I was afraid

It hadn’t been the best of days. I had been manning a stall at the Nairobi Bookfair. Crazy busy day serving streams of noisy, pushing, shoving (though sometimes sweet) schoolchildren. Not to mention selling books and giving back change and being on my feet for hours. Then after that came the breathless rush downtown to board a bus to Kampala. I made it with a few minutes to spare and sat in the bus to collect my breath. My husband was joining me soon with the one bag we had packed- he had left work early so that he could pass by home to pick the bag.

Departure time was 7 p.m., sharp. It was a few minutes to, and in my many calls to him he would give me the same reply: stuck in traffic. The bus was filling up and I was beginning to panic. Where was he? I knew he’d had a crazy day too so it wasn’t his fault. The tension was making my head feel like it was full of cotton wool soaked in water.

The conductor came round, asking to see passports and Yellow Fever certificates. What Yellow Fever certificates? An uneasy feeling had started building up when I saw the signs inside the bus booking office, insisting on Yellow Fever certificates before crossing the border. Now, I have had quite an unpleasant experience at this same border, so you can imagine how I felt hearing about that requirement right then. How could we have known? Hubby had booked the tickets online and no one had bothered to give us that little nugget of information. We were not to know that there had been an outbreak of the disease in the recent past and that the authorities were taking no chances. Curiously enough, I had mine. Flashback to the previous night when I was packing our passports. I keep them in the same place as my Yellow Fever certificate. Something, and it couldn’t have been anything else except a nudge from the Holy Spirit, told me to carry my certificate. It had been years since I’d last needed it but it was still valid. So that’s how I came to have it with me that evening.

Behind me some fellow Kenyans were telling the conductor that they didn’t have Yellow Fever certificates. A bit of bargaining later and I saw some yellow cards with ‘The Nairobi Hospital’ stamp across them. They were quite small and unimpressive, like library cards, nothing like the large, clearly-printed document I had. Pre-stamped Yellow Fever cards? Yes, but at a cost. I would love to tell you that I turned my nose up at this thuggery but I can’t. I asked for one and, guided by the oh-so-helpful conductor, filled in hubby’s details. It was now time to pay up. May I mention that this trip had become necessary at a time when we were really skint. We were travelling on a wish and a prayer. But somehow, the accommodation and return tickets had all been sorted out. I pulled out Ksh 200, the last few notes I had on me. The conductor stared. He had said Ksh 2 000, not 200! The mist of fear that had descended on me must have blocked my ears as well. My heart beat faster as he raged and said I had conned him. Finally, almost snarling, he snatched the precious notes from my hands and left.

Hubby turned up then — finally! — and the gravity of what I had done suddenly hit me. Reason returned in a hurry, and I started to cry as the shame swept over me. I am a Christian for heaven’s sake, one professing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. How could I even think of doing such a thing? So the bus to Kampala took off, with one near-hysterical wife and one calm husband in seat №17A and 17B. I repented there and then, calming down as hubby rubbed my arm silently. Finally, I dabbed at my eyes, reached into my handbag and tore the fake certificate into tiny pieces. Hubby and I laughingly told each other that if the worst came to the worst, we’d just take the return bus from Busia and enjoy the days off from work.

We got to the border and there was a health officer available to give the Yellow Fever vaccination, hurrah! It cost us Ksh 2,500 (we had to wake up my bro-in-law to send us the money, at 4 a.m!) but on the bright side- it gives protection for ten years. We arrived safely in Kampala and I was able to access cash from my bank account there- enough to have a good time and even surplus.

In conclusion, there was no reason to fear. When I fear, I doubt and then I sin. Just because I had had a previous bad experience at the border did not mean it had to happen again. The thing is, I don’t control the universe, and I’m never going to know the future. In all, God is sovereign; He is in control as He showed us then, as He has showed me in the past, as He will no doubt show me again. O my forgetful heart, be still, and know that He is Lord.

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