The pastor prayed for me and after he was done, he said, ” Fear not my Son, all is well with you, you have a bright future, your destiny is across the water, you will make it big, be blessed and have abundance. You will also live long but one thing you must be aware of , you will have to cross great waters to get to your destiny” . As soon as he was done with his predictions, I politely asked him where exactly was this waters I am supposed to cross to find my destiny? But the Pastor smiled and calmly replied, “My son, the Lord did not reveal this to me”.
Now I was more confused than ever, my friend had insisted I go see this seer of God to reveal my destiny and now after he was done telling me , I still didn’t understand where and how I was going to achieve it. Notwithstanding, I got up from my kneeling position , thanked him and left. As I left, I began to rationalise what he just told me.. The pastor said my destiny was across waters? He must be referring to seas. The country is surrounded by many large seas that take people to foreign countries, where they thrive and get rich. I was now convinced, I knew where my destiny was , it was in Europe or America. I didn’t care if the Pastor meant waters in my village, the city or my country. I knew it could never be that near. Besides, we didn’t have any great waters in our country. As for me, I convinced myself it couldn’t be that near , it had to be far away and that was Europe, United Kingdom or America . From then onwards, I could think of nothing else , it was either I went abroad or nothing else, even if I had to swim all the way, I was prepared. My name is Peterside , and this is my story…
I came from a humble background , grew up in a small town where everyone was in everybody else’s business. The town measured a family’s success by how many children were out of the country. As far as they were concerned, having a child who lived outside the country equated to fame, respect and fortune for the family back home and in most cases, it earned the man of the house a chieftain title . My parents were not left out of this community dream. They constantly asked me to get my act together, “make us proud”, they constantly said . As far as they were concerned, the fact that I just graduated from university, where I had to work, trade and do whatever I could to pay my fees and still manage to come out with a second class upper in economics , was neither here nor there .To my surprise, the day after graduation, my father said to me, ” Son, you are done with schooling now, it’s time for you to go make us proud, you need to find a way to join your mates abroad, remember you have a lot of responsibility here.” Even though I was disappointed by their lack of appreciation for my success, I wasn’t surprised. I knew my parents had always admired those who had children abroad and were envious of the way they constantly bragged about all the money and goods their children sent. My parents were so poor they couldn’t even pay my fees or send me to the next town, regardless of paying my flight fare abroad, but they expected me to find my way there, get a job and start sending money to them immediately. Such was the life waiting for me when I graduated. My father had even started to tell me how he expected me to send the money. “First you will send money for us to build a house, then send a nice car like Timo sent to his father , the salary for a driver and the upkeep for your mum and I. Don’t forget your twin sisters , they will soon finish secondary school and you will be responsible for their fees in university. Also you know David? Don’t you, his father , my friend told me David sends nice lace materials to him every month, make sure you send better ones to us. And in addition don’t forget our 30 year wedding anniversary and thanksgiving is coming up next year, and you know in our lineage there is a chieftain title? I would like to take..” and he would go on and on. After a while, l stopped listening, I just sat there , with my head in my hands ,deep in thought, thinking of the prophecy I had received from the pastor and how soon it will be realised.
Eleven months after graduation, I had applied for an international passport and it was finally ready. I still wasn’t sure how I was getting the visa or ticket to get me across the water but decided it was time to start looking into options available for my impending trip. So I began to search online, I found a few agencies and picked out the one which promised to have a 100% success rate at procuring visas for first time travellers. I called a no and I was given an appointment for the following day and asked me to come with my international passport, 2 passport pictures.. The next I met with a man and a woman. The man introduced himself as the manager and the woman his PA.
He started off by asking which country I wanted to go to, I said Europe, United Kingdom or America. He said, because I had never travelled out of the country before, London and America were out of it . My only option was Europe. It would cost me a lot of money and would take about 2 months to get all the documentation sorted out . Once the documents were sent to the embassy, the visa will be issued within 3 weeks and I must be ready to travel immediately.
His information was delightful. I had been ready since the day I received the prophecy. I just wasn’t sure where to begin until now. I was surprised the whole process would only take 3 months. Fortunately, even though I wasn’t asked to bring money along, I knew I would have to pay and to save me the hassle of going back , I took money with me. So I gave the money to the woman as a 80% deposit and she gave me a receipt, “leave your international passport and 2 passport pictures , once your visa is ready we will call you”, she said. Everyday for the 3 months i prayed. I wasn’t worried they didn’t get in touch because the man had said i would hear from them once the visa was ready. But five months later when i didn’t hear from them, i got really worried and went to their office. The man was nowhere to be found but the lady told me the embassy had a backlog and I should give them more time. But after 11 months of going back and forth, the lady finally told me to stop coming as the embassy had denied my visa and there was no refund. I tried to argue that wasn’t the information they gave me, but she said maybe i wasn’t listening. Eventually when I realised I couldn’t do anything to get my money back, I gave up on them and started to look for an alternative.
All this while i wasn’t looking for work, i believed i was on my way to Europe and there was no ned to go looking for work. But an offer came from a classmate who called to say his company was recruiting and he had been asked to contact people he knew who had 2:1 in economics . He said once the company authenticated my credentials , employment was guaranteed. The company was also willing to pay for a masters degree in any related field I choose. It was a great offer, for anyone who planned to stay in the country but for me , I was off to chase my destiny , definitely not interested. My friend tried to persuade me , all fell on deaf ears. He kept pestering me to consider and after a while I stopped picking up his calls because I saw him as an enemy of progress. Anything that is trying to stop me from going abroad, I bind in the name of Jesus, was my constant prayer.
After my initial disappointment, I was on the computer every day and night , only stopped to eat and sleep, I was looking for a way to get to Europe. Soon I began to ride stories of people getting to Europe without visas, taking alternative routes. I wanted that, afterall i lost a lot of money trying to get a visa. After trolling the internet for 6 months I finally found a group that claimed they could get you out of the country and to your destination in Europe , without a visa.The journey was long and tedious but the reward at the end was getting to Europe, their website had said. I read testimonies over and over of people who claimed to have taken their offer and were not settled in Europe. It didn’t say how, it just asked the question, Have you been frustrated by visa refusals , are you desperate to get to Europe, if the answers are yes, contact us now and you won’t be disappointed. So answering Yes to both questions, I made up my mind that this was my only option. As requested, I emailed my details to them , name , age , country I wish to go, any health challenges , money available to me and parents occupation and eagerly awaited a response. Six week later on a Saturday , I got an email inviting me to their office the following Monday.
As soon as i received the email, i couldn’t wait for monday morning to arrive. My heart was beating fast as I arrived at their office early in the morning. I stepped into the office and saw four other people were there already, waiting . A few minutes later, we were all ushered into a meeting room and a well dressed man came in, we all exchanged pleasantries and he began to explain the process. What the trip would cost, what to wear , pack and the duration. At the end of the talk , I was sure this was the way to go. After paying the money requested for, I would still be left with a sizeable balance in my pocket, so that was acceptable. We were told to come back to the office , 5am, three weeks later.
For those three weeks I put all my affairs in order. I gave away what little possession I had, except the few clothes we were instructed to pack. I went to the bank and emptied out my account. Bought a nice turban, big rucksack and a pair of hiking boots, all items we had been instructed to wear on that day. The day finally came, I arrived at the office at 5 am as instructed. Met eleven people waiting, four girls and five boys , and two other men who sat apart from the others, all dressed as Bedouin as instructed . About an hour later, a 15 seater bus with blacked out windows pulled up. We were instructed to board and the man who had spoken to us three weeks ago came into the bus and announced that this was the beginning of our road to destiny. He pointed to the two men and said, “ these are your guards, they will take you to your destination in Europe, Godspeed.” and with that he got off the bus.
The journey started off well, we drove for 2 full days and only stopped to refresh or refuel. Everyone on the bus kept to themselves , it was as if we didn’t want to talk in case anything went wrong. We sat in silence, only stealing glances at each other. We also ate the bread and boiled eggs dished to us at the start of the journey. To keep my mind occupied, I tried to read body language and imagined if everyone had a similar story to mine. It didn’t help that the windows were blacked out either. This meant we couldn’t see where we were going but I guess we all took comfort in the fact that we were on our way to destiny. Finally, around 1pm on the third day, we arrived in a small town, the guards asked us to get down from the bus with our rucksack, which was the only luggage permitted. We were ushered into a large room, with mattresses on the floor , one of the guards said “find a spot and sleep , we leave very early in the morning , tomorrow you start your journey to freedom and prosperity” , he laughed as he walked away. We all smiled , not knowing what was to come. I couldn’t think of anything else but all the money I was about to make.
Thankfully, at the last minute I had made a friend on the bus trip, his name was James ,he and I found a corner , he brought out the biscuit and water he had in his bag, gave me some and we began to eat. As we ate he asked, “where do you think we are?”. I looked around as if trying to figure it out and replied, “Well we have traveled for some days now, I don’t know, but am sure once we get back on the bus in the morning, we would find out.” Around 5 am the next morning , the guards came to get everybody, a few of us had stayed awake most of the night, everyone was tired and hungry . The guards instructed us to go freshen up in the 2 toilets and 2 bathrooms attached to the hall. And within 30 minutes everyone was done. The guards dished out 3 loaves of bread, 4 boiled eggs and 4 large bottles of water to each of us. Then gave us a stern warning, “these must last you to the next rest stop, there is no food or water to buy on the way” . How far away? , we were about to find out.
And as we stepped out of the hall, everyone gasped. All around us and for miles all we could see was sand. Sand was everywhere , it took a second to register that we were in the desert. Apparently, unknown to us because we had arrived late into the night yesterday and everywhere had been black, we could hardly see beyond our noses, not to talk of seeing where we were. The next shock was the bus was nowhere in sight. The guards informed us the journey from here on will be on foot. Everything slowly began to make sense. The Bedouin clothes, hiking boots and rucksack, we were being prepared for a trek across the desert. The Man had not told us specifically , he knew most of us might drop out. But now it was too late, the bus was gone, there won’t be another one for 8 weeks. I looked around and everyone was having a hard time dealing with the situation we just found ourselves in. I kept a straight face, trying hard to disguise the fear running right through me, James on the other hand couldn’t, he stood next to me shivering. I knew we all had a treacherous journey ahead. A couple of the girls were crying , I would have cried too but I was a man , I had to look at the big picture ,my destiny was waiting for me. I was a bit conflicted though, the pastor had said across great waters , not across great sands. Anyway, I decided to rationalise, these sand might lead to great waters I thought. if this was the only way for me to get to Europe without a visa , then trek across the desert I must.
The trek started off okay, it was early in the morning, the weather was cool and the sun was down. We just had breakfast and we still had a lot of energy, personally I just wanted to get going, the faster we walked the sooner we would get to our destination. But the guides insisted we walk slow and take it easy. We didn’t realise how far we would have to walk , everyone was determined to put their best foot forward all the same. By noon, the sun was up and we were getting really tired. The hotter it got , the more difficult it became to walk. Our feet hurt and our heads ached. We had walked a distance, only stopping a couple of times to rest . After another few hours of walking , the guides told us it was time to rest until 4am the next morning. They ushered us into a small cave which fitted everyone and provided cover from the harsh desert sun. I was exhausted, I put my rook sac as a pillow, my headwrap as a sheet to lay on and in a few minutes, I had dozed off.
I wasn’t sure what was happening but loud screams woke me up. I actually thought I was dreaming when I opened my eyes and saw Thomas standing over me crying. He had been trying to wake me up for a few seconds as the whole space was in commotion. I could see one of the boys in the group lying on the floor, motionless, “what happened to him?” I asked. Still sobbing James replies, “He got mauled by an animal , half of his leg and face are missing , we found his body outside the cave when we woke up this morning , he is dead”. Hearing the words mauled and dead in one sentence would cause panic in anyone. I jumped up instantly, chasing any drowsiness out of my system. I ran out of the cave shivering in fear, realising the dead boy had slept next to me, he was nearest to the entrance of the cave, it could easily have been me lying there mauled and dead. immediately,I knelt down, started to pray, thanking God for my survival and reminding him this journey was to take me to my destiny and not my grave.
The guides were not as emotional as we all were. I guessed leading groups through the desert they must have seen their fair share of mauls and death. They instructed the guys among us to find sticks to dig a hole and bury the boy. After covering him with sand, one of the guides said a few prayers and the journey began again. This time we trekked for another 3 days, only stopping at high noon to eat and sleep and then continue. By day 3 we were all visibly shaken, we had witnessed the death of one of us and the reality of what awaited us all suddenly sunk in. my thoughts went back to the boy, i didn’t even know his name, his family will probably never know what happened to him. To be killed and buried in a place where no one will ever find you was pretty stressful when you think about it. But the pain we all felt in our bodies, didn’t leave much room to worry about anyone else. We all got familiar with the routine , walk , rest , eat, walk , sleep, walk. So when the guides announced we would reach a Bedouin camp in the evening where a truck carrying goods would be available to take us across the border into the next country, we all sighed in relief .
Arriving at the camp, it was larger than I expected, different groups of people were milling around everywhere. As for us all we were looking for was food. At the far end of the camp we found the food court, relieved and elated we rushed into one of the food tents to get something hot to eat. For the last 6 days all we had eaten was hard boiled eggs , bread and water, having to ration the food as well, we were all famished and glad to be having a proper hot meal . After food, the guide informed us there was another group already waiting for the truck. They had been waiting at the camp for 7 days. The truck only came once in two weeks, to drop off suppliers to the Bedouin camp and in order not to go back empty , it was filled with human cargo. At first I didn’t understand what the problem was if another group was also waiting, but the guides explained. We had a major problem because the truck smuggled people across the border , there were only so many hiding places on the truck.This meant some of us would have to stay behind for another 2 weeks . The guides came around asking if any of us had cash, the only way was to bribe the truck driver extra for our group to be the first to board . Fortunately most of us still had cash on us, the other group had exhausted most of their extra cash while waiting for the Lorry. We got on the Lorry first , then there were 2 more spaces but the other group had 13 people. Two of the girls were approached by the Lorry driver and his assistant , in exchange for a space on the Lorry , they would have sex with them, the girls had no choice but to oblige and so we were ready to go..
The next phase of our long journey went without a hitch , until we got to the border around 6.15am. The Lorry driver’s usual practise was to give the security at the border crossing an envelope full of cash, and their journey would continue. But that day the security men had changed hands before we got there. This was due to a stop on the way to fix a flat tire. The security guards he had a deal with left at 5 am and a new group took over, his new group did not know the driver. So they ordered the driver to switch off his engine and get out. At this point we all held our breath under the canopy where we were hiding. We heard raised voices in a language and a gun cock, we didn’t understand the language but knew we were in deep trouble when the gun cocked. The next thing the security guy opened up the canopy and pointed a gun at us. We were ordered to get down and line up.
One of our guides understood the language and told us the security men were planning to detain us all, so when he starts running, we should follow. The security guys and the driver kept shouting at each other as he tried to offer them money and for a few seconds they left us unattended, that’s when the guide took to his heels and we followed suit. The security guys noticed us and started shooting, we all scattered. Thomas and I ran to the left back where we were coming from, some went with the guard to the right and 4 were captured, two of ours and the two girls from the other group . Thomas and I ran for about 15 minutes, then stopped when we couldn’t hear the gunshots or voices. We looked around, didn’t know where we were. Thomas and I looked around nervously, scared and confused but happy to be alive. We found a tree for shade and sat down to catch our breath. We knew that the next stop was the camp sabatun, as the guides had called it. We had a feeling that that’s where the guards were heading, we just had to find a way to get there. Thomas started to shiver again and I noticed he had a fever and was also coughing. I knew we won’t be able to continue the trip on foot and besides we didn’t know where we were. After waiting for a while it got dark. We found a rock and a space in between a big tree and the rock. I covered the top with my scarf and used Thomas scarf as a sheet for him to lie on. I sat next to him and we decided to wait there until morning and prayed a solution would come by then. I didn’t sleep much, I had to stay awake to watch for any animal. Who could forget the last mauling. At the first break of daylight, I left Thomas sleeping and took a walk towards the opposite direction of the border crossing , to see if I could find an alternative route to cross . After walking around for an hour with no luck, I headed back to where I left Thomas . I had dropped twigs and stones on the way to guide me back to him, if not am sure we both would be lost forever . Spending the night on our own was terrifying , we only had a little water and a few slices of bread which we ate before we finally dozed off. By the time I got back it was 6am, we knew we had to start walking or find an alternative transport or we would die there.
Having failed to find an alternative, we decided our only option was to walk back the way we ran the previous day. Luckily, after about 25 minutes, we could see the border crossing, a few trucks lined up waiting to get through. The shift change was going on , so no one was checking the Lorries,.Thomas suggested we sneak under one of them. Fortunately the last truck on the queue was an articulated vehicle carrying cattle. Lots of hiding space among the cattle, we climbed in, lay on the floor on cattle dung and held our breath, and prayed we won’t get trampled upon. Smelling like poo was definitely better than dying where we were. A few minutes later the trucks began to move and ours waived past without checking. One problem solved we had crossed the border, the question now was, where were we heading ?
The Lorry drove for a while, bouncing up and down, Thomas and I finally stood up and looked over the sides. Meanwhile the cattle ignoring us mowed away and calmly chewed on the hay laid out for them. About 3 hours into the drive, the Lorry suddenly went off the main trail and stopped after a few miles. Looking around we saw a camp just a few meters ahead. We weren’t sure if this was the camp we wanted, but one camp was better than no camp. So as soon as the driver and his helper alighted, we jumped down from the truck , and walked into the camp. This particular camp was similar to all the others , lots of people milling around and everyone minding their business. We went straight to the rest rooms to wash off our cow dunk ridden bodies and have a change of clothes, then started to look for our group. You must understand that these camps stretch on for about half a mile, it could take hours before you find someone. We walked around for about 30 mins looking into tents and just as we were about to give up we saw one of our camp guides carrying some food. Thomas was the first to see him, he nudged me and froze. I followed his gaze and there he was , one of our guides holding to plastic bags with contents that looked a lot like bread. We took off running and calling out his name . He stopped, looked around and saw us, he was so surprised. He led us to the rest of the group and when they saw us they were delighted. They thought we too had been captured or shot, like the other 4 people. They asked how we escaped and how we got to this camp , as I reeled out the story, Thomas suddenly collapsed. The guide checked him over after waking him up with a splash of water and realised was still running a fever. So he took him to a health worker in the tent nearby , who gave him an injection and some medication , for this Thomas had to part with his last bit of cash .
The next morning and started walking again, still in the desert but on a much hilly part. Lots of sand dunes to climb and descend. This made us tired quicker than before. A lot of us found it difficult to climb so the guides tied us all to a rope. The stronger ones in front and the weaker ones behind . so everyone got to pull someone else. Eventually walking for 2 hours we were about to find a resting place when one of the girls suddenly screamed and fell down convulsing. We all stopped , detangled from the rope and ran back towards her. Just as a black snake wriggled its way into the sand. I jumped back instantly, I recognised the snake, it was a Nubian spitting cobra, one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Unfortunately once bitten death was in seconds. We watched helplessly as she convulsed and eventually stopped moving, one of the guards checked for a pulse , there was none and he pronounced her dead. As soon as the guides said the words, “She’s gone”, The strangest thing happened , we all felt like crying but no tears came out, it was as if every desert sun had dried up all our tears . We dug a hole in the ground and buried her . as we did i watched as we all acted like zombies. No emotion, just robotic actions. I was petrified, my mind kept imaging who was next. The group was fast depleting , 12 of us started , 2 got shot, one mauled to death, another killed by a snake. I was beginning to think we were not going to make it. From that moment on everyone was sober and we walked a lot faster, with more caution, no one thought about snakes until now. My knowledge of snakes came from having a room-mate in university who was obsessed with them. On his side of the room , he had posters of some of the most dangerous snakes in the world and the Nubian spitting cobra was one of them.
We continued our journey for the next 5 days , walking , resting, avoiding sandstorms and snakes. Slept and walked again. It had now been almost three weeks since we left our country. James was much better, in fact he got really strong, the drugs prescribed by the Bedouin doctor seemed to work wonders. As for me I was constantly lost in thought, my worry, I hadn’t told anyone I was embarking on this journey , what happens if I die here, no one will ever find me or know what happened to me . The thought went through my mind over and over , this only made me more determined that I must survive this trip, no matter what it took. I wasn’t about to die in the desert , buried and left at the mercy of wild animals and venomous snakes. I must get to my destination in Europe and fulfil my destiny. After all the prophecy didn’t say I would die in the desert. Although, for a few minutes a day the thought occurred to me that the prophecy didn’t say I would cross a lot of sand either. Fortunately by nightfall on the 5th day, we got to another camp alive.
This camp wasn’t a lot different from the rest, only that there were more traders selling artefacts than food. Our guide paid for a tent as usual , we got some food and we all gathered in the tent and went to sleep. Tomorrow was another day of border crossing the guide had said. About 3 hours into the night , we were suddenly awoken by screams and shouts. One of the guides went out to see what was happening, then he came running back and hurriedly asked us to pack up as we were being attacked by desert pirates . “They don’t spare lives , they rob, rape and kill, run for your live” the other guide yelled . Scared to death, we got our belongings together and ran in different directions . The moonlight was very bright so we could see people everywhere , women, children , men all running , we looked back and saw the Pirates on horses, chasing us with swords and guns in their hands. The ones that couldn’t run fast enough were shot at or slashed with the sword. People were dropping dead left right and centre . We saw some people run into a cave and we followed, we piled ourselves in and fell dead silent. Just a few minutes later the Pirates went past on horses , chasing after those who were still running. It was black inside the cave, you could hear people breathing but you had no idea who was sitting or crouching next to you.
We waited in the cave for what seemed to be over an hour. Then when everywhere was silent we started filling out, one at a time. By now our legs were cramped for so long, some had to crawl out on their hands and knees. Once everyone was out, I counted us , we were over a 100 people in that small cave . The most important thing was that I saw Thomas and one of the guides. After about an hour, our whole group was back together missing only one guy. Looking around for him, we later found his body in the makeshift morgue , his neck had been slashed. This did not help our already fragile situation. But still no tears, just sadness and scared faces. We were not devoid of emotions, we just didn’t have enough energy to cry or moan. We all believed it could be us next, we just didn’t know how or when. The group now had only seven of us left. We took his rucksack which was still on his back , rummaged through and found some clothes and money. we needed all we could get. We then went and found a spot to sit down together. We were due to catch a bus that night out of the camp and we were determined not to miss it.
By 4 am that morning, the guards came to get us from under the tree. It was time to go, there was a bus waiting. As we filled into it we didn’t dare ask if this was our final trip or there was still more walking to do. We just decided to take it in our stride. Knowing what was ahead only made things worse. We will face it when we get there. The bus drove for several hours through towns , forests and darkness and then it stopped. We all filled out as we had got on. And as we hit the ground the most amazing refreshing breeze hit us. It was so different from the usual heat that hit us every time we got off a truck or bus in the past weeks. We all gasped as In the distance we could hear the sound of waves rolling over and over. At first i wasn’t sure it was waves and then the guide said, “Get ready, your your final trip to Europe, a ride on a boat “.As soon as he said that, my heart skipped, i was finally there, Yes, the prophecy was coming to past, i was about to cross the seas as predicted , on my way to my destiny.
We didn’t have long to walk, after about 30 minutes we came to the beach. The early sun rise shone against the waves as they hit the rocks on the shore. The guards ushered us along the banks and we could literally feel the vibrations of the waves . We continued along the beach to a calm side , where we saw an old wooden cargo boat waiting. Two men, obviously European, stood waiting for us. They ushered it into a small boat to take us to the larger wooden boat. Before long we were in the belly of the large boat. We tripped as we went down a kind of stairs. We were instructed to feel our way down. it was dark and smelled terrible , we could hear voices of other people but could not see them clearly.. A few minutes later the guards came towards us with 2 oil lamps. my eyes adjusted to my surroundings and it was then I saw people sitting on rows of wooden benches, men ,women and children, about 30 or more, chatting in a language we couldn’t understand . The guards told us to find a seat and sit down , little did I know we were being prepared for our journey across the Mediterranean Sea, into Europe.
The guides informed us the journey by boat would normally take 2 hours but today it would take longer because of the weather. A storm was building up in the horizon and due to the age and capacity of the boat , the rough sea would slow it down considerably. As the sea got rougher , we were tossed around like rags and had to cling on to pillars for dear life. No seat belts or harnesses to protect us. You could hear the children crying and the adults trying to console them . This went on for over an hour before the sea finally settled down, but by this time most of us were bruised and battered. After about another 3 hours , our guide came down and told us we were on the shores of Europe and it was time to go on deck. Instructions were given for us to put on the life jackets that had been given us when we got on the boat. . Just then the boat captain came down and asked everyone to get ready to get off, he explained that we would have to swim the little distance left because he could not dock at the port with all of us on board , since he was smuggling us in , he said for those of us who couldn’t swim , it wasn’t a problem , we would be given two large life rafts , everyone should hold on to the sides , and it will gently drift to an area where we would be rescued by the coast guards. At the completion of the announcement , confusion broke out among us all. Swim the rest of the way, I couldn’t swim, James could but that wasn’t consoling for me. All the same i knew if i wanted to survive i had to get a space to hold onto one of the rafts.
About an hour later, everyone was in the water ,except the 5 little children, who were placed in the rafts. I was holding onto one of the rafts for dear life. Nothing was going to make me let go. People were shivering, crying, panicking but they all held on. We must have been drifting for about another hour and just as I felt my legs go numb, I spotted the coast guard coming towards us in a large boat. Within minutes they were beside us. Two of them got in the water with us and started pulling us out of the water one at a time. Within minutes we were all wrapped in blankets on the rescue boat.I looked around at all of us and noticed the guides were missing.
The rescue vessel was fast and modern. We placed in cabins in groups of 10, warmed up and checked over for cuts and bruises. Once we got ashore into Europe, not sure which country yet ,I could not contain my happiness. I felt so relieved , I was finally there. All the suffering , pain I felt all over, bruises, near death experiences , didn’t matter anymore, I had arrived at my destination and my destiny and that’s all that mattered, I made it. The coast guards took us to a hall-like waiting area, we were given clothes , warm food and drinks. The hall had mattresses, pillows and blankets , before long everyone was asleep. I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks , I was in Europe, I could already smell the money, now whatever else happened didn’t matter .
The next morning, divided into two groups we were taken away in two different buses. At this point James and I were separated. I was mixed instead with some of the strange people we met on the boat. No one I started the journey with was anywhere to be found. We arrived at an office , still within the seaport and I was the first to be called in to an interview room. Two officers asked me lots of questions to which I gave no answers. All I said was the word “asylum”, over and over again as I had been instructed by the guides. Once all the group was interviewed, we were driven to a camp, with rolls of bungalows, full of rooms with bunk beds and a canteen. It didn’t bother me that we were being herded around like cattle, I took solace in the fact that I had crossed the great waters and arrived at my destiny as predicted. From now on it was going to be alright.
A couple of days later, I started to chat with other occupants and I found out I was being held at a detention centre for asylum seekers and stowaways. My group was already settling in and before long everyone made new friends. A few days later in the canteen where i was put to work, I met a guy from my county, who told me he had been at the camp for a year. He had gotten there in a similar way as I did and had immediately requested for Asylum. His case was still pending, everyone else I spoke to at the camp had been there for varying periods of time, some 3 , 6 , 12 or 18 months, , even one had been there for 30 months. After listening to everyone I started to have mixed feelings, not knowing when i was to be released into the county made me a bit apprehensive. This was not what the guides told me, they said once I said the word Asylum, I would be allowed to stay in the country, given work and accommodation immediately . i discussed this with my new found country man and he laughed before he pointed out to me that the guides didn’t lie, he said , “Bro, you here in europe, given accommodation in this detention centre and asked to work in the canteen, so you are staying, given accommodation and a job. What else do you want?” he concluded as he burst out laughing. As for me I didn’t find it funny. This was not the sort of work i envisaged, but i couldn’t let my hopes be dashed. Nothing compared to the truma i went through to get here. I had to keep the faith , be hopeful, prayerful and believe that my request for Asylum would be granted.
Twenty months flew by so quickly and I was still in the detention camp. I watched month on month as new arrivals came and old ones got taken away. The sad thing is once you got to leave, whether you were denied or granted nobody back here knew. If you were granted you were released into the county. If you were denied , you were immediately shipped back to where you came from. Soon almost everyone I met there had left. By now I knew most people by name and I was in charge of settling new arrivals. The most depressing part for me was not being able to get in touch with anyone back home.thoughts of my parents and siblings crossed my mind everyday, i wondered what would be going through their minds . It had been 2 years since I left home and no one knew where I was. I was beginning to think I would spend the rest of my life in the camp. When I complained to a couple of the old detainees , they told me there was a backlog of cases to be considered for asylum , that all the asylum applications of the people I met in the camp had to be decided on before mine. I resigned myself to wait and pray that I find favour and get my application approved.
Then one day, exactly 22 months and 5 days after I arrived in Europe, I was called to the detainee arrival hall and asked to pack all my belongings with me. After 22 months in detention you are bound to have a few clothes and some nik naks . I packed my bag, said my goodbyes and proceeded to the arrival hall. There I was immediately whisked away by the police. That day my joy knew no bound, I had waited to be whisked away and granted asylum and the day had finally arrived. The journey ended in the courthouse before a judge. As my name was called, a lady sat next to me and said she was representing me. I had seen cases tried on television, so i was expecting questions , witnesses and all but to my surprise the judge just asked me to stand and told me my asylum application had been rejected based on new evidence that I was not being prosecuted in my country. She said, “you just decided to come to Europe for greener pastures, and that is not a reason to grant asylum. You will immediately be sent back to your country, Next case.” i heard the words but they didn’t register, i staggered and fell, i didn’t know when i landed on the floor and passed out. A few minutes later I recovered and found myself in the back of a van . the lawyer sitting beside me. She repeated the verdict and informed I was to be deported immediately. The proceeding didn’t take more than 29 mins, I had looked at the large clock behind the Judge , when I walked in and when I woke up in the van . I was shocked by the judgement and the reason the judge gave , how did they find out all this about me ?.I asked the lawyer. She obviously felt sorry for me because she explained that the immigration dept had arrested the boat captain and our 2 guides who had been given the option to disclose the names of all the people they brought in or face 10 years in prison. So they gave us up.
From the court house ,I was taken to a holding centre for deportees and there I saw Thomas. He looked good and had also been held in a detention centre . Thomas explained what really happened properly. He had been to court the previous day and learnt the guides had been caught with the captain. Evidence of human trafficking had been found on the boat and had been arrested and detained for months. Eventually in exchange for a lighter sentence, they gave up all the names of people they smuggled in , place of origin and reasons for fleeing our countries. I asked Thomas why giving up our place of origin and why we fled was that important in exchange for a lighter sentence . He explained that it would be impossible to deport us, If our place of origin wasn’t known and our reason for fleeing determines if we qualify for asylum or not. “Where would we be deported too, with no passport and no other means of identification?” he asked .
One week later, I landed back in my country from which just over two years ago I bade good-bye to chase my destiny . we arrived by chartered flight all 45 of us. Most had arrived in Europe before me and the other after. The reception at the airport was hostile, immigration officers heaped insults on me, I was interrogated and locked up for a couple of hours. Then as God would have it I was released into the custody of an NGO that helped deportees like me, who had nothing and nowhere to go, settle back into the country. With barely 3 items of clothing and a bag , the NGO staff whisked me away to my accommodation for the night. We arrived at boarding school like a building , I was given a take away pack with rice and meat and given a room with an ensuite bathroom and told I would be checked in properly in the morning.
That night I cried like I had never done before, I couldn’t eat . everything began to flash through my mind, the wasted years, suffering, near death experience dashed hope and my expectations..I had spent 3 years of my life chasing destiny and had nothing to show for it. it just began to sink in that I was back to my country , empty-handed. The worst thing was I had actually smelt destiny but not tasted it. I was devastated, my heart ached and i felt so hopeless. Where do I begin? my mind went back and forth, trying to make sense of it all. Eventually I concluded that the only logical explanation was that the pastor must have left something out of the prophecy. how did this happen? and so I went on for hours, questioning myself , until around 3am, when I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up around 7 am with a terrible headache, at first I thought I was back at the detention centre. But looking around the room I realised where I was. I dragged myself out of bed, went to have a bath and just sat on my bed with a blank expression on my face. As I sat there thinking of my family , I wondered what they would say, one thing I knew and was definitely sure of, was they could never find out about my experience. I didn’t have anyone’s phone number off-hand , I knew my way home but didn’t even want them to see me like this. Just then a knock on my door jolted me back to reality , it was the NGO staff here to take me to their office .
Once we got to their office, I was given a form to fill and my picture and fingerprint was taken. A few minutes later I was ushered into the director’s office . She was pleasant and pretty, around mid 40’s. She smiled at me , offered me a seat, a cup of tea and asked how I was doing? To her smile , I nodded my head. To the seat , I took a seat opposite her and to the cup of Tea, I politely declined. As for how I was doing, I sighed, took a deep breath and said, “Madam am sorry , i don’t mean to be rude but I don’t want to talk about feelings now.” to which she replied, “Mr peterside, i understand what you are going through. We have rehabilitated a lot of returnees like yourself. They all started off feeling hopeless and at the brink of giving up . But a few months down the line, their hopes are restored. Don’t worry i assure you this too shall pass.” Surprisingly, as she concluded I felt a bit better. Seeing that I had relaxed a little, she went ahead to explain what the NGO did, settling deportees back into the country, providing a job and accommodation until they found their feet. The only condition was that I agree to contribute 15% of wages to the NGO, while staying at their facility. This sounded good to me , I handed her the signed agreements. She then informed me they already got me a job, I would be working for her NGO as an accounts officer, they needed one urgently and with my qualification , she was sure I could do the job. I was happy, at least something was working in my favour. I expressed my appreciation, thanked her, and she called in a member of staff to take me back to the hostel to get ready to start the next day.
Arriving back at the hostel , I was a bit worried, I had nothing to wear for work and no money to buy clothes. My fears were however alleviated when A woman from the NGO knocked and handed me a medium-sized suitcase courtesy of the NGO. I thanked her and opened it. Inside were clothes , all second-hand but clean and neatly ironed, 6 shirts, 3 pairs of trousers, a pair of nice black formal shoes, 2 ties and a jacket. Alongside were 2 t-shirts, a pair of jeans and one complete traditional wear. In addition 4 new pants and vests. All I needed to start work the next day and more. Going through the clothes and the day’s event , I really didn’t feel so hopeless. I decided to make the most of what I had been offered. After that I got ready for work every morning. , resumption was 8 am , the staff bus would pick me up outside the NGO hostels . Determined to stay focused on work, I was tired and deflated , I made up my mind to give up my obsession to get to Europe by all means .
I also made a decision to dedicate myself to God and to my work, it was time to surrender and let God’s will be done in my life. I tried doing it my way, it was time to let God Almighty to take charge of my life, be my guide . My everyday life became a strict routine of work and church only. No friends , no outings , just worked and prayed for God to take charge.
Then about 18 months later , I got called to the director’s office. That rarely happened. The last time I got called was when I arrived from Europe. So i was a bit nervous when i got this call. As I walked in her husband was there with one other man and so was she. She asked me to sit down and asked if I remembered her husband. To which I responded that I did. He came to the NGO once a month and walked around to chat with members of staff. Once pleasantries were done with, her husband took over the conversation. “Peterside” he began, “I want to thank you for all your hard work. Since you started here , our books have been in perfect order, you have gone beyond the call of duty several times. We appreciate all your hard work and efforts.” He paused and I saw that as an opportunity to thank him for his accolades , so I did. He stopped me before I could carry on and said, “Am not finished yet. This is my friend, he has a resort on an island just 2 miles off the coast of the city . He wants to go back to America and wants a partner to take over the runnings, so we are recommending you. You are hardworking and trustworthy. He is giving you 40% equity too and full management of the resort. What do you say?”
Did he just ask me what do i say? I honestly didn’t know when the excitement came over me, but before I knew it I was on the floor , kneeling down and crying. I was inconsolable , tears of joy rolled down my eyes , as I cried and thanked them and God over and over. Just then I remembered the Pastor’s word, when he prayed for me almost 5 years ago, that My destiny to success and abundant wealth, was across the water.
Here I was in my country and just 2 miles across the Atlantic Ocean,10 minutes by speed boat , a thriving 200 bed room 5 star hotel with 1000 seater conference/ event hall, a luxurious yacht , a 50 seater tour boat , sandy beaches all around island resort, with more than 100 staff, was being offered to me on a platter of Gold. The best part , I will be in charge , will manage and own 40% of it.
God Almighty had blessed me and granted me mercy and favour , This was grace and nothing more , instead of me CHASING DESTINY , God made MY DESTINY CHASE ME AND LOCATE ME , once I surrendered all to him, what more could I say but THANK YOU GOD. My prayer for you today is that your destiny will chase you and find you , in the Name of God Almighty, All you have to do is hand over your life to God, cast all your burdens on him and he will surely not disappoint you , If God did it for me , he will surely do it for you too.
Thank you for reading my story and God bless you ……l
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