Frank Padilla started the first Christian Life Program, or CLP [now CLS], in Libya with a big harvest of graduates composed of Filipino nurses, their dependents and some Africans who were in transit in Tripoli. Frank was the team leader, assistant team leader, music ministry head and the speaker of the entire CLP module. The CLP was a victorious one and many more participants who were not able to attend the first batch requested to have another CLP. Frank, due to his hectic schedule as international mission coordinator, could not stay longer. Instead, he promised to send a second batch of missionaries to do the follow up and handle the CLP.
The second batch of missionaries who were commissioned by Frank was composed of Lachie Agana (head of the mission), myself and Ricky Cuenca. The mission team prepared all the necessary documents including a HIV/AIDS test, rigid medical check up and authentication of documents from Malacanang and the Department of Foreign Affairs. After the completion, we apply for a visa at the Libyan embassy. Many questions were asked from us regarding the purpose of our visit. We were instructed to hide the purpose of our visit and instead just to declare that the purpose is a visit to friends and be tourists. We prayed for approval. We got our visa. All systems go!
Libya during that time was still under the sanction of the United Nations – meaning no commercial planes were allowed to land in Libya. We had to land at Malta and from there take a boat going to Tripoli.
At Malta, we were assisted by a Maltese charismatic group. The head of it was an acquaintance of Frank from way back in the Ligaya ng Panginoon days. They allowed us to rest at their home, they cooked food for us. At the same time warned us about the danger of going to Libya and told us that the challenge will start upon boarding the ship. We just brushed that off and thought there would be no problems. That was what we thought.
Lining up at for the ship already proved to be difficult. There were people cutting the line, and other people screaming. We didn’t understand because they were all speaking Arabic.
There was a problem with my passport. I went on a previous mission to Israel, and there was an immigration stamp of Israel in it. Apparently, Libyans do not like having visitors that have come from Israel. We prayed hard. I prayed in tongues. And when I handed my passport to the Libyan immigration officer, I prayed in tongues harder. The Immigration officer reviewed every page of my passport. In my prayers, I asked the Lord to allow me to go on mission. When the officer was about to reach the page with the Israel stamp, he was distracted by a fellow officer and he skipped that page. I was allowed to go on board.
Our accommodations in the boat were taken by someone else. And the overnight trip, became a three-day ordeal due to engine failure.
But the situation gave us an opportunity to befriend the Filipino workers on board the ship. We told them about the CLP and CFC. And they gave us use of their cabins and amenities.
By the way, St. Paul on his way to Rome was also stranded in Malta.
On the third day, we sailed to Tripoli and on the following day, we arrived. At immigration, our bages were inspected again. We had to wrap the materials in towels, and so we prayed hard again. The officers saw the material, but let them in once we said it was for Church use.
The first thing we did in Tripoli was to pay the courtesy call to the bishop of Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Martenilli, OFM. Were warmly welcomed by him and said that the seed planted by Frank was indeed the need of the Filipino workers and other Christian nationalities. We were also forewarned not to invite Libyans because it will jeopardize the existence of the Catholic church in Libya.
The first day of the CLP the venue was jampacked. The Holy Spirit guided the mission team. The participants were the one who prepared the food for all the participants. They were all attentive to the talks. And those Filipino nurses who could not come to the venue requested us to conduct a special session at their dormitory which we gladly obliged.
How about those OFW whom we met at the boat? We fulfilled our promised to visit them at the city of Misurata. We conducted the CLP. The harvest was also big.
Libya was really a mission area. A lot of challenges and uncertainties. In this situation, you can only depend on God’s grace and mercy. For 4 years, Libya became my mission country. Frank started in Tripoli, followed by another CLP, then to the second city which is Misurata and others cities like Sirte, Brega, Benghazi and Al-marj were conquered for the Lord.
– Oca Oblefias [A member of the Body of Counselors]