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7//18/2012 (Wednesday)

Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  (NIV)

I remember growing up in a home where my father never set an alarm to get up at a particular time.  He would always awaken on time and never overslept.  I often wondered how he did that.  How could he determine what time to awaken and then do that without ever missing the mark?  As I am now in my retirement phase of life I find I am following in my dad’s footsteps.  I set the alarm but invariably I awaken a few minutes before it would ring.  My internal clock seems to have its own alarm.  This morning was no exception…alarm 4 am, awakening 3:50 am.  So the day began with the usual morning routine and then Phyllis and I left for the airport to be there by 5:30.   My flight schedule today:  Fort Wayne to Dallas/Fort Worth leaving at 7:05 am, Dallas/Fort Worth to Miami leaving at 10:20 am Dallas time, and then Miami to Quito leaving at 3:30 pm.   I am packed in one suitcase and a carry-on and Jane’s brother, Steve, is sending a second piece of luggage filled with supplies for Jane. 

Father, You are so gracious and full of love, unfailing love!  I so enjoy that love as I am not worthy to even be considered by You.  But, You knew me before I was born and have a plan for me.  You have invited me to walk with You and have cared for me like the shepherd cares for his sheep.  Psalm 23 means so much to me for You are the Good Shepherd caring for me, making me to lie down when I persist in standing to my own detriment.  You lead me to the still waters of nourishment to refresh and restore.  You guide me as we walk together and right now we are headed to San Lorenzo where You have called me to serve You through serving the people there.  Lord, thank You for this opportunity.  I pray, Lord, for safe travel today.  Please keep away any problems that the evil one would try to bring to me to keep me from following You.  I pray also for Phyllis.  I love her so much and am so thankful she walks with You as well.  Please wrap Your arms of love around her in a special way, Lord, especially while I am away from her these next several days.  Thank You, Lord, for Your unfailing love and Your perfect will.  Amen.

7:08 am.  We are off the runway and climbing into the sky over Fort Wayne.   Looking down at the patchwork of green and tan fields it looks like we have good crops growing.  However, the drought this year has been severe and the crops are failing from lack of water.  Yet, from a couple thousand feet the  fields are bright with a deep healthy-looking green.

When the flight crew came this morning there were two women and one man.  I assumed the man was a pilot because of his uniform.  One woman was obviously quite pregnant and had a different uniform than the other.  When I boarded the plane the one who was pregnant was sitting in the cockpit with the man going over all the instruments and check lists.  Once we were seated the other woman, our flight attendant, introduced the man, our pilot, and the pregnant woman, our co-pilot.  I silently congratulated the co-pilot who is in a career as an airline pilot and also is pursuing a family.

Thank You, Father, for giving these people the intelligence and skills needed to fly this plane.  I pray for them today as they serve You through serving me and the others on this plane.  Thank You for our attendant who just served me coffee.  She, too, is serving You in her work You have called her to do.  Lord, Thank You!

We are flying high above the clouds with the sun brightly illuminating them.  The pilot banked the plan and turned a little to go around a large anvil shaped cloud that is likely a storm.  It looks so beautiful on the outside in the sunlight.  However, inside could be an ugly storm with destructive lightning and winds.  But with that comes also life-giving rain.

Lord, I marvel at the intricate system of what we call nature.  The chemistry and physics involved in that storm are fascinating.  And this is all part of the cycle of life.  Planet Earth is perfectly positioned in orbit around the sun to allow life to exist.  A little closer or a little farther from the sun and life wouldn’t exist.  This is all designed by You, Lord.  You spoke it into existence as detailed in the early part of Genesis.  Lord, You are awesome, beyond my comprehension, yet are so personal allowing me to have a love-filled relationship with You.  I stand in awe of You, Lord.

9:00 am.  We are descending into DFW and will land in about 20 minutes.  I have an hour and 50 minutes to go from gate B-22 to D-20 for the next leg of this trip.  The flight was smooth and for the most part the sky was clear and I could see the land and its features.  We flew over a large river, probably the Mississippi, and it stood out in regards to its size.  Even from 6 miles up it still was an immense body of water dividing the land as it meandered curving and bending this way and that.  Approaching Dallas the fields are green but not nearly as green as what I saw in Indiana.  It is an interesting contrast in the face of drought conditions in both places.

Touchdown: 9:20 – 8:20 Dallas time.  Father, thank You for the easy, smooth flight.  Thank You for the clear sky so I could drink in the beauty of Your creation.  Lord, Your blessings abound and I confess I take a lot of them for granted.  Forgive me, Lord, for not honoring You this way.  Thank You, Father.

9:45 Dallas time.  Boarding began for my section of the plane and by 10:00 I was in my seat and comfortable.  I am anticipating a good flight to Miami.  I talked with Phyllis on the phone and enjoyed hearing her voice.  It’s only been 4 hours and I miss her greatly.  She said our little dog, Lilly, misses me and has been wandering around the house looking for me.  This little dog is a picture of loyalty and unconditional love – and example of how God loves me.  I have to ask myself –do I love others like that?  Do I love God like that?  If some problem enters my day and creates a lot of pain or inconvenience, do I still love God as much as I had before the setback?  Little Lilly teaches me a lesson or two in what love is all about.  I wonder if this is one reason God created dogs – to be man’s best friend. 

Father, I confess to You when I find myself not loving You as I should.  I let the distractions focus on me and not on You.  Once I stop keeping You center in my life, in my thoughts, I begin to sin.  In fact, Lord, the root of all sin is taking our focus off of You and placing our priorities of that moment elsewhere.  Lord, I confess that and ask for forgiveness.  You truly restore my soul, Lord.  Thank You!

11:15 Dallas time.  We are cruising at 37,000 feet.  The sky is clear with a little haze.  The flight is smooth and comfortable.  We must be coming again to the Mississippi River for there is a wide ribbon of water snaking across the landscape coming from the horizon.  I am on the north side of the plane and the view is spectacular.  It is interesting how a river never runs straight but weaves and turns back and forth.  The course of least resistance is not necessarily a straight line.  This teaches me a life lesson in that walking with God requires walking straight yet when I choose what seems to be easier, I wander, much like the river.  I look upon that water that began in Minnesota, flowed past the magnificent arch in St. Louis, listened to Elvis when it passed Memphis and is running under me in a rush to reach New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Thank You, Lord, for creating this river, one small piece of Your creation, yet, all the while reminding me of who You are—the sovereign God of the universe.  I marvel at Your creation, Lord.  What design!  What wisdom!  What complexity!  What beauty!  You are so awesome, beyond comprehension, yet, Father, You pay attention to me and anyone else who calls to You and even to those who even deny Your existence.  Your arms of love are open wide to embrace anyone who would seek You.  Thank You for loving me with those arms, Lord.  Amen!

1:50 pm Miami time.  We are starting our descent into Miami and should be on the ground in about 20 minutes.  This flight was smooth over all with one area of minor turbulence for a few minutes.  The land here is quite green nurtured by the rain Florida receives and probably from Tropical Storm Debby.  I have an hour and a half layover in Miami and then on to Quito!

3:20 pm.  I am sitting on the plane, flight #931.  We will be leaving very soon.  Flight time is 3 ½ hours.  Temperature in Quito is 66.  Going from continuous exposure to temps in the 90s to low 100s with sticky humidity to more dry, cool air will be a transition to say the least.  It should feel good.  My problem the past few trips has been increasing sensitivity to the altitude.  Quito is 9200 feet up and the air is thinner.  Simple walking makes me short of breath.  Usually the first thing to happen is a headache followed by some nausea in spite of drinking a lot of water.  Hopefully this time it won’t bother me as much. 

Father, Thank You for a safe and smooth ride so far.  We are on time and the weather has been favorable.  I pray, Lord, for protection from altitude sickness.  Hel me do what I need to minimize the symptoms. Thank You, Lord, for what You have revealed to me so far.  I pray for a safe flight to Quito.  Thank You, Lord.

3:34 pm.  We are backing away from the gate and will soon be airborne and heading southwest to Ecuador.  I talked with Phyllis on the phone and enjoyed hearing her voice.  My next contact hopefully will be tonight when I can get Internet access and connect via Skype.

4:00 pm.  The captain announced the travel plan.  We will head south to Cuba and fly across the middle part of the island.  Then we will fly over Jamaica and then head more west and south to Panama.  We will cross Panama and then follow the coast on south to Ecuador and then travel inland to Quito.  Arrival is projected to be 6:30 pm Quito time.  I am sitting on the west side of the plane and hope to see the sunset from 37,000 feet.  However, arrival time for this flight is a little earlier than previous trips and I may miss it.  I hope not.

5:30 Miami time, 4:30 Quito time.  We just finished dinner and have 2 hours yet until we reach Quito.  The island of Cuba was visible as we passed over it.  There were some tall storm clouds in one area obscuring part of the island.  However, our path kept all of that west of us and looking down the Cuban shoreline was quite visible. 

Father, thank You for the safe and smooth right and the privilege of viewing Your majestic creation.  Right now, Lord, all I see is water and waves that look like ripples from high in the air.  However, Lord, You made all that and all the life that is contained in the sea.  You also gave man the ability to build this plane so we can travel great distances through the air.  Thank You, Lord, for Your incredible creativity.  Amen.

5:30 pm Quito time.  One hour remains before landing in Quito.  I have enjoyed watching the clouds and the developing colors of what will become a spectacular sunset.  At times the sunshine reflects off the water and off the surface of the clouds giving various color hues and even brilliant rainbows as the light goes through moisture-laden wispy clouds.  This is one of the highlights of these trips.  The flight is always in the afternoon to evening and I get to see the sunset above the clouds at 37,000 feet.  Truly spectacular!  Each scene is different just as the clouds are different.  What a privilege to see this!  God certainly shows us His handiwork, Himself, in the sunsets.  Thank You, Lord, for the beauty!  Thank You!

5:50 pm.  Word from the captain that we are 35 minutes out from landing in Quito.  Arrival will be on time.  Then I go through immigration, collect my luggage and then through customs.  Hopefully, there will be no problems in the process.  I have letters from Steve to verify that all I am bringing is donated and will be used in service to the people, especially the under-privileged children of San Lorenzo.  Most of what Steve packed are backpacks, crayons and other items for the children.

6:18 pm.  Touchdown!  We have landed in Quito!  Father, thank You for a safe flight.  Thank You for the incredible scenery with the setting sun.  Thank You I am able to come here to serve You with Jane and her team.  Lord, I am so thankful for this opportunity and privilege.

10:00 pm.  The first stop after deplaning was immigration.  There were two planes that landed and unloaded about 300 passengers.  Immigration has 10 stations to process passports.  However, only three were being used.  The immigration officers were standing around talking and having a good time and seemed oblivious to the great crowd of people anxious to get through.  It took over an hour and a half for me to finally get to the front of the line.  Once I got through immigration I got my luggage and then went to customs.  The lady running the x-ray wanted to look in my bags.  She noticed some things that were strange to her.  Upon opening my suitcase she found what caught her eye–my clothes packed in vacuum packs.  She found some surgical masks and I told her I was a surgeon.  She spoke good English and asked me what specialty.  I told her OBGYN and she got a big smile and thanked me for coming to Ecuador to help the people here.  She looked in the other bag and took the letters that Steve had prepared and let me go.  I finally was able to go out and meet with Jane and Damarys and head to the car.  Jane had some other people with her, an Ecuadorian lady who lives in Mishawaka, IN, who flew on the same flight as me.  Her father had a stroke and she came to be with him.  She has lived in IN for 20 years.  Jane wanted to drop her off first so she took me on a tour of Quito.  I didn’t arrive at the guest house where I am staying for the night until after 9 pm.  I was able to connect via Internet and at least email Phyllis.  Now it is time to go to bed.  It has been a long day and the body is tired and the head hurts.

Lord, this has been a long day but an enjoyable one. Because of clear skies I was able to see a lot of Your creation from high up in the sky.  The perspective is so different and it is a privilege to be able to see this.  The developing sunset was spectacular and I thank You for that.  Father, I pray for a good night’s sleep and relief from the altitude-induced headache.  Thank You for the safe trip and the opportunity to be here to work with Jane and serve You.  Amen.

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