pahat, Johor, to Changi Airport, Singapore. Jimi works in Sabah. We were to meet up to fly to Cape Town at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 13. We had planned to have a nice dinner with my two nieces and Jimi’s buddies before flying off.

The nice dinner was never to be.

Firstly, the flight from Sabah was delayed. Supposed to land at about 6 p.m. but they touched down nearer to 9 p.m. Hungry though everyone was, we thought it best to check in our luggage first.

To the Emirates counter. Passports check was uneventful. Then the Chinese staff at the counter stopped, looked up, smiled and said, “Can I have the baby’s birth certificate?”

“No, sir. We have his MyKid (Malaysian children’s ID).”

“No, sir, I need his BC.”

“But why?”

“It’s the new law in South Africa, sir. No minor can cross immigration without his original BC. I’m afraid I can’t issue him his boarding pass.”

“But, this is the equivalent.”

“I’m sorry it isn’t, sir. It doesn’t say here you are his father.”

“His BC is in Kota Kinabalu! Can you please check with your officer in charge?”

The helpful man went on the first of a few trips to the office to find a way for us to fly. No, there was no way we could fly. He began to offer advice on when and how, and the cost of revalidating our tickets.

Then, he apologised that he could not help us anymore as he was going off shift.

Dismayed and in shock, luggage still on the trolley, we decided to sit down at the nearest kopi tiam to eat and think. But first, we held hands around the table and sought God’s help. The “nice dinner” now consisted of toast that choked on the throat, and an assortment of things no one had any interest in eating.

The father-of-the-baby with-no-BC then said he was going to find out more about the revalidating costs. We sipped at coffee that seemed to have turned bitter and sour, and waited. After some time, we decided to join him at the counter.

To our amazement, he was getting ready to sign an indemnity form for the Emirates! Before us were three people who had just come on their shift duty. They decided we could fly out at our own risk.

We arrived back at check-in counter to drop the luggage. One went in.

“Mummy, don’t fly. Please ask Jimi not to fly!  If they deport you, you will have to spend more to buy expensive tickets home,” Frank, my son-in-law in SA, pleaded desperately on the phone.

“But our luggage is already going in.”

“Get it out again. Don’t fly. We have seen too many people deported already!”

“Sorry, Frank. Jimi has decided we are flying.”

From then on, many knees were bruised in prayer in SA. Church friends and family members were mobilised to pull heavenly cables on our behalf.

How long more to landing?

It was my 10th trip to SA and the first time flying with no idea what the end of my journey would look like. How would deportation look like? Feel like? No, I pushed the thought out of my tired mind.

Look, if God had against all odds opened the way for us to fly, He could definitely open the way for us to enter SA. My mind thus set, I surrendered everything to Him.

We transited at Dubai and hopefully embarked on the last leg of our journey.

Didn’t someone say, “To travel hopefully is better than to arrive”?

This did not seem to be what he/she meant.

The flight seemed longer than usual. Nearing landing, I felt the nervousness eating into us. I announced bravely to my son (to reassure myself), “Son, we will enter SA, in the mighty Name of Christ!”

I secretly asked God that we will meet with a friendly immigration staff, who might even wave us in with a smile!

The daughter in SA would be driving five hours to Cape Town to meet us. Another “What if?” thought that I pushed away.

Our mustard seed faith was being stretched to its dear limit. Dear God, You are the King of Kings. Have you not said, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water in your hand that you channel toward all who please you?”

Where is your birth certificate?

The same questions met us. The same explanations were made. The lady at the counter signalled for another staff to seek advice. He came. After much mulling over the situation, he announced, “We can let you in, sir. But…. we cannot guarantee you can get out of the country. So during your stay here, you have to get to the embassy to get papers proving your fatherhood to this boy, ok?”

Of course, it was OK! Never mind that the embassy was in Pretoria 1000km away. We ran into the embrace of family members, who were anxiously waiting for us to appear. Everyone was in a state of euphoria and incredulity.

We only had 10 days to get the needed documents. They spanned two weekends. Though Frank knew someone on the SA side, neither side (Malaysian and SA) is exactly famous in the world for work efficiency.

Frank began his ordeal at the computer, going back and forth, sending many documents, signatures and what-have-you’s. To our utter amusement, we learnt that the ambassador himself had run afoul of the same law and forgotten to bring his child’s BC! So at least we had an empathetic officer.

But this time, our faith had muscled. We went on to enjoy a wonderful vacation with dearly loved ones, knowing that God was in total control.

God showed up again in all His grace and glory. That letter finally arrived – the day before we were to leave for Cape Town.

And finally, yes, the immigration officer at Cape Town who let us in had actually smiled at us.

(By the way, I was told, when chased by a dog, one should stand still and not look it in the face!)

Asian Beacon: Jul – Sep 2018 (Vol 50 #3, p38-39)

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