British Airways messed up again. I wasn’t supposed to be on this flight.
I bumped through the aisle searching for my seat. I thought I travelled light but my backpack, diaper bag and child’s tent grew heavy sooner than I expected. Many hands reached to help me load the bags into the plane’s overhead compartments. I swiveled my head side to side thanking all the gentlemen.
Babies open doors, especially babies, like mine, who smile at strangers.
Sitting down I felt the urge to speak with the guy sitting next to us. When he smiled at Little Bear I started talking. As we spoke he tickled Little Bear’s feet, allowed him to play with the ring on his finger and generally entertained him the entire plane ride. Our initial conversation revolved around his aviation mechanic license, school and travel plans.
Then he asked me about the Middle East conflict. His name is Sharif. He is Saudi Arabian and he is Muslim.
His question caught me off guard so I turned it around, asking him what he thought. He quickly condemned the actions taking place. As we talked I asked him more. He shared with me both his doubts about his faith and his concerns about mine. I, in turn, shared with him. The conversation was serious but comfortable. No arguing just discussion and much internal prayer on my part that my words would be clear, representing my Father well.
After a while our conversation once again turned back to less serious things; scuba diving, underwater hunting, and how to hold your breath for long periods of time. I’m thankful for him, his help, how he entertained Little Bear and his honesty. I pray he finds The Truth.
I hate traveling. I love new places and being at my destination. I just don’t like the in between parts. I get nervous. I can’t sleep. I think through all the things that could go wrong. My palms get sweaty. I set multiple alarms and worry that somehow I’ll still wake up late and miss my taxi, my flight or breakfast. I need to eat breakfast, without it I feel sick. Unfortunately sometimes I also get sick eating it. I can’t win.
You prayed for me. My parents prayed for me. My husband prayed for me. I prayed for me. God answers prayers.
Our trip was far from easy. We got bumped from our original flight. The next day we checked in early. Our flight was delayed. We waited at the airport for hours before being called to board. Little Bear didn’t like the baby seat. He wanted his freedom. I wanted to cry. He did cry. We arrived late. Our luggage was lost. We were tired.
It was hard. Traveling alone with a baby is not my idea of fun but really I wasn’t alone. Your prayers worked. God sent angels each step of the way.
My favorite angel is a little Greek lady, who conquered cancer, is full of opinions, wears super high heels and still barely reaches my shoulder. She fought for us to be first on the National Express bus between airports in London because “that sweet baby needs to be out of the cold London air”. She took us to the front of the hotel line for check in because “that sweet baby needed to get settled for the night.” Then she disappeared.
There were many angels.
It was only Lauren’s second trip as a flight attendant. She might well have been nervous too but she made sure we had everything we needed; baby seatbelt, cot, water, baby food and Coke. She even gave me the chocolate bar straight from her pocket with a wink and a smile.
My friend, Sandy, was on the first leg with me. She helped carry bags, get our hotel vouchers, hold Little Bear and generally keep me sane.
Flight attendants, Ceri and Gabriella, took care of us on our second flight making sure Little Bear’s bottles were clean and filled with water for formula.
A high-heeled British lady held Little Bear while I used the restroom. Her partner entertained him with smiles and funny noises.
A distraught and frustrated fellow passenger whose luggage was also lost helped me find the customer service desk.
The security officials smiled despite my forgetting to take all the liquids out of Little Bear’s diaper bag.
A British Hindu man returning from his family reunion kept me company and conversed with me at the back of the airplane as I bounced Little Bear around to keep him happy.
Haridah, a British Airways employee, escorted me to the front of the line at customs and helped locate my lost luggage (which was in a completely different city!).
Many people relinquished their places in line to allow this harried mother and her Little Bear to the fronts of lines so we could get where we needed to go a bit faster.
Thank you for your prayers. We made it with the help of many angels in flight.
Travel by car to Malakal from Kenya is pretty unrealistic. The roads, if they exist at all, are unreliable, bumpy, full of potholes and potential dangers.
That leaves us to travel by air. Flying is not my favorite thing to do especially not with a bum leg. Climbing in and out of a small, cramped airplane with only 4 hours of sleep the night before definitely didn’t rank high on my list of enjoyable things to try.
The pilot of our caravan generously allowed me to straighten my knee between his and the co-pilot’s seats on top of all his in-flight paperwork. The first leg to Lokichogio wasn’t too difficult until we made our descent. My air sick bag came in handy. I’m not sure if it was the turbulence or the 3 different medications (two antibiotics and an anti-malarial) I’m on that list nausea as a frequent side effect that did me in.
My stomach was queasy for the next two puddle-hopper stops before reaching Juba. Somehow I managed to keep the medicine from working its way back up by gulping down cold water provided by the pilot. I was glad to put my feet on solid ground and even gladder when I reached the air-conditioned house of our MAF friends! This country is hot, hot, hot!
Orientation began the day following our arrival. Lots of information but I’m not sure how much actually penetrated the fog inside my brain.
The fridge doesn’t work.
The truck won’t start.
The motorcycle got a flat. (Good thing we brought those tires!)
We are apartment hunting…
Oh and by the way anything we need in Malakal needs to be bought, weighed, packed and at the office in a few short days to be ready for the cargo flight.
What?! Slow down, take a deep breath, and pray.
We are headed to Malakal, South Sudan sometime in the first half of February to begin learning language. In light of the recent developments this seems the best choice. Although there is no official school located there, Malakal offers a language immersion setting. Using a self-directed learning method we will begin to acquire Arabic on our own.
There are limited supplies available in Malakal. Although we personally don’t leave until February all of our things will be shipped out in advance. Therefore, anything we might need or want in the next 3 months must be ready to go on the cargo flight.
Clothes are packed once more. We ordered a metal-framed, queen size bed complete with a frame for our mosquito net on Sunday and the fundis (workers) had it finished by Monday. At Nakumatt (our Wal-Mart) we bought a queen-size mattress, sheets, folding chairs, standing fan (for when the electricity works), and some hanging drawers. These items will most likely be the extent of our furniture in Malakal.
Any consumable items needed have to last the entire 3 months or we basically do without; toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion. I bought LOTS of toilet paper!
Food items such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, and spices are also a luxury usually not found in Malakal. Many bring in canned products, cheeses, and snack foods but we didn’t have the time or space for these things. However, I did manage to buy some peanut butter and pack some of my spices.
Our life for the next 3 months is packed into 130 kilos of weight about to be loaded onto the cargo plane!
After teary goodbyes, checking six bulky pieces of luggage, including motorcycle tires in a duct-taped box, and a three hour delay our flight got underway. Although delayed again at Gatwick, we soon disembarked, managed to manhandle our baggage onto carts navigating our way to buy bus tickets, all the while receiving strange looks for our mismatched luggage and duct-taped box.
50 British pounds and a missed bus later we finally arrived at Heathrow, only to board another bus for the hotel, which was A-mazing! Because of a generously donated room we were treated like royalty, shown to the executive lounge and given our choice of drinks and snacks.
With no time to spare we took the bus back to the airport, bought passes for the underground, and proceeded on the Piccadilly Line in to town to meet up with a good friend. The vast diversity of people was astonishing; spiked hair and wallet chains, suits and high heels, skinny jeans, baggy jeans, young, old, Asian, French.
The time in London was refreshing. The fish-n-chips, hot shower, good night’s rest, and delicious breakfast spread complete with fresh fruits, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, gourmet coffee, etc. was a great way to start the second half of our journey, another 8 hour plane ride to Nairobi.
Thankfully, everything made it in one piece, including our luggage. We had no trouble obtaining my visa or with customs officials. A friend was there to meet us and bring us home. Exhausted but happy we slept in our very own bed; the first time in 9 months!
Three precious boys who love and pray for me. And now? They love my husband too!
He unknowingly stole their hearts the minute he started showing them pictures of the airplanes he works on, while the “adults” were still talking at the dinner table. The Boy patiently answered question after question while pointing out different interesting objects in each photo.
Next thing I know the oldest whisked The Boy away to the computer room excitedly showing him a flight simulator game. As I peek around the door all four “boys” are engrossed in the excitement of flying over Lake Naivasha in Kenya, heading towards an airstrip the younger ones have never landed on before.
“Watch this!” And then I lose all track of where the conversation has gone. For it winds in and out of the intricacies of airplane and vehicle mechanics, a topic I will never be adept at and it surprises me the depth of knowledge this rather intelligent second grader already has on this subject.
More impressive than their knowledge of mechanics, is their discipline and love for the Lord at such an early age. Important Biblical teachings have been passed down from grandparents to parents and now to these children.
We got to spend time with all three generations and were so blessed by the heritage we saw, a heritage not unlike both mine and The Boy’s. Not only are they passing on a deep love and respect for God but also the importance of sharing the Gospel and praying for missionaries, as these precious ones do every week.
I’m thankful for the friendship of this wonderful family and how quickly they have come to love and accept my husband.
And now The Boy has a new 8 year old pen pal!