Some people dread airport layovers that last longer than an hour. Imagine a layover for more than one year.
Nigeria-born Elizabeth Woleta was left
stranded for more than a year in a terminal in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo
International Airport after her passport was stolen in March 2007 in a
15-foot section considered a “legal no man’s land” that’s couched
between Russian and international territories yet governed by neither.
Despite her predicament, Woleta, now 31, found Christ when American
traveler Brian Dodd told her God loved her. She later used her
desperate situation to minister the gospel to people from more than 17
“It’s just the grace of God, “ she told Charisma. “I was saved by that grace and that same grace had to continue and moved me to preach the Word of God to as many as I could.”
Woleta said before praying with Dodd
she was a “tortured” soul who’d never experienced love. “Brian … showed
me an example that Christ really cares for us,” she said.
Despite her numerous attempts to get
help from governmental authorities, airport officials and other
travelers, Woleta was unable to depart the terminal.
After Dodd returned to the U.S. he
immediately began working to find a way to help Woleta leave the
airport. He and some of his companions smuggled food and a cell phone
in for her. Despite their efforts, Woleta would go days without eating
and sometimes resorted to drinking water from the toilet. Seeking some
form of sustenance Woleta turned to the Word of God.
“[People would] see me reading a
particular book for quite a long time,” she said. “In fact, I’d sit in
one position for more than six hours just reading the Bible. Others
would come to find out what’s making me read that Bible. I actually
preached the Word of God to them.”
She’d even use her cell phone, which
could only receive calls and send text messages, to ask others to
translate Bible verses so she could minister to people speaking other
languages. Though Woleta said she didn’t keep count, she estimates that
at least 50 people accepted Christ after she witnessed to them in the
After one year, Woleta was finally able
to leave the airport when Dodd contacted the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees to have her returned to Nigeria, where she
continues to host Bible studies.
“The Holy Spirit of God actually helped
me. … [He] has been my food all along,” she said. “I continue to
thank God for what He has done in my life.”