At the time of this writing, I’m on my way back from London to Brussels, where I spent a few very nice days with dear friends. I’m amazed on how the Lord can use me if I’m just open to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
So on Wednesday afternoon, I left my apartment as planned in good time to catch the 4 PM train to London. Beforehand, I had inquired with a British colleague of mine whether I would need my passport to enter the United Kingdom, or if my Belgian ID card would also be sufficient. He said the latter should be fine, as he had seen Belgians showing just their ID at border control. So since I don’t want to carry my passport around unnecessarily, I followed his advice.
Arrived at border control, I first encountered a very nice Belgian officer, who actually spoke German with me. He looked at my ID and asked me if I also had my passport with me. I said no and explained him why. He replied that I had obtained false information, because my special ID card was not a valid travel document. Indeed, I do have a “special ID card”, which is issued for EU officials only. It doesn’t mean that we are special in any way, or that we get any privileges when we have it, it’s just easier for me to get this one instead of a “real” national ID, as I just fill in some papers and send them to our administration by internal mail, instead of having to go to the authorities in my commune. The problem is that it’s really only an ID that gives me permission to stay in Belgium, and it’s not a valid travel document. I remember back in 2004, I took a plane from Brussels to Geneva, and I also just brought my special ID card. At the border control, the immigration officer explained to me the same, and he said I should bring my passport next time. However, I was not denied entry into Switzerland then. So somehow I concluded it couldn’t be a problem to get into the UK – they are even still in the EU, after all!
So I pleaded with the Belgian officer to let me at least give it a try. I didn’t want to miss my train after all. So he made an exception for me and let me go through. The next person I encountered was a very nice British immigration officer, who basically told me the same as the previous officer. I shared with him my experience in Switzerland, and he said that this was a different case, since Switzerland is not in the EU. Then I said "but you are in the EU!" But no way to get through. So he escorted me to a waiting area. We walked by the other people waiting there, and I said to them, laughingly: “I’m being abducted!” realizing that I should rather have said “deported”!
Then I received a paper from them saying that I was without valid travel documents, and that I would now be handed over to the Belgian police. Well, they didn’t go that far. They just asked one of the security officers at the luggage check to escort me back out. So now I had to act: I immediately called my flatmate Adina, asking her if she could quickly bring me my passport (thankfully, it’s less than half an hour by metro from my place to the railway station). If I had called 5 minutes later, she would have already left the house to give piano lessons, but now she was able to make herself on the way to the station. Then I had to buy another ticket for 165 Euros – that hurt! So that’s my “stupid tax”, I thought.
So I made it on the 5 PM train without any problems. At border control, I encountered the same British officer and even had a little talk with him about Reformation Day and Protestantism. I left our Luther brochure with him, which he gladly accepted. Wow, some people are just too nice to be immigration officers. Not even in the US have I ever encountered anybody like this!
About half an hour later, I knew why I had to go through all this trouble. I happened to have my seat assigned next to a young man from Bulgaria, who happens to be a colleague working for the same Directorate-General that I used to work for. We had a wonderful conversation – first about work, and then also about other things. I found out that he is interested in the Bible, and I ended up giving him also a Luther brochure, as well as a Glow tract on how to break addictions. We agreed to meet for lunch sometime J.
What followed these past few days was a chain of more Divine appointments – basically one after the other. I got rid of quite a bit of literature. My time with Sharon (former church member from Brussels who now works in the UK) and her two daughters was very blessed. At London Central Adventist church, I also saw Felicia (who used to live in Brussels as well), as well as Benjamin, one of our ministry team members from Germany who has been living there. And to my surprise, my friends Violeta and Sacha from Belgium were also there. I didn’t know that they would also spend the long weekend in London! We had a nice time together at church.
The weather was cloudy, cool and damp, for the most part. However this morning, when I was able to take a few more hours to stroll around in London, it was beautifully sunny. A pleasant ending of a very fulfilling visit. Thank you God!
|The letter from border control...|
|The metro system in London is so much more complex...|
|...than it is in Brussels|
|Our ministry member Benjamin|
with his fiancée Sarah
|Big Ben doesn't look so good|
|Houses of Parliament|
|This lady was a bit cold in her|
summer wedding dress!
|They are headed to the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace|