Monday, January 10, 2011

The Whole Story - Getting There

God’s grace towards us in Africa began before we even left Los Angeles. On a good day, we can get to LAX in 45 minutes. On a bad day, it can take 3 hours. On the Sunday evening of Thanksgiving weekend… we had no idea. We decided to give ourselves 5. As it turned out, even with a stop at our favorite Mexican dive for a delicious last meal, we had hours to spare. The airport was nearly empty, security was a breeze, and we had plenty of time to set up camp at our gate and score a late night snack.
Our flight across the states was uneventful, and we had plenty of time to check in with South African Airlines at JFK. Unfortunately (and this becomes a key element later on), their computer system shut down half-way through the check-in process. My parents received their boarding passes for both our flights to Johannesburg and our connecting flight to Lilongwe, Malawi. Danny and I, however, were just issued passes for the JFK/J-burg segment and told we should just check in when we arrived in South Africa. The agent made it sound like it was no big deal, and we thought nothing of it. Instead of worrying, we settled in for our long trek across the Atlantic where God again prove Himself to be gracious. The flight was relatively empty and we each had two seats to stretch out in. 19 hours even in two seats is a long time, but we were able to get some rest.
As we approached Johannesburg, we realized that our 3-hour layover had turned into 40 minutes due to rain delays, and we sprinted off of that plane. My parents were able to run through security and get to the gate just in time… but here’s where that computer shut-down comes into play. Danny and I, bereft of boarding passes, were stuck in a seemingly-endless line of other panicked fliers also minutes away from missing their flights. With no working cell phones to communicate, my parents were left to wonder if we were coming or not… and finally determined that they also should stay behind, so that at least if we were stranded, we would be stranded together. The minutes ticked by. The gate closed. The plane that was to take us to our son left, without us.
We stood in that line crushed, not knowing we would soon get our first lesson in the course “God’s Plans Are Better Than Yours 101.” You see, our original flight was into Lilongwe, a 4-(at best) hour drive to Blantyre where Ernest lives. We had tried to get a flight that would fly us into Blantyre and out of Lilongwe three weeks later, but neither the schedule nor the economics worked out. When we missed that flight to Lilongwe, however, South African Air arranged for us to fly straight to Blantyre just three hours later after Hagen Daas and a nice lunch on them. What we initially saw as a set-back, God had orchestrated so we could avoid a long, harrowing drive, after what would have already been a forty hour trek.
A day earlier than we had hoped, we arrived in Blantyre, and were met by our dear friend, Kondi (a Malawian Danny got to know on his prior trips to Malawi, and best friend of our “adopted” brother Kwacha) who made the drive in record time so that we could see a familiar face and have a car to use during our time in Blantyre. We later found out he picked us up because the orphanage director refused. She was “having dinner guests” (us!) and couldn’t send anyone. Though she certainly didn’t have his best, or ours, at heart, God used even her inconsideration for our good. Just two days later that car, and the cell phone he brought us, became our lifelines.


Anonymous said...

I know the story, and still can't wait for the next installment! Mom

Lisa Hellier said...

Last line gave me chillbumps. I am excited to read the telling of God's amazing love. Thanks for writing these things of His faithfulness.

By the Brook said...

Thanks for writing it down. I just want to cry when I think of what is coming, God is so good! I spoke to Sharon, (Bied's sis) and she is very excited to read all about it.

Heather M. said...

I wish the story would have a happier ending, but I am enjoying following the journey you were on. I know God has a plan....praying for your family & healing from this heartbreaking experience.