Kidnapped in Manila
by Albert Lin, August, 2000
A Day in the Life of Albert Lin
As told to Melanie Revilla
Albert Lin is a missionary who has been in Thailand for the last couple of years. Looking back, this would not be possible if things had turned out differently many years earlier. This is the story of one fateful day in Albert’s life.
“We are now landing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Welcome to the Philippines!”, the announcement blared over the loudspeakers. It was already 7:30 p.m. on a hot summer’s day in Manila in 1988. Hong Kong was already very hot, but Manila was even hotter than Hong Kong. A famous place of kidnapping was awaiting Albert.
It had already been an eventful year for me. In the early part of that year, I had received an operation where doctors removed stones from my kidney. The wound in my abdomen was still giving me a lot of pain. Even as I put on jeans, the pain could be quite bad. After coming out of the hospital, I joined the Intermediate Training (I.T.) of the Christian Gospel Disciples Churches. I wasn’t part of the church yet at the time. During the middle of the I.T. the church I belonged to held an international churchwork camp in Manila and so I was sent as the lone representative of my church. Though still in the middle of the I.T., I didn’t know how vital the lesson on Matthew 5 that we had just recently studied was going to mean to me at this time in my life.
Gathering my bags, I made my way down the plane, through immigration and customs. Not having much luggage for this 14-day churchwork camp, I was able to quickly go out of the building and into the welcoming zoo, or rather, mass of people welcoming their relatives and friends who had come from abroad. Inside the airport it was bright and cool with the air conditioning working well. Outside the exit doors, it was quite dark and hot. Though it was literally a ‘warm’ welcome, the darkness reminded me of my main concerns: I had just come out of hospital and was not yet 100% recovered; I couldn’t speak English well; it was my first time in the Philippines; and again, I was alone, without any brothers and sisters’ support. By faith I took off; by faith I ventured out.
Not knowing anybody, I expected to be picked up by someone from the churchwork camp. “Ah, someone over there is waving a hand-printed placard with the words ‘Albert Lin’ (my name),” I noticed. I walked over to the man who held the sign. A long fence made with steel bars separated us. We shook hands through the gap in between bars. The man said he would meet me at the gate where the fence ends some 10 or so meters from where we were standing.
I then made my way there. At the gate, four young men shook my hands and offered to take my luggage. “They’re quite hospitable and kind,” I thought to myself. “Very fine brothers.” Having escorted me to a car, two men sat in the front while the other two put me in the back seat between two of them. As the car went off, they began small talk with me.
The men on my left and right were asking a lot of questions. “I guess they’re quite interested to get to know me, asking all these questions,” I thought to myself. “But then again, if they’re from the churchwork camp, why are they asking some questions that they should know the answers to already? That’s a bit odd. Yes, a bit odd.”
Funny enough, they started to smoke! I asked myself, “Are they really Christians? Or are they...?” I pushed back the doubt. Anyway, they were young men. So, I told them that smoking was a bad habit and that it was not good for one’s health. They laughed. Loudly. Then the men began to get nasty. The man on my right took out a knife. At this point, I became sure they were gangsters and not my brothers from the camp. Immediately, I asked God to help me. It was interesting though that I had all the peace in my heart. I didn’t become scared at all. When I look back, it is truly amazing how I could have been so calm at that moment. I knew the Lord must have been with me at that very moment.
Sometimes they drove through some dark places; sometimes, it was quite bright outside. I remember one time, our car stopped in front of a traffic light. Other cars also stopped. At our right side there was a police car. I could see some policemen out there. At this very time, the air was so still, as if to heighten the tenseness inside the car. The men told me, “Don’t try to do anything foolish.” Then I saw that a knife was pointing at my right hip. I told them not to worry, that I won’t call the police. The policemen didn’t see that I was being kidnapped, but the Lord was with me. He knew I was in trouble.
Later, we drove through endless fields, with no one in sight. Then they started demanding money from me. I didn’t have much on me. I explained my purpose in coming - about the churchwork camp. During the conversation, because of my poor English, they became upset with me, especially because I said the word “Pardon?” many times. They really wanted to kill me even out of disbelief and frustration. “Being poor in English can be dangerous sometimes. I must really learn English better later,” I thought to myself.
The men told me, “Don’t try to do anything foolish.” Then I saw that a knife was pointing at my right hip” He quickly crumpled the piece of paper and shoved it back inside my T-shirt. I thought this was a very strange action, because normally people would have thrown the piece of paper at a time like this. Because of this strange action, I was very sure that the Lord was in control. I was so sure that I wasn’t going to die, that I even smiled.
Because of my smile however, they became very angry. “Oh! I smiled at the wrong time!” I thought to myself. They shouted at me: “Why are you smiling? Why do you smile? You must be hiding some money!” They asked, “Why are you smiling?” over and over. Then they searched my body one more time, and again, and again. They couldn’t find anything. I had given everything to them already - my passport and ticket, my wallet, my camera, and my watch. I assumed I wasn’t going to get back my luggage.
The car stopped in a dark and narrow lane. “Is he going to kill me now out here in the middle of nowhere?” I thought to myself. I was asked to get off the car, but then I remembered the lesson I learned in the I.T. before leaving for this camp. It was the principle of extraordinariness. And now there was a chance to apply the lesson.
“Wait!” I cried. “I still have one more thing to give you.” The men were startled. The gun quickly raised as I reached under my shirt. “I want to give you this,” I said calmly. I had been praying to the Lord through the ordeal, so though nervous, I was still alert to the Lord’s instructions. Then I took off my belt. It was a leather belt with a gold buckle.
“It’s a Goldlion. A very good brand.”
All four of the men in the car were really shocked. They were quiet for a few moments, as if stunned by my offering the belt, their mouths literally open as their jaws dropped in surprise.
“Here, take it! It’s a Goldlion.”
Touched by this unusual and puzzling act, one man took the belt and then asked one of the others to give me back my passport and ticket.
Then the man on my right came out first. I got off with my passport and ticket in my hand. They had taken everything else. The man who got off now was holding a gun pointed at my back. But I had faith in God that the man wouldn’t kill me. Yes! he did not. He told me to walk straight and not run nor look back. I didn’t want to run. I didn’t want to look back either. Then they all went inside the car and drove off, leaving me in the middle of what seemed to be just endless fields.
I began to walk, for how long I didn’t know. It was very dark in some places. Then I came across a young man in his teens. I wanted to ask for help, but didn’t know if the youngster was just another robber or what not.
“Don’t rob me! I’ve just been robbed! Please help me!” He acknowledged that he would help, but how? Then I remembered: they had not taken the piece of paper with the camp information on it; it was stuffed down my T- shirt! It had the telephone number of my contact at the campsite! Was it coincidence that one of the kidnappers gave it back to me by shoving it down my T-shirt? Definitely not!
The young man and I got on a jeepney, travelled around the city, just trying to find a telephone. If I were in Hong Kong there would be a telephone just about anywhere, but not in Manila and not at this hour of the night. Still I considered myself a fortunate man. Why? Because in our quest for a telephone, we went into shop after shop - those that were still open - and even bars and nightclubs. Sometimes, we would get on another jeepney to try another part of the city for a telephone. Thus, I had the privilege to experience the nightlife of Manila even on my first day of arrival, free of charge, only because it was very difficult to find a telephone. It was invaluable as an eye-opener of an experience that I thought, “The Lord is always good to me. For the second time today He has shown me that people here need the Gospel.” Later, I found out by looking at a map that where I was dropped off by the kidnappers was already near to the campsite. Yet, why did I have to meet this young man and was given a chance to see the nightlife of Manila? Precisely, for a second conviction that this place is in desperate need of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ.
During these long hours of trying to reach my camp coordinator, I had a chance to talk with this young man. He at one point told me, “You are a lucky man. Normally, after they kidnap tourists to rob them, they kill them.” He said it so matter-of-factly, but I was stunned. I couldn’t walk for several moments after he said that, because my legs were shaking non-stop. At that moment, I realized how true and great God is in my life.
Finally at about eleven o’clock, after many attempts, I reached my camp coordinator by phone. He came as quickly as he could to where I was and brought me to the campsite. He had been so worried about me since I disappeared after agreeing to meet him at the gate at the airport earlier that day. He tried various ways of looking for me but how to look for someone who has disappeared just like that?
Since it was so late at night, everyone was already sleeping at the campsite, unaware of my adventure-filled day. I was shown to an empty bed, on which I dropped off to sleep immediately, slumbering peacefully as I was now safe and sound after a long and unforgettable day.
Upon reflecting afterwards on the incident, I told myself, “I must study the Bible well. One day, I will come to serve the Filipino people, because they really need the salvation of God.” That’s why after the 6th Team Training, I proposed to go to the Philippines. I had just recently come back from serving in Nepal. Maybe one day, I will go to the Philippines, if God leads me there!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church