Being Refused Entry at the India border – the Denial of Christ
By Stephen L France
If you are already aware what happened to the EEC India Mission Group—the Magnificent Chennai 10—then you likely have an idea what this blog is about.
However, there may be one surprise that you’re not anticipating; a confession of our sins…
The Deportation Experience
Allow me to create the setting for what might have been one of the greatest trips of our lives.
There we were in London Gatwick Airport on the morning of Friday 3 November, 2017.
As our well-organised mission leader Tayo provided the materials she’d prepared—a mini journal with a Word for each of us, and a worship pamphlet neatly laminated and bound—my heart warmed with joy; this was going to be the best EEC India Mission yet.
I looked at the nine faces of our group and knew, we had a fantastic team—Tayo, Femi, Mona Lisa, Patrick, Jo, Naomi, Sophia, Nina, Indra, and I comprised the troop, ready and willing by faith to do God’s work in foreign territory, resisting our fears and preconceptions.
I didn’t even fully realise just how excited I was about the trip. In fact, I wouldn’t comprehend the depth of my happiness until the mission was snatched from us in the abrupt, vivid moment at the Chennai Immigration Border.
Skipping ahead two amazing flights, we met the devastating words that would shift our mindsets into fervent prayer:
“They’re not letting us in,” Jo said to me of the words relayed to Indra and Naomi who had already been permitted entry.
I felt crippled, but held a deep hope I’ve never held before.
God would prevail over this immovable, mountain-sized security decision.
I was certain of this despite knowing from experience that when a security decision is made, NO ONE I’ve ever known rescinds it.
We fought with every rational plea for eight hours without food or water and then endured the final, crushing words “your time is up, you have a Visa Violation, you have to go back to the United Kingdom.”
A security guard with a visible firearm at his side approached.
We had to leave.
Throughout the experience, several Words emerged in my mind:
“Do not be surprised by the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12 -13
…and the Word that Tayo had provided for me in the front of my journal.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Interestingly, these two mandates of the Lord have been in my thoughts for a couple of months.
It’s the contrasting idea of the two verses that really intrigues me; that we are not to be surprised by terrible things, but also maintain hope throughout everything—a mindset only possible with God’s grace. This thought pattern is truly one of faith where we would not be worried about anything because we know God means us well in all things that occur.
After hearing those crippling words from Immigration, we felt disheartened, demoralised, and a touch of Christian persecution.
The treatment in Chennai Airport was atrocious—of that there is no doubt. It is likely a bribe may have swayed the officers as has been insinuated by others and it was clear that Christianity is a conflicting interest with Hinduism.
I will not delve into how we were regarded as I feel it has little relevance when compared to God’s revelation of what we must do by faith in Him and our co-labouring with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9).
The immigration officers and airport staff are forgiven for their dubious behaviour—it’s that simple (Matthew 5:44).
***It’s amazing—right now as I write these words, I haven’t got a single ounce of anger/wrath inside me nor do I care about the airline cost loss. It’s so irrelevant—praise God!
The correct term for what we experienced was ‘refusal of entry’ not ‘deportation,’ nevertheless, we ‘relished’ a deportation experience with the joy and peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:4 – 7).
We were not deportees, but we were referred as such in Chennai and were detained in a detention room in Dubai until our final flight back to the United Kingdom, all under Emirates’ escort.
For my own personal walk with the Lord, this journey has arrived in the midst of a series of deep cuts since recommitting my entire life to the Kingdom in August 2017.
I can only attribute the name to this season as “dying with Christ,” meaning dying to self, pride, ego, and human wisdom (Romans 6:6, Romans 8:36, 2 Corinthians 4:11, Galatians 2:20).
There is no denying, it hurts a great deal, but there’s also a mysterious peace that’s protecting me as well. I cannot explain it, hence my mention of the verse Philippians 4:7.
Prayer in aftermath
Personally, I was resigned to the idea that this entire event was spiritual warfare and there was no rational answer to such a huge loss.
The damage encompassed:
1) not being able to help the poor and sick in Chennai,
2) missing our wonderful fellowship,
3) and the theft of a deep spiritual growth opportunity, residing in a location that visibly shows God’s hand at work—something that’s difficult to spot in the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, many of us went into prayer, asking the Lord the clear question that plagued us at the border;
Lord, what are you trying to teach us from this experience?
What do you want from this experience when your Word is so clear about mission?
Yesterday (Sunday November 5 2017) Nina’s diligent and obedient questioning of the Lord, warranted a revelation; a revelation that I feel is important to share with everyone.
We’ve all known that going to India is a short-term mission. That’s what it’s labelled as and it’s what we do.
Although we do receive a guided tour from CMCT for edification and exhortation, our real purpose is to spread the Word of God.
We have an intention. We have a purpose. We have a mission. We are on mission for God.
Concealing ourselves behind a tourist visa—which is what we did to protect ourselves from instant rejection—when we’re actually going to do faithful work for our Lord and Saviour through the guided tour of CMCT, is not the Christian way.
We needed to go on a mission visa. Full-stop.
Deception is deception.
A little lie is a lie.
Holiness is holiness.
Purity is purity.
Truth is truth.
It’s a hard pill to swallow and when Nina relayed her revelation to me, I felt the pain of it; however, it completely fell in line with everything I’ve learned about our Lord and Saviour to date, and especially this year when the word over my life for 2017 has been SURRENDER.
We cannot mix up His ways with human attempts to control situations.
It’s either His pure way or everything else.
If we alter that TRUTH in any way at all, we cannot expect to come down on the side of Holiness and have His supernatural support overpower the devil’s schemes.
God allowed us to go all the way to Chennai to realise the real issue—we as Christians are not standing up for ourselves the correct way (Nina's revelation).
We often say things like “God is bigger than our problems,” and then leave an issue without fighting it His way.
The ultimate truth is we have God inside us. Only by doing things completely His way, can we then unlock the supernatural abilities He has for us to usher in Heaven on Earth (2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 2:22, Ephesians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 3:16).
Our Lord is the living God who will do a complete and perfect work in us (James 1:1 – 4). As such, He WILL take us all the way to the Chennai border to be refused.
Because He wants to finish the work in us so completely and definitely through deep trials that guide us to the end of our wits, only to bring us back stronger and with a firm grasp on His REAL MESSAGE.
Even more importantly, He wishes to show our human weakness so He can be strong for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When we proceeded with a tourist visa as opposed to a mission visa, we were denying Christ—perhaps not directly, but anything of 'grey matter' is of the evil one (Matthew 5.37).
I personally hold my hands up to this in confession to God, because I remember in 2016—the first time I embarked on India mission—thinking this procedure was incorrect. I’m pretty sure I said it once (though I may have kept it to myself), but because this was how the process had been conducted for years, we all abided.
No matter how I try to rationalise it in my mind, I denied Christ by going into mission under a false guise. A visa violation.
It felt like an immense loss—indeed it did.
We had the most people going on India Mission ever from EEC, showing an expansion in our church’s Mission Task Force efforts, supporting the phenomenal supernatural works of God around the world. But, we were rejected from Chennai and then ejected under personal guard (Emirates’ staff) no less.
The escort was actually a gentle one. We received seating together on our flights to continue consoling one another and the seats were extra spacious.
God kindly ushered us back home without incident and there was no damage done to our flight records.
It’s as if we never flew to Chennai, yet, we gained a magnificent gift; a new mission.
We are aware the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy—his work against CMCT is clearly one to isolate them from the assistance of brothers and sisters around the world; a tragic state of affairs as there’s nothing but the Christian effort to support a great multitude in their country.
But on that day we were in Chennai, we were not on the side of pure truth.
We had used human wisdom to conceal our real identity and purpose, which was a mission in Christ.
Our real job in this is to begin to tackle the giants that stop mission and facilitate a change that permits us entry the right way (Nina's revelation).
Our faith has a place, indeed a founding spot in every single type of industry and institution whether it be aid in other countries, politics, media, or economics to name a few, but Jesus has been removed.
If India does reject Christian mission visas, we need to be asking “why?”
We’re then required by God to be pushing at this prejudice/discrimination through our faith and using spiritual discernment in our actions, after all, our God is capable of all things.
No one is to blame here, but there is an accountability and responsibility in the use of a tourist visa over a mission visa.
The words written on the Emirates Refusal of Entry form presented to us were Visa Violation.
How can we argue against that?
This is exactly what we did.
Our actions were especially highlighted when the immigration officer claimed he contacted CMCT and they allegedly responded that, “we’re expecting 10 people for Short Term Mission.”
Our debate that we were tourists had no backing at all…and we should never have been arguing it in the first place.
We must rejoice—the devil’s weapon in this has failed.
The enemy has made a monumental mistake, just like pushing Judas to have Christ betrayed and subsequently sacrificed (1 Corinthians 2:8).
None of us have been harmed in our faith.
Personally, my faith has increased and my desire to serve the Lord in everything I do has expanded.
Praise God for the response of our souls to this difficult experience.
We are children of God.
We have a duty to make certain that we do not authorise the infection of the enemy’s vision to separate us from CMCT or each other at EEC.
In all of this, there is one vital factor and I repeat it again—we still have our faith. Praise God!
By sight, things look pretty awful, but in the spiritual realm, there is a bright future indeed (Jeremiah 29:11).
Thank you Lord for the experience of the short-lived, short term mission.
We will move forward stronger and bolder in truth and in love.
Please feel free to leave any comments below about our experience or an experience you may have had, glorifying God