Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shakedown Street...

In Minsk airport, we got past the passport women and ran into the buzzsaw that is the suitcase weighing station. In Belarus, inventory is VERY important, so they track everything in and out of the country (as well as everything around the country). I am not joking about this. Last year, our swingset was “quarantined” for a week because we did not account for the nuts and bolts the held it together separately. The President of the country issued a special order that released it…and you wonder why change is sloooooooow to come to Belarus.

Anyway, they weigh the suitcases and then fine you for suitcases that are over 55 lbs. or for additional suitcases beyond the two allotted to each person. It’s basically a government-sponsored shakedown. We were anticipating this, and had set aside Rubles to deal with the problem. As we are discussing things with the agent, Pastor Michael arrives. He begins speaking with the customs agent and we are passed through without the fines, the haggling and the occasional shouting that accompanies these things. Later, I learned what happened.

The agent said to Pastor Michael, “You must pay the fines for heavy suitcases, and for extra suitcases.”
“I never pay the fine,” Pastor Michael replied.
“But we will fine you—you must pay,” said the agent.
Pastor Michael looked at him. “I am a man of God. These people are with me. If you do not let them go, you will have problems with God.”
The man let us pass without further comment.

It amazes me, still. I cannot imagine how that would work in this country. But Pastor Michael is sure of himself, of his strength in God…so sure, in fact, he can convince government agents that fining silly Americans would be a bad move. We also meet Galina, who speaks some English.I learn she is a Pastor at several satellite churches of the main K. church, and acts as Pastor Michael’s right hand…and arm, probably. I like her immediately.

We load the suitcases into the van and begin the three-hour ride to K. church.


Dave said...

Nice! Nothing like getting out of our own comfortable culture and experiencing the weirdness of another culture. It makes us ask questions... It makes us see reality from new angles...

You know, I am amazed that throughout John 14, 15 and 16 Jesus invites us to use His name with God. To "ask for anything in my name..." Now, clearly there is something more than name dropping going on here... But, there is something to that. If we are allowed to use Jesus' name with God to get stuff done we can certainly use it with people.

You know, I think what Mike said is right. All of this stuff is going to be judged some day. I think Jesus just might say, "Hey, border guard, on the 17th of July, 2006, you hindered my missionaries' entry into Belarus... Now, I'm going to hinder your entry into heaven."

Thanks for pointing this out, Brad. I'm going to start using THE NAME a bunch more... with God... and with all of God's children.

Redlefty said...

Doesn't sound so complicated to me! :)

It's an interesting point -- invoking the name to break through roadblocks of trying to do His will. I'll have to think on that one some more.