Arrested at the Airport
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, April 15.
wo days before Carmen boarded the international flight, she knelt by her bed to ask for God’s protection. The young woman, barely out of her teens, had not prayed in years. She wasn’t sure why she felt compelled to pray just then. But she was filled with despair, and she poured her whole heart into her prayer.
“God, please protect me and take care of me,” Carmen prayed. “Guide me because I’m doing this out of a desperate need. Please don’t allow the police to catch me.”
That night, she had a dream. She dreamed that the police arrested her and placed her in handcuffs. When she woke up, she dismissed the dream as unimportant.
A day later, she boarded the plane for the long flight from Brazil to Spain.
Carmen trembled for the duration of the 12-hour flight. She was terrified. She remembered that she had tried to take the trip a month earlier, but things hadn’t worked out. She remembered that her mother had told her many times, “Return to God now while there is still time.” She prayed nonstop for the 12 hours.
“Please give me peace,” she prayed. “Give me protection. Calm my heart.”
She asked God to guide her.
“Please fulfill Your will in my life,” she said.
Upon landing in Spain’s capital, Madrid, Carmen gave her passport to an immigration officer and passed through passport control without any problems. But when she collected her suitcase in the baggage claim area, the police stopped her.
“Follow us,” a police officer said.
Carmen followed the officers to a room, where she was told that her suitcase had been inspected and something illegal had been found inside. Carmen was placed in handcuffs.
“You are under arrest,” an officer said.
Carmen remembered her dream. She silently asked God for forgiveness. But there was nothing else that she could do. Police took her directly from the airport to a prison cell.
The trial lasted about four months, and Carmen was sentenced to six years in prison.
She had no family in Spain. She had no friends. She knew no one. She asked herself, “Why are these things happening to me? Why am I here?” It was a painful experience. She and many other inmates thought they were in prison because God was punishing them. It was hard to have hope.
One day, a fellow inmate invited Carmen to a Bible study.
“Nice people from a church are visiting us,” the inmate said. “They are offering Bible studies. Come along!”
Carmen went to the Bible study and met Julia and Santosa, two Seventh-day Adventist women from a group of 10 who visited the prison regularly. It was her first meeting with Adventists.
Carmen liked the Adventist women. She felt welcome and accepted. She felt a sense of protection. As they read the Bible together, she began to feel God’s presence in her life. She particularly loved reading, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:1-4, NKJV).
Carmen felt like she was not alone. She began to have hope.
After starting Bible studies, her life got better and better. She received a coveted job in the prison and, before she knew it, she was released for good behavior. She had served only three years of the six-year sentence.
“Now I’m free,” Carmen says. “My life has been restored. I’m studying at a university and moving on with my life. I’ll always put my trust in God because God comes first in my life.”
Carmen regularly returns to the prison to encourage an incarcerated friend. She tells her, “You have to always hold onto God because everything is possible with Him.”
Carmen thanks God that she went to prison. She says God heard her frightened prayers on the 12-hour flight to Spain. While God didn’t keep her out of prison, He answered her plea for Him to fulfill His will in her life. He brought her into a close relationship with Him.
“I feel very ashamed of my mistakes, but I want my story to serve as a lesson to others,” she says. “When you ask God for His will to be done in your life, wait patiently for Him to answer because He will.”
Part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering three years ago went to Sagunto Adventist College in Spain, where students also give Bible studies to prisoners. Thank you for your mission offering that helps spread hope.