I am originally from South Africa, but when I was twenty-two, I moved to London for an indefinite period and have been there ever since, only occasionally returning to South Africa to visit friends and family. When I had been in London for several years, I left work on a Friday afternoon in July and noticed that my husband was waiting for me outside. I knew something was wrong as he never usually met me after work and that particular day he was meant to be in Newcastle. He broke the news to me that, that afternoon after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease my father had passed away.
I can’t describe all the emotions I felt but in the sobbing and a complete feeling of weakness, I knew I had to go back to South Africa. I needed to be with my family and say my final goodbyes to my Dad. The one problem was, I had let my passport expire so the following Monday I made my way to the South African embassy to find out how quickly I could get a passport.
At the embassy, I was told that as long as I provided all the necessary documents with an application form, which I did, that I should be given an emergency passport and it would be available for collection in two days’ time. When I went back to collect the passport, I was told that my application had been successful, but they would not give the passport to me until I had proof of having booked a flight to South Africa. I had not done this as I was reluctant to do so until I knew if I had a passport or not.
Since the South African embassy is only open until midday, my husband and I judged it best to go to the internet cafe down the road, rather than all the way home to book a flight. We arrived at the cafe and paid to use the computer for half an hour and sat down. From this point, things seemed to go from bad to worse. To start with, the flights were all a lot more expensive than we had anticipated which would not have prevented me going but still wasn’t pleasant. All the flights were with airlines neither of us had ever heard of and every flight stopped at several places along the way. Being alone in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language did not excite me and due to all the long stopovers, what is normally a twelve-hour flight would end up taking forty-five hours. They all seemed to arrive at strange times like two o’clock in the morning. Since my mum lives three hours drive from the closest airport, I would have to ask a friend who lived nearer to collect me, and it would be a huge ask if I arrived in the wee hours of the morning. We eventually decided a flight with Ethiopian Airlines was the best of a bad bunch and were just about to book it when the computer timed out! We paid for another half hour and found the flight again and tried to book it. It declined both my card and my husband’s though we both had sufficient funds in our accounts. We phoned our separate banks to ask why our cards were being declined and were both told the same thing – the bank had no record of us even trying to make this payment. We tried again without success. We then decided to phone the travel agency we were trying to book through. They would not allow us to book a flight over the phone and told us that they did not have any offices in Britain. Added to this the whole time we were in the internet cafe there had been a man using a computer although he really should have been in bed. He was constantly coughing, sneezing and spluttering and instead of blowing his nose kept making a disgusting sniffing noise which sounded like a snort. As midday was fast approaching and this man was driving us mad, my husband said, “Someone doesn’t want us to book this flight.” He suggested that I go home and when he got home from work later in the day we would try again to book a flight.
I would like to say I got home, fell to my knees and prayed but it would not be the truth. I was angry with God. Why had he let my father die? Why didn’t he heal him? And now why wouldn’t he make it possible for me to book a flight so that I could go home? When my husband arrived home, he began an online search for a flight to South Africa. Straight away he found a flight with Emirates which had just become available. It was in the price range we were expecting, had just one short stopover in Dubai and arrived in South Africa at three o’clock in the afternoon. We had no hesitation in booking it, and the payment all went through smoothly. The following evening, I was sitting in the Emirates plane waiting for take-off when the pilot announced that all planes at Heathrow were temporarily grounded as a plane had caught fire. What he said next gave me goose bumps. The plane that caught fire was Ethiopian Airlines! The one I had tried to book with!
As I said, the flight with Ethiopian Airlines wasn’t great but I had tried to book it and there seemed to be no logical reason why I couldn’t. Did God prevent me from booking that flight because he knew a much better one with Emirates was going to become available? Did he prevent me from booking the flight because he knew the plane was going to catch fire and as a result I would not be able to fly home? As it happened, I had a very nice, straightforward flight back to South Africa.
The one condition of the emergency passport I had was that it was only valid for one flight, and I would have to apply for a new permanent passport once in South Africa in order to return to England. The Home Affairs office said that the passport could take months, and they had no way of fast-tracking it but my husband managed to find a South African company that could get the passport done in five days. They did not require any payment until I had the passport just in case they couldn’t do it in five days and of course, this made me more doubtful that they would but what else could I do? I went and applied for my new passport and then hoped. Three days later I got a text message saying that my new passport was ready for collection!
Did God ensure that I got my passport quicker than expected? With all these coincidences that took place regarding my flights and passport, I find it hard to believe it was all just chance and that I just got lucky. It was a very sad time in my life, but God made sure that as far as the practical side of things was concerned, I was very well taken care of. There were no additional worries. Why I find this such a great example of his love is, as I said, I was really angry with him at this time, angrier than I have ever been with him, and I kept questioning him. But like any good parent he still loved me and wanted what was best for me. He did not punish me for my anger and my questions but used his timeless ability to ensure that I was carried through such a difficult time. He demonstrated that because he knows what the future holds, he knows best and what may often seem like an unanswered prayer is, in fact, a blessing in disguise. I still don’t know why God did not heal my father, but I do know that he used this event to demonstrate his amazing and infinite love for me.
Louise – South Africa