Finding purpose in a difficult life experience is not easy. But, for the follower of Christ who patiently waits, it comes.
The following was written by Julia while we were living in Oregon. It describes waiting on God while David was on his way to Africa in 2013 . It marks a significant time for us when waiting for God’s purpose to be revealed proved to be the best course possible.
My Column for this week
Life is Not Easy. Last week my column was about the fact that life is not fair. This week has proved that life is also not easy.
David and I had a wonderful after-Christmas-but-before-New-Year’s trip planned to visit our daughter in New York. It was a red-eye flight out of Eugene putting us in Albany on New Year’s Eve morning. Everything went entirely as planned—which is very unusual for us.
The kink in the day was that while sitting in the Philadelphia airport, we realized that we’d left home without an important document David would need for the next step of our plan, a trip to Africa where he will be teaching leadership classes for three weeks in January. It was his health certificate assuring them he’d had all the vaccinations that he needed to enter the country.
Since he wasn’t planning to leave until January third, my brother went to the health department in Roseburg and had them issue a new certificate which he immediately mailed to us through the Post Office’s next day air delivery. It was guaranteed to get here by three in the afternoon of January second.
The problem came when the Post Office lost track of the Priority Mail envelope. It didn’t arrive on time. David went to the airport without it a day later, hoping a faxed copy the health department had kindly sent would be sufficient documentation to get him into Africa. It may have been, but we will never know because David’s flight was delayed so long here in Albany that he missed the connecting flight to Lisbon, Portugal and had to cancel that flight.
That caused the people at Fly Away Travel in Roseburg to scramble to reschedule his flights to get him to Africa on Sunday so he could start his classes on schedule Monday morning. They were wonderful. The new flight plan turned out to be a direct flight with no thirteen hour layover in Portugal, so he was to arrive a day earlier than before. The problem was, the airport in Albany put David’s checked luggage on the original flight, and when they went to find it to pull it off, they couldn’t find it. United told David not to worry. His luggage was checked to his final destination, so it would be there for him when he got there. That meant his went suitcase to Portugal, sat there for thirteen hours, and then on to Africa without him. He will only find out if that is true when he gets there.
Now the Post Office had an extra day to get the package to us, but no one knew where it was. The documents left Portland on January first, but after that it seem to have disappeared. A very kind postal worker named Jeff made it his job to track it down. He sent e-mails all over the country looking for the Priority Mail package. Not only was it lost on the second, by the end of the day on January third, it was still missing without a trace. It wasn’t until the fourth of January that we got a call that it had turned up in Albany. We picked it up on our way back to the airport for the second scheduled flight.
David’s new flight plan began without a hitch. He got to Washington, D.C. only to discover that his direct flight that was to get him to Africa early had been cancelled and that the only flight out the next day was fully booked. While I celebrated the rest of my birthday with my family, he was stuck in a hotel in D.C., hoping to get to the airport early enough this morning to get on the list for a stand-by position. United has promised that if he can’t get on that flight, they’ll send him back to New York City and on a direct flight from JFK.
This week has shown me again that life is not easy, but when trials and twists and turns happen, there are lots of kind people out there who try to help any way they can. It has also made me determine to always use Fly Away Travel when we buy complicated tickets. Having them work on finding alternate routes for us saved us tons of worry, phone calls, and frustration. My attitude toward the Post Office has taken a huge positive turn. Yes, they lost the package, but the staff in this local office worked diligently to find the parcel for us. They were marvelous.
Next, I’ve seen once again that God works all things for my good and His glory. I got to spend time on my birthday with my husband which was a wonderful gift. David met a woman on his flight to D.C. who needed counsel and he was able to help her through a tough issue in her life. A few days with our family is wonderful. We dearly love our grandsons and had a great time opening Christmas gifts on New Year’s Eve. But all the activity here does not lead to quiet preparation for an important teaching assignment. David’s evening and morning in the Sheridan Hotel in D.C. was a forced quiet time to rest and reflect before a very busy few weeks. Humor, flexibility, trusting others rather than jumping to anger all have played a part in making this proof that life is not easy a rewarding, enjoyable time.
Footnotes by David
the father’s voice
While stranded in Washington, D.C., because of the canceled flight, I had the opportunity to seek the Lord regarding what I was taking to my African brothers, every one of whom had been persecuted for his faith. I had prepared hard for a couple of months but had no confidence that what I had prepared would be what they needed.
Spending the night in prayer, I heard God speak to my heart toward morning that all I needed to share with them was the Father’s heart. My purpose was not ultimately to be on a pastoral training mission, but to bring a witness of His love for them and to encourage them to understand more fully who He is.
Without that flight cancellation and the waiting in a hotel room overnight, I would have gone on to Africa unprepared and unable to share with them what was on God’s heart for them to receive.
My luggage of one large bag wasn’t at the airport when I arrived in Dakar, Senegal, late in the evening. The next day I returned to the airport in hopes of finding it quickly since the month of travel I anticipated would take me far away. Walking into the airport I was dismayed. First, the signs posted were in a language I couldn’t understand. And second, there seemed no “baggage claim” office to be found. But then, while I waited there praying for God to help me figure things out, a young Senegalese standing nearby took note of my bewilderment and came to my aid. He knew English and volunteered to guide me to where the luggage was kept. I later learned that this was his “job” – earning a living from tips made from helping bewildered travelers.
We wended our way through the airport until arriving in a large warehouse filled with luggage. He took me to where he thought the most recent luggage would be and sure enough, there in the pile was my bag, tied together with loose string. I was worried that I find valuable items missing. But my guide in typical African nonchalance told me not to worry but that I’d need to check in at the office before taking the bag.
The office was a small place with room for only a small desk and one plastic chair. Every inch of the wall was taken up with bulletin boards and the clerk was absorbed in talking on the telephone in French. I waited, and waited some more. Finally, he finished his talk and my guide explained the situation in French to the clerk. The clerk looked at me silently, handed me a clipboard and pointed to an item where I needed to sign. He then waved me out.
Happily I collected the bag, rewarded my helping friend, and left the airport holding what was now a dilapidated bag. When I finally arrived at the home where I was staying, I opened the bag expecting it’s content to be seriously depleted. To my amazement, only one small pocket knife was missing. EVERYTHING else was there!