“Crisis at Ho Chi Minh International Airport: God’s Law vs. International Law”
By Tom Taffel
With only two hours until flight time, we found ourselves in a crisis at Saigon’s Ho Chi Minh City International Airport – while leading a group of twenty-eight Americans to visit Cambodia’s ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Upon checking in, Vietnam Airlines informed Bill that his passport had insufficient blank pages to affix a Cambodian visa – an absolute, unalterable, international requirement. Without a completely blank page, a Cambodian visa could not be affixed and entry to Cambodia was unequivocally denied.
Bill was refused an airline boarding pass and told to go to the American Embassy to have additional pages added…but our flight was about to depart for Siem Reap, Cambodia – making this an impossible option.
Our plea for compassion and understanding fell on deaf ears. We were taken out of line and sent to a supervisor who without any sympathy, bureaucratically showed us the international regulations. There was no possibility of an exception or waiver; there were no loopholes, as the airline was subject to a multi-thousand dollar fine for allowing a passenger to fly to Cambodia without a blank page for a visa. Bill was refused air travel into Cambodia and that was that.
Because we never anticipated such a contingency on our three-day sojourn to Angkor Wat, Bill brought no credit card, surplus cash, ship’s arrival information in Bangkok or a pre-paid hotel reservation – five days hence when the ship was scheduled to arrive in Bangkok. He was paralyzed – paralyzed in fear and confusion. We had no place to turn except to God in humble prayer. We needed His protection, power, support and sheltering care, like never before.
“Always begin your treatment by allaying the fear of patients. Silently reassure them as to their exemption from disease and danger.” Mrs. Eddy tells us in “Science and Health” page 411:27. Against insurmountable odds stacked against us, I tried to allay Bill’s fear by assuring him – contrary to the human picture – that God never takes us half way, He takes us all the way, and that every right idea, carries with it, everything necessary to complete that right idea.
But there were no human solutions to this discordant problem. We needed to rely upon a higher law, God’s law of adjustment—knowing that His law is supreme, omnipotent, and superior to all human law.
As the supervisor begrudgingly consulted with her colleagues, we affirmed that “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” (S&H 494:10). We had to apply God’s law to this human problem, knowing that His law was present, in operation and applicable to our dilemma. And so we prayed.
Without much thought, and rather preoccupied, I began thumbing through Bill’s passport, looking, looking, looking, as had been done by the ticket agent, the supervisor and now myself…when my thumb felt something unusual. It was an old visa which had not been completely affixed to the page properly many years ago. With only two-thirds of the visa “super-glued” to the page I was able to peel it apart – much to the horror of the supervisor and agents surrounding her. They were aghast and gave me a stern warning. But I persevered, undaunted by their reaction — when a Vietnamese immigration officer was summoned and began conversing in a most unfriendly voice. His tone was unmistakable, but we were being led by divine Mind and could not be influenced by anxiety, doubt and fear.
I painstakingly, carefully, and meticulously peeled the remainder of the old visa off the page, leaving behind a stubbornly resistant “superglue” residue. I rubbed the glue, attempting to clean the page, a process which seemed to take forever, while declaring that “all things are possible to God” (Rom. 8:2), that God was in charge and that his law was supreme and powerful.
Our sincerity, defenselessness and genuine need for help must have touched the supervisor in some way as – unbeknown to us – she silently began filling out a form: “IRREGULARUTY OF TRAVEL DOCUMENT” [sic], absolving Vietnam Airlines – and placing all legal and financial consequences on Bill for having insufficient blank pages in his passport; (a requirement to receive the necessary visa), should the Cambodian immigration officials refuse his passport and require him to return to Vietnam.
When presented with this problematical option, we silently thanked God. Bill signed the form and we proceeded to the check-in counter where our boarding passes were issued.
But what was going to happen to Bill when we arrived in Cambodia was unknown to us. Would they accept this blank, sticky page in his passport or send him back to Vietnam – alone?
We passed through Ho Chi Minh Airport passport control, making certain that the officer did not inadvertently place his departure stamp on the “new” blank page. We quietly rejoined our group. Thankfully, no one asked where we had been for the past hour. We said nothing, continuing to silently pray-protecting our demonstration.
I remember clearly, an irrepressible smile sweeping across my face – while seated on the plane – remembering this beautiful thought from the textbook (254:32) “Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God.” We prayed our way from Vietnam to Cambodia and upon landing, presented Bill’s passport along with the other twenty-seven passports. The Cambodian visa was glued into his passport and all was well.
Mistakes will happen. We should learn and profit from them, remembering they are not God’s way of teaching us necessary lessons. Although evil may come to us in the disguise of good; good never comes to us in the disguise of evil.
Our three days in Cambodia’s glorious Angkor Wat were spectacular. No experience ever leaves us where it finds us and this was an experience we will never forget.