Greetings from Northern Ireland!!! Boy do we have a story for you! We have had quite a memorable adventure thus far and have finally caught a moment to fill you in!
We left Nashville TN at 2:40pm on St. Patricks Day (Mar 17th) to begin our long anticipated 10 day tour in Great Britain! How cool to be going to Ireland, where this holiday was started.. on St. Patty’s Day!!
We have always dreamed of coming to Ireland, and the UK, and were so excited that we might have gone a little overboard clothed in our “I love Ireland” tee-shirts and flashing pins! Lol…. We planned to surprise our hosts with this patriotic attire, and were, as cheesy as it was, green to the max.. nobody was getting pinched on our plane! After a 3 ½ hr layover in Newark, we left at
9:30pm that night for our direct flight to Belfast, N.Ireland. The flight was 6 hours long but smooth.. And with our 5 hour time change, we landed safely in Belfast around 8 the next morning. This is where the story begins:
We got our carry ons and headed toward the customs/ immigration to flash our passports and proceed to get our luggage and meet our promoter Ronnie and the pick-up crew… Ben was first in line.. He flashed his passport and began to answer the string of questions the immigration officer had for him.. She soon learned that we are a band here to play some concerts and quickly asked for the proper documentation to enter the country under the working clause. Oopsy… we didn’t have any papers to show her!! She asked us to sit in the corner and wait till the end of the line so she could deal with us together. After waiting for about 45 minutes, she finally finished checking the other passengers through and came to talk to us… We were starting to get concerned, but none of us knew the seriousness of what she was unveiling. After speaking to our promoter, and her chief officer, she returned to tell us that this is not a good situation and we would most likely be denied entry into N. Ireland! What? Are you kidding me?? We just flew half way around the world, we are exhausted, and there are thousands of ticket holders expecting to see 6 concerts within the next 10 days! Denied entry? There MUST be some mistake! We waited longer as she left to draw up some papers. We were then taken to wait in another room downstairs. So, security searched our bags and padded us down, then took us to a freeeezing room where a few officers stayed with us.. FOR THE NEXT 6 HOURS!!! Wow.. We were so exhausted, no sleep in 24 hours, hungry, cold and worried. After about 4 hours, they sent a lady with papers and a finger printing machine. We ALL had to get fingerprinted, and had a mug shot taken!! How did we become criminals all of a sudden??!! (least that’s how it felt!) This less than nice immigration officer certainly was taking her time in getting anything done. I guess in hind sight it was good because it allowed our promoter to get in touch with some powerful people who started working immediately to fix the problem. We did have some extra nice security officers guarding us though, and they got us water, tea and cappuccinos and some sandwiches to hush our growling tummies… Thanks Amanda and Adam, and the other nice guards whose names I cant recall… A few of them even watched our live from Norway DVD on Becky’s computer while we waited…
About an hour after our fingerprinting, the officer came back in with a handful of documents, which she proceeded to pass out to each of us. “These are your papers saying that you have been DENIED entry to the country. We have rebooked your flights and you will be flying home in 30 hours. We are keeping your passports and you must report at 7:30 Friday morning to collect them and fly home or you will be arrested. You also will be arrested if you perform during your temporary stay.” Whoa !!! That was verrrrry disappointing news! Then the part that sent Becky through the roof… She continued “Only the 7 onstage have to leave. The children (Levi and Jakobi, Becky’s kids are with us) and Steve (also traveling with us to help out) will be keeping their original flights home on the 28th…” Seriously? They expect the kids to stay in Ireland without their family? That part was ridiculous and when Becky lividly stated that she would NOT leave her kids , the officer suggested we talk to the airline to change their flights too. WOW… That was shocking!
When they finally released us to go to the hotel for the night, we tried to stop at the airline desk to change the kids flights, but they were closed for the night. We called everyone we could think of to start a prayer chain to help get this ruling reversed… and we crashed that night, trusting that God would take care of it!
We slept until 11:30 the next morning, just exhausted, and woke up to a phone call… Ronnie called Moms room to tell us that his friends (and Gospel Music Fans) in government and the Parliament had convinced the immigration control to allow us to stay, and to perform!!!! Praise the Lord! Thank you Ronnie, and all the invisible heroes who worked so hard to help reverse this decision, it is not a frequent happening here! Jakobi answered the phone when Levi called our room to tell us the news, and it was the cutest thing ever! Her eyes got as big as saucers and with happiest, most excited voice I’ve ever heard, she shouted out to us “Don’t pack your bags! We’re staying!!!” AHHHH!! What a relief… What a BIG GOD!!
Yes, what a BIG GOD!! He is our Comforter and our Provider. Prayer is so powerful!! It not only brings peace when your back is to the wall, but it moves mountains too!!! We know that He has called us to be here and only time will tell the reason the enemy fought us so hard to keep us away. The Lord is triumphant and we Praise His Holy Name for seeing us through!
Thankfully, we got our passports back and have been able to enjoy the rest of our trip so far. I will try to blog more this week.. So stay tuned for more from Northern Ireland!!!
Sonya & the gang