2 o'clock at Entebbe



"Get out of here by 2 o'clock, or you will be arrested."


I could easily believe him, as I looked around at the many armed soldiers.


The nation of Uganda, Africa, had suffered much under the dictatorship that then was in place.


On January 25, 1971, Idi Amin gained control of Uganda in a military coup. During his 8 years in power it is estimated that he had 300,000 to 500,000 of his own countrymen killed.


On August 4, 1972, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, gave Uganda's Asians (about 80,000 - mostly Gujaratis of Indian origin) 90 days to leave the country, following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them.


About that time Israel refused to continue to provide arms to Uganda, and Amin turned to Libya and the Soviet Union for support.


In 1973, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady recommended that the United States reduce its presence in Uganda. Melady described Amin's regime as "racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic". Accordingly, the United States closed its embassy in Kampala.


Entebbe is a city in Uganda. The city was, at one time, the seat of government for the Protectorate of Uganda, prior to Independence in 1962.


Entebbe is the location of Entebbe International Airport, Uganda's largest commercial and military airport, best known for the dramatic rescue of 100 hostages kidnapped by terrorists of the PFLP and Revolutionary Cells (RZ) organizations. On July 4, 1976 Israeli Special Forces rescued the hostages in a daring night operation with few casualties.


This gives some background to the erratic, unpredictable and brutal situation in Uganda at the time that this brother in the Lord escaped imprisonment and possible death.


A dear brother, an MD, concerning one of his fellow MDs, provided the following account. His colleague labored as a missionary in Angola for many years. This event took place in Uganda during the cruel dictatorship of Idi Amin.


We now take up his story of God’s miraculous intervention and care for one of His own.


2 o'clock at Entebbe


Flying at about 600 feet we were crossing into Ugandan airspace, heading for Entebbe. The azure sky was punctuated with puffs of cumulus. The earth below was deep, rich green. But everything was not as peaceful as the scenery.


President Idi Amin had ordered the expulsion of all Asians, limiting them to one suitcase of personal belongings.


Three days before, in Zaire, we had picked up a signal on the radio that any foreign aircraft flying into Ugandan airspace would be shot down.

We couldn't raise a signal from Entebbe. The radio silence was ominous and we scanned the horizon for any speck that might suggest an aircraft approaching.

At last, only 40 miles out of Entebbe, we got a response, a curt permission to land.

It was a small aircraft, carrying only the pilot, a lady missionary with a sick baby, and me. The missionary was going to be met by friends from Kampala. The pilot was to pick up some missionaries' children returning to Zaire from school. I was to catch a South African Airlines flight at 10.30 that night for London.

We carried our baggage into the immigration office and fished out our papers. The measure of our welcome was soon evident on the official's face.


"Don't you know” - He said angrily, “that the President has forbidden any white persons to enter Uganda?" We didn't know that edict had been passed only the day before.


"Get out of the country—now," he shouted. It was more than anger. There was fear there.


"That is exactly what I want to do, on the first flight tonight to London," I replied.


"Get out the way you came in," and with that the official turned to his desk. As I tried to explain how that was impossible because the plane was to be loaded with children for Zaire, he added one more complication.


"Get out of here by 2 o'clock, or you will be arrested." I could easily believe him, as I looked around at the many armed soldiers.

From a child I had been taught to pray - to pray for little things and for big things. We had prayed before setting out, but it was surely time to pray again. As we stood there — the pilot, the missionary with her baby and me — we looked at one another, sensing the urgency. A verse from the Bible had come to my mind. No doubt it was from God.


"Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1 Peter 3:21, 22).


So, standing there, we prayed and claimed the truth of that Scripture and asked the Lord to deal with these authorities and the urgent need.

The pilot made plans to return to Zaire with his load. The missionary was met by her friends and was taken off under their protection. I waited, occasionally going to the airline counter.


Seeing a large commercial airliner on the tarmac, I inquired where that flight was going. "Non-stop to London," the Agent replied.

"Wonderful! Put me on it, please."


My relief was momentary. "Sorry, sir, but that is an unscheduled flight stopping only for adding fuel because of strong headwinds that have developed between here and London." Then to extinguish any candle of hope, he added, "In any case, I have a passenger list from Nairobi. Every seat is taken."


"Well," I compromised, "would you put my baggage on?"


"Yea," the agent nodded, "We can do that"


It was a relief to get rid of the collection of stuff I had brought out of Zaire. I felt at least more mobile now for whatever might happen.

As I watched, I saw some of the passengers alighting for a few minutes and going into the terminal through another door. I decided that perhaps this was God's provision for me, so I took up a position near the gate. When I heard the call to board and, as the passengers stepped out on to the tarmac, I moved in behind them, passing by the uniformed personnel at the gate unchallenged. I could just feel their eyes boring into the back of my neck and I waited for a shout.... or worse, a shot. But none came!

Climbing up the steps, I expected a flight attendant to be there to check for a boarding pass, and I did not have one. My ticket was for the night flight on another airline. But there was no attendant at the door.


Walking slowly up the aisle, I looked for that important seat, the empty one! Every seat was full, and many small children were on the knees of adults. All were Asians, I discovered, that had already fled from Uganda to Kenya. One could feel the tension. No doubt there was much concern that they might be detained again at Entebbe.


I went the full length of the aisle without seeing a seat available. Then I passed the first class section. A crewmember came from the flight deck, and seeing my uncertainty, asked, "Can I help you, sir?"


I hesitated. "Well I'm looking for a seat"


"Where was you're seat?" he asked.


"Oh," I faltered, "I don't have a seat I just boarded here."


"I'm 'sorry, but you'll have to leave the aircraft. We are not permitted to pick up passengers here. This is an unscheduled stop for fuel only." By now I had taken a quick look around. There were one or two empty seats but all with "occupied" tickets except one.


"How about that one?" I asked, explaining the dilemma of my impending arrest.


"Well, the flight was full, but I'll check." said the officer and walked down the aisle. Time dragged on. I tried the seat out for size. It fitted perfectly! Then I heard what seemed like the thump of the door closing.

During all these long minutes my heart was crying to the Lord and claiming I Peter 3:22. The officer reappeared. "I don't understand it, sir. We are supposed to have been full when we left Nairobi, but we have to go. That seat is yours!" What a sweet sound it is to an old pilot, the surge of engines on take-off and the "clunk" of the undercarriage that signals we have broken with gravity. But they were never more sweet as I leaned back in my First Class lounging chair to thank God for His timely help.


I looked at my watch. It was 2 o'clock. "Angels and authorities and powers" and dare I interject.... and winds and airlines... being made subject unto Him."

Soon the aroma of food wafted our way and I didn't realize until then how hungry I was. It had been many hours since we had lifted off from the grass strip at Nyankunde in Zaire. I watched with anticipation when the attendant passed out what appeared to be a delicious steak dinner.


"We seem to be short one meal, sir. Would you mind taking an economy lunch?" the attendant asked apologetically?


"Fine and thanks." That was better than what I would have been having in Entebbe about now.


He passed a steak dinner to a turbaned gentleman across the aisle. "I don't eat meat," he frowned. The attendant turned to me with a smile. "Would you oblige, and take this one?" I obliged.

Now there was the ticketing problem. There I was, flying to London on an airline for which I did not have a ticket. I engaged in conversation with the gentleman beside me and he was most interested in how I ended up in a seat that had been occupied by someone else out of Nairobi. I told him the story as I knew it and about my problem about the tickets. It turned out that he was an airline executive who had been sent to Nairobi to organize the airlift of the fleeing Asians to London. This was the last such flight and he was going home. He had a bag full of schedules and tickets. "Oh, just leave it to me," he said "we'll sort it out in London."

Sort it out he did. My tickets were rewritten, connections made, and then, since it was now very late, he arranged a voucher for me to stay the night in the luxurious Gatwick Shelby Hotel.


At last, as I lay back in bed, safe and showered I could not help but marvel at the gracious intervention of the Lord and of His mighty power. Who was it that stirred up those winds that caused the plane to land and extricate one of His servants from danger?


We marvel with the disciples, "Even the.... winds obey Him."


And who occupied that seat from Nairobi to Entebbe and did not return to reclaim it? How does that verse begin again? "Angels...."


How did that executive and I get seated together? "Authorities..."


Why was I not halted at the gate? "Powers"


All are subject to Him.

And I did enjoy that steak!