As many of you are aware, I am currently on a mission trip in Colombia for my spring break. I am traveling with principals, students, and parents from Evangelical Christian School. Orphanos has organized this mission trip so ECS can see the kids in our partner home, La Aljaba. It was supposed to take 1.5 days to get to our final destination in Leticia, Colombia, but it has been a very stressful experience. Here are all the hairy details I wrote for the ECS blog that I am spearheading.
We were delayed an entire day due to unexpected issues with our plane. We all arrived at the Memphis airport bright and early, making it through check in and security with no issues. Our flight was delayed about 30 minutes, then an hour, until suddenly it was canceled. We were shocked, as the worst of Thor had passed through Memphis and a lot of the dangerous ice had melted.
Immediately the tension rose as we realized not only was our flight canceled, but no other flight was leaving Memphis to get to Dallas/Fort Worth that day. And further, there were no seats available for the next two days. We were stuck with few options of getting to Colombia any time soon. Wayne immediately got on the phone and started working the system. Good thing he’s been doing this for more than 30 years.
Then the curveballs started, slowly blocking each avenue until we had no options left. Sure, there were flights out of other airports that could get us to DFW in time to make our connection to Colombia, but the airlines we booked through had a policy that we could only leave from the airport we booked from. Our only hope was Memphis, and Memphis could not get all 17 of us on a flight until Tuesday. The worst part was, we would be stuck returning on Friday because the airline would not let us change dates. The airline would not refund us due to the way the tickets were booked.
It was frustrating to hear all these roadblocks.
We reasoned as a group that 3 days in the Amazon were better than none, and certainly better than losing out on thousands of dollars. “Thankfully it’s God’s money and not ours!” Chipped in our very wise leader, Mr. Miller.
Wayne sent us home while he continued to work things out with the airlines. We were somewhat convinced this trip was going to be outright canceled. Heartbroken, we went home.
It became clear our only hope was a miracle from God and Wayne’s masterful and calm negotiation skills. We all prayed and commissioned the prayer warriors in our life to pray.
God is always ahead of us, and He prepared a path for us. It took Wayne over 4 hours on the phone with American Airlines to get something sorted out. Our awesome travel agent was tirelessly fighting for us with LAN, helping Wayne every step of the way.
In case you don’t understand just how much of a miracle this is, let me paint a picture for you. When ticket agents have to deal with weeks on end of canceled flights due to weather and thousands of angry customers, they are undoubtedly stressed and feeling abused by travelers. Wayne is the only person I know calm and collected enough to break through that protective barrier the ticket agent set up and show them the love of Jesus. I seriously don’t know how he did it. Months of planning this trip and it all went down the drain in less than an hour. If I had put that much effort into something only to see it crumble away, I would have lost it. But this is why Wayne deals with logistics and not me! And this is why we call him Mission Man!
Wayne was able to convince LAN to let us depart from Little Rock airport the next morning. After a few hurdles he was able to get our original flights booked a day later to accommodate our new plans. It just so happened that God had saved us just enough seats on those flights.
Our travel agent found us a charter bus to drive us to Little Rock. He left his house on a Saturday to go get the contract signed and booked us a hotel. (Seriously, this guy is awesome.)
Our spirits rejuvenated, we boarded the bus on the way to Little Rock. We got about halfway on I-40 West when traffic came to a complete stop. After about 30 minutes of no progress, I checked google maps and sure enough, at least one accident was blocking the road up ahead. Listen y’all, I travel enough to know that traveling on I-40 West is like playing Russian Roulette. You never know what you are going to get. It just so happened that we were completely trapped in the WORST part of I-40 West, blocked in by the median so we could not turn around, and completely isolated from local towns. We were stuck stuck stuck with no hope. Mr. Miller reminded us that there must be a good reason why we were being delayed, as why else would Satan work so hard to keep us from getting to our destination?
Two and a half hours later, the traffic jam was moving and we went on our way. We arrived in Little Rock after about 5 hours on the road and crashed in our hotel rooms only to leave at 7 am the next morning for the airport.
Praise God, we arrived safely in Bogota without any issues. The flight to Leticia raised Wayne’s blood pressure again, as a few of our members were “lost” in the airport ticketing system and did not have seats on the plane. About 45 hairy minutes later all was resolved. We spent 2.5 days traveling and have lost one day with the kids, but we think we figured out the grand plan in all this.
Why were we so majorly inconvenienced, for no conceivable reason? Why put the stress on the team and on poor Wayne and our travel agent?
On our new flight to Bogota, Mrs. Cowart led our seat mate to the Lord. I listened in awe as it all happened. She is so friendly and kind! She was all too happy to get in a conversation with our seat mate (unlike me, I was too busy watching Firefly.) After an hour of listening to her, Mrs. Cowart pulled out an evangelism track and walked her new friend through grace and salvation and Christ’s redeeming love for us. Our seat mate prayed for salvation right then and there.
We are all rejoicing in God’s sovereignty. Satan’s ploy to dampen our spirits and keep us from going to Aljaba failed. He unwittingly played right into God’s hands. The Lord had a plan for delaying us, a plan for Mission Man to persevere and battle for our seats and show love to the ticket agents, a plan for putting Mrs. Cowart in the middle seat and planting this lady intentionally next to her so she would strike up a conversation, a plan to lead his beloved child to salvation.
WOW. There are not enough words. Praise God tonight, know the angels in Heaven are rejoicing for our new sister in Christ.
Yes, we are inconvenienced for a short time, but the value of that is worth an eternity. Praise God.
Looking forward to your updates on the trip. Good thing Wayne is calm, cool, and collected – I would have also lost it. You are right about the airline people and travel agents getting abused by the weather, cranky travelers and the system they have to use.
[…] trip, and it was awesome. The trip was wonderful, I felt truly blessed to have gone. Outside of the initial traveling complications of getting to Colombia, we did not have any other issues on the trip. I was thankful for a smooth […]