As I was discussing possible things to write about with a member of our staff, we decided to go off track a little and write about how important humor is when traveling abroad. One person that sticks out the most in my mind is my good friend, Mike H., who I had the privilege of working with and who happens to be a gifted children’s pastor. No matter the situation, whether appropriate or not, he always seemed to come up with something that made you laugh.
I’ve had the opportunity to take multiple teams on mission trips but one such trip was probably the most physically demanding one that I’d ever lead a group of Americans. Mike just so happened to be on that trip. We had just been 10 days in the country of Niger, which is predominately a Muslim nation, and not for the faint of heart. We had spent much of our time in the bush country of the Sahel, the southern part of the Sahara desert. We had little water, bad food, and slept in mud huts on beds made of sticks. The last night, termites had infected the men’s hut and we were forced to sleep under the stars in the sand with all things that crawl in the night. I tell you this because I want you to get some picture of what our trip was like. Ministry was amazing but the physical conditions left much to be desired. I was so proud of the resiliency of the team but we were all tired.
Our flight left Niamey, the capital of Niger, at 4 o’clock in the morning. We had gotten no sleep that night at the end of a grueling trip. As we sat in the airport at 3 am, the temperature was about 95 and no air conditioner. Most everyone in the waiting area was napping or reading when all of a sudden Mike began to sing at the top of his lungs. He was singing the old Toto song, “I felt the rains down in Africa.” What made it so funny, besides the fact that he couldn't sing very well, was that it was so hot and we were in the desert where it rarely rains. All the Africans were looking at this crazy American singing as loud as he could in the middle of the night, on a hot night, about rain.
As we boarded the plane, soldiers stopped us on the tarmac to check our carry-on baggage and frisk us for weapons. I was near the front of the line and a soldier approached me and questioned me as to if I was the one who had been singing. In my compassionate way, I thought I would teach Mike a lesson. I turned around and pointed to him and let the soldier know that he should be asking “that guy” who was the culprit. I stopped at the stairs to the plane to watch what would transpire. When Mike reached the soldier with the AK on his shoulder, he was asked if he was the one singing and Mike sheepishly confirmed that it he was the guilty one. What happened next was one of the funniest moments I have experienced. The soldier commanded him to sing the whole song! Mike sang for him and then looking very relieved, picked up his bag and started to move toward the plane when the soldier roughly put his hand on Mike’s chest and said, “Again!” I died laughing as Mike sang the song again!
Every now and again, I get a video of Mike driving down the road in his car singing that song. Too funny! It’s good to laugh!
If you have a funny missions story to tell, I invite you to post on this blog and share it. We would all benefit laughing with you!