When Africa Pierced My Heart (Part 2)

In “Part 1” of this recounting of my latest mission trip, I talked about the time leading up to takeoff.  I thought I’d share a little about my travel to and from now.  I’ve heard many horror stories about traveling by plane these days, but looking back, my travels weren’t horrific – just interesting.

Before getting into it, I have a question for you.  Has your “back-side” ever gone numb – I mean REALLY numb?  When you have to take two flights to get there and two to get back – equaling about 17 hours one-way – numbness is an understatement.  I’m not sure why I’m sharing that – but there it is.

Oh, and as far as the TSA checking us in – whew – I was able to go through without being flagged as a terrorist.  (I know you are worried that I might somehow be mistaken for one.)  BUT – I’m not sure how much radiation a body can take.  I think the TSA is running scientific experiments to find out, though.

Anyway, on our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam, I was grateful to discover that I had an aisle seat – but only for a moment.  When I wandered down the aisle, I found a young lady sitting in my seat.  She only spoke Spanish, and I only speak English (well, Suthrn English).  Her husband spoke enough English to tell me that they wanted my seat instead of the seats in the middle because of a young child.  What could I do?

So I ended up in the middle.  And, of course, you know how they make airplane seats to fit 7-year-old girls.  But at least I was in the middle of some of our group – which was GREAT – because I got to have some deep conversations that helped me really get to know them.

When we arrived in Amsterdam it was the next morning – or was it equivalent to our nighttime – or was it the day before – or after – I can’t keep up with it (you should have heard us, a bunch of men trying to figure it out).2017-05-06 07.13.48

But, hey, they had a BIG Starbucks there in the airport.  Civilization!!!

When we made a stop in Kigali, Rwanda (before continuing to Uganda), I still remember how mysterious everything looked.  I couldn’t help but wonder, “What does God have in store?”

Little did I know how blessed I would be.  But I’ll get to that in another post.  This one is about traveling.  So…

On the way back home – from Amsterdam to Atlanta (Is there something about that leg of the journey I’m missing?), a woman from India who couldn’t speak English sat next to me.  She and her husband (who was sitting in front of me – and he had an empty seat next to him) kept talking and talking.  Finally, they decided to exchange places, so she could stretch out – though they did it as the plane was beginning to take off.  I thought the stewardesses were going to have a stroke at that.

So I sat next to the man – who also didn’t speak English.  In just a short while, he was asleep, but not satisfied with his own “space.”  I became his pillow – no matter how much I tried to “gently” nudge him.  The only time he was awake was when they brought food and (for him) beer – which he enjoyed – a lot.  At any moment, I expected it to be sloshed on me.  (Wouldn’t that have been great – for a Baptist minister to get off the plane wreaking of alcohol?)

When we deplaned, I was ready to hurry through and get on my last flight – or I thought I was.  I had 2 1/2 hours from touchdown until my plane to Mobile, AL was to take off (and you are supposed to be at your gate at least thirty minutes before departure).  But I had to go through customs.

customs_20170102235905083_6950660_ver1.0_1280_720

Have you ever gone through customs?

I think there where several hundred thousand others at the same time as me.  I stood in the long, long line to “declare” what I brought back (just a couple of trinkets) – but I was red-flagged (maybe because I had come from Africa – I don’t know).  That meant that I had to go through one line while most of the US citizens went through a shorter, speedier line.  I was in the line – the long line – filled with people who I could not communicate with.  Did I mention that it was long?

I waited.  And I waited.  And every so often, we got to move about 1 1/2 feet forward.  Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t quite half-way through the line yet – and my plane was supposed to takeoff in 40 minutes.  I like Atlanta, but not that much.

Then the skies opened for me (well, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic).  An airport employee suddenly appeared on the outside of our line – looked at me – and asked if I was an American citizen (and he asked a couple of others who were within earshot).  When we confirmed that we were, he asked us to follow him to a shorter line, so we could get to the custom agent.  (I was thanking God – to say the least.)

When I finally made it to the custom’s agent, he asked me where I had been and what I had been doing.  I told the truth – Uganda – and training pastors.  Then he looked up at me (over the top of his glasses) and asked me what I do for a living and what I had trained them in.  I again told the truth.  And then he laid my paperwork down, looked me in the eye, and said, “Have you got your sword?”

WHAT???  Oh!!!  I had a brain freeze for a moment – and then it clicked.  As a pastor and being involved in Bible Drill I remembered that we call the Bible our “sword.”  So I said, “It’s in my backpack.  And I have one on my phone.”

The fella smiled at me and told me that he is a Christian involved in a Baptist Church in Atlanta.  He also mentioned that earlier that week he had asked another minister the same question – and it freaked the dude out.  He stamped my stuff and let me go – saying, “Keep up the good work.”

15 minutes to spare.  And then I realized that I had to recheck my bags – get on a subway for the 53 mile trek to another terminal – and still make my flight.

But God WAS watching out for me.  The plane wasn’t on time – the gate hadn’t been opened yet – and I made my flight.  I was headed home.

Do you have any idea how it felt to get off the plane and see my whole family waiting for me with one of those signs?  Love them!

So – an interesting journey to get to and from a field that has touched my heart (more on that soon) – and it hammered home a truth from God’s Word that I have always loved…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He’ll even guide you through the airport.  Trust me, I know.

One thought on “When Africa Pierced My Heart (Part 2)

  1. This was such a joy to read about your flights. God truly takes a care of HIS own. So glad you had a wonderful trio. May God continue to bless you and ministry.
    Thanks, Arlie Dulany

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