JAIL

The five of us are sitting in a hotel room at the “Three Stars Hotel” (in reality it is about 0.03 stars, no water, infrequent electricity, no food, filthy, no window screens - but we did have a spray can of DDT) in Shinyanga, Tanzania. We are at the end of our journey of evangelism for this trip. We have been in two different villages preaching the gospel and sharing a little follow-up information with the nationals who had put their faith in Christ. A knock at the door and in step two regional police officers. They immediately tell the two African national leaders with our mission who were sitting on the bed to leave the room. They collect our passports then begin to question us as to our work there. They turn to each other every now and then and speak in Swahili, saying ‘ they don’t get what we are after, we will have to change tactics.” They do not realize I know Swahili and I do not let on that I understand them. Finally they take us to the police station (or rather, they ask us if we can give them a ride to the station, as we have a vehicle and they do not). So we arrest ourselves and drive to the station! We begin a three day questioning - testimony period, each night being taken back to our hotel and placed under “house arrest” and told to show up at the station the next day for further testimony. One of the team (I won’t mention his name but his initials are BJ) suggests we make a run for the American Embassy. At the suggestion, I inform him that the Embassy is 600 miles away and there is only one road from where we are to there. Don’t you think they will know exactly where we are headed and cut us off before we get there? So we vote that idea down. Brian, Fred and I agree we just tell them the truth (nothing is simpler) and our stories will match. We were after all just there to spread the good news of Jesus. They accused us of buying illegal diamonds with the plan to sell them abroad. We each offered to let them go through our luggage and verify that there were no diamonds (or anything else except dirty clothes). They declined the offer and kept trying to wear us down and catch us in a discrepancy. The second day I was sitting there and was sort of day dreaming while the officer wrote down everything I said. I was listening to the radio and I heard the news break in that somewhere had been bombed (I thought they said the American Embassy!), so I asked the officer if he would turn that up a little so I could listen and confirm what I thought I heard. He agreed and we sat there and sure enough listened to the broadcaster excitedly report that the American Embassy had been bombed in Tanzania AND he added that the American Embassy in Kenya had been bombed as well. What? Well, when we had exchanged a few “I can’t believe it” comments, it all of a sudden registered with the officer that I understood the whole report.... in Swahili! Things changed rapidly at the police station. The demeanor of the investigators became very solemn and even curt. I suppose they were now all afraid I would blow the whistle on them that what I had heard them constantly talking about was that they wanted a sizable bribe to let us go. They knew our plane was leaving in one more day so they thought they had us over a barrel if they could just get one discrepancy with which to trap us, we would have to pay, or stay! That night at the hotel, we had a discussion about how happy we were that we did not run for the embassy...which was no longer there. The next morning were handed our passports and told we could leave. We had to sign a document that basically stated that the officers had been professional and no one had suggested any ”corrupt action” on our part. We reluctantly signed and got “outta dodge”. This is only part of the story. I will finish the rest later! 

Sunday, June 14, 1998