A trip to Asia with an unexpected twist

In the 1970s Bodo Weber was an Evangelist in Canada. His first trip to Asia is something he will likely never forget—a gripping first-hand account.

In the 1970s I was asked by District Apostle Kraus to help Apostle Schwarzer in the South-East Asian countries of Thailand, Burma (now Myanmar), and Laos. I carried the ministry of Evangelist then.

On my first trip there I was to meet with the then District Elder Edward Deppner in Bangkok (Thailand) at a hotel, where I was booked in for the first night. He was to introduce me to the local brothers in all locations. The next day we were to fly north to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand as most of our brothers were in that region.

A long wait at the hotel

I waited the entire day for the District Elder. I asked at the hotel desk if they knew when he was coming, but no one seemed to know him nor of a meeting with him at the hotel. Finally, after waiting the whole day in the lobby of the hotel, the District Elder arrived in the early evening. We sat briefly and he told me that he had come earlier than anticipated and that he had already been in northern Thailand. He suggested that we re-book flights for the next day and that I should go to the north of the country at the end of my trip rather than fly there the next day as originally planned.

God had other plans

He re-booked both our flights to go to Burma (modern Myanmar) early the next morning. When we landed in Burma we heard on the news that the flight I was scheduled on to fly to northern Thailand had crashed on take-off killing all 43 people aboard. This was devastating to me since I had left my itinerary with my wife, which indicated that I was on that flight. The news of the crash made international headlines. I wanted to ensure my family that I was not on the scheduled flight. Now to get a hold of my wife in Canada proved almost impossible. But I had to. In those days there were no cell phones, and to make an overseas call to Canada was not easy or cheap, but I had to call to assure my wife and children that I was safe.

Anxious hours

I was told that the only way to make an overseas call was to line up at the post office and make the call from there. You could not make any such calls from the hotel at the time because the government would not allow it. I tried for two days and then, finally, on the second day was told I could be in line now. After patiently waiting for hours at the post office I finally got my chance to call home. I had to pay 45 dollars US up front for a 3-minute call and it took almost another hour to finally get through. The connection was terrible, but I heard my wife’s voice and I could tell her I was not on the flight that had crashed and that I was ok. After barely one minute of talking, the call was cut by the phone company.

A guardian angel

We spent a total of three days in Burma with basically no contact with the outside world and then went back to Thailand to continue with the rest of the trip. From Thailand I had the opportunity to finally get a hold of my wife and tell her what had occurred. Even here in Thailand the phone call could only be made via the post office. Both my wife, our two boys, and I were greatly relieved and thankful to our heavenly Father for the angel protection.

The District Elder then carried on to Africa and I continued my mission in Thailand.

About the author:

Bodo Weber is a Bishop in the New Apostolic Church and has been retired since 2007. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. For 25 years he travelled across the world doing missionary work for the New Apostolic Church Canada. In his active time, he not only worked in his home district of Toronto (Canada), but also cared for congregations in Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. We asked him if he were faced with the same choice of doing missionary work would he do it all over again. His answer was: “A definite yes. There were many experiences over those years, but this one shook my family and me greatly as there was absolutely nothing we could do to change it. But yes, these experiences made us stronger, not weaker. I would not change one thing.”

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Peter Johanning, Bodo Weber
Myanmar, Thailand, Congregational life