Saturday, January 23, 2016

Packed and Unpacked

I finished packing and weighing my suitcase Thursday night in time to get to bed by 9:00 p.m.  Why so early?  We had to be at Crievewood Baptist Church by 3:00 a.m. on Friday. I woke up at 2:15, finished packing my bag and my carry-on with the necessary items for our trip to Honduras with Luke 9:2 Ministries.  Doug packed our car, and we headed to the church.  It was raining, with a winter storm warning in the forecast.  Team members and volunteers packed the luggage into the bus and van. The rest of the team packed into the church bus for a quick ride to the airport.

All 29 of us packed into the Delta line to get our bags checked.  The Delta agents were helpful and processed us and our luggage quickly - or so I thought.  Doug and I, along with other team members, proceeded through security and to our gate.  It’s amazing how many people are at the airport at 5:00 on a Friday morning!

After a stop at Wendy’s for coffee and a biscuit, we began boarding the plane for our 5:30 departure. Outside it was still raining.

As we packed into the plane and settled our belongings, I realized not all of our team members were on the plane.  In fact, we were missing 7 members!  We found out, via text messages, that our “missing” members were the ones who stayed at the Delta counter to get our crates checked in - a process that took WAY longer than it should have.  Because of this delay, they were stuck in the security line.  Even after they were moved up in the line because of their departure time, they were still delayed.

Though our team members were told the plane would be held for them, apparently the gate agents did not get that message.  The agents allowed stand-by passengers to board the plane, went through the safety procedures, and closed the door of the plane.  It was 5:30, and our 7 missing colleagues were not on board!

Then, to our surprise, they opened the door and allowed our missing team members on, along with an additional stand-by passenger.  Since we had new passengers on board, the flight attendants had to go through the safety procedures again.  We thought we were ready to go.  But the captain came over the intercom to say they mistakenly let too many folks on the plane. There were not enough seats.  We had to reopen the doors to let two people get off, one of whom was a member of our team who had a ticket for that flight!

Meanwhile, time was ticking, and the weather is deteriorating - fast.  As we finally pulled away from the gate, the captain informed us we would have to be de-iced before takeoff.  We taxied to the de-icing location and waited (with engines and air conditioning off) as the bucket-truck with the firehose applied the solution to our plane.  Good to go, right?  Nope.  We sat there, and the captain came back on the intercom, announced that the first solution did not work, so they were going to try a stronger formula.  He was confident we would still be able to take off.  Out the window, with the aid of the lights from the de-icing truck, I could see that the rain was beginning to mix with what looked like snow, though it was hard to tell.  By this time it was 6:30, a full hour after we should have departed.

At this point, people on the plan had disregarded the “turn off your electronic devices” notice and text messages and internet searches were flying as they tried to make alternate arrangements for the connecting flights they were missing out of Atlanta.  The flight attendants attempted to serve us drinks, but since the flight was only supposed to be 40 minutes long, they had only orange juice and water to offer…and no ice.  Does anybody else see the irony in that?

After announcing we would have to de-ice a 3rd time, the pilot finally said we were going back to the gate and that the airport had been closed due to the snow now accumulating on the runways.  Our team gathered together inside the terminal at the departure gate only to learn that none of the airlines could get our entire team to Honduras before Tuesday afternoon.  Our trip was cancelled.

Our bags and crates were pulled OFF the airplane, and we picked them up in baggage claim.  By now, I was “packed” full of emotion.  I was sad for the people of Honduras that we would not be able to serve in the clinics.  I was disappointed that we would not get to see our Honduran hosts - Pastor Nelson, his wife Letsbi, and their family - and all of the interpreters we have worked with for the last several years.  I was also frustrated that I wouldn’t get to spend a week with my team members - some old friends and some I had just met.  I guess I was especially disappointed for Katie and Lexey since it was to be their first time to fly on a plane and to travel out of the country.

We all got home as best we could.  Doug and I arrived home about 11:00 a.m.  The snow continued to fall (we eventually ended up with 7 inches).  We played outside, along with Rebecca and her boyfriend, and “packed” the snow into a snowman.  Eventually, we will unpack our suitcases…

Why did God emphatically stop our trip? (This was the fastest snow accumulation Nashville had recorded in 50 years).  I don’t know.  I don’t understand.  And maybe I’m a little angry.  But, God is still God.  And I trust him to do not only the best for me, but also for the people in Honduras. 

The board of Luke 9:2 Ministries will meet to decide what to do with the medicines we packed. Some have an expiration date and can’t wait until we might go later in the year or in 2017.  Tough decisions will have to be made.  Please keep the board members in your prayers.

So, this may be my only blog post for 2016.  Now, I just have to figure out what I will “pack” into this week since I won’t be in Honduras!