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Day 13 – March 18, 2019

I am up and ready to head to the airport.  Jane will pick me up about 6:30 am so I can be at the airport by 7:30, three hours ahead of my departure time.  I will have to check in at the Avianca desk and check my luggage and get my boarding pass.  I hope I can also get a boarding pass for the second flight on American Airlines that I board in Bogota.  My layover in Bogota is 2 hours.  Hopefully I can get both boarding passes at Quito and then I won’t have to deal with going to the American Airlines ticket desk in Bogota to get the needed boarding pass.  

As I approached this day with all my flight schedule details all in order, the FAA ordered the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes grounded.  That was the plane I came to Quito in and was due to return to Miami in with American Airlines.  Then on Friday evening I received an email and a text telling me my flight from Quito to Miami was cancelled.  No alternatives were given other than to call American Airlines to reschedule.  This glitch caused some concern for me as I suddenly realized I could be stranded here in Ecuador and not be able to return home as planned.  Damarys called a Quito number with American Airlines and was able to get for me a return trip leaving from Quito on Avianca Airlines to Bogota.  There I switch to an American Airlines flight to Miami arriving there in the evening.  I will have to overnight in Miami and then fly the last leg of my journey home on Tuesday.  I felt better but still my heart tended to be troubled by this change of plans leaving more uncertainty in front of me.

Then I read two passages in Isaiah between Friday evening and this morning and they draw me into trusting God in all these details and not becoming anxious trying to worry about my upcoming trip home.  The first passage was Isaiah 40:31 “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”  When I put my hope and trust in the Lord, I can move with Him into the unknown without worry.  In fact, I could extrapolate from this that I indeed will soar like an eagle when my flight departs heading for the United States.  God will provide and will give me the energy and ability to move forward into the unknown and the uncertainty with confidence and peace.  

Then I read Isaiah 26:3-4. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal.”  If I keep my mind focused on the Lord, my mission focused on my walk with Him, I can enjoy His perfect peace.  That is a peace that is hard to describe.  It comes in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.  It even comes in the midst of pain and adversity.  I remember experiencing this peace several years ago when I was facing a dangerous surgery for my pancreatitis.  This surgery had a mortality rate that was almost frightening.  But, my only option was to move forward into this uncertain time.  I remember praying for God’s perfect peace and then it came.  It was as calm that spoke to me that all was well and I would be ok because God was there with me and would be with me throughout the entire time.  It was a peace that I could not describe in words.  But I felt it.  As I look at trying to travel home on an airline I am not familiar with and I can’t communicate with the people because I don’t speak Spanish, I realize that God is still there and I feel a peace that is coming over me.  

Father, I thank You for the opportunity to come to Ecuador to serve You here. I had a great time working with Jane and helping her with several surgeries. You equipped us and empowered us to bring Your healing touch to these people. Thank You for that. I pray, Lord, for my flights back to home. I pray for smooth connections and safety, not only for me but for all the passengers. I pray, Lord, that I can feel that perfect peace the entire trip as I do place my hope and trust in You. I know You are with me and will not leave or forsake me. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Jane and Damarys arrived at 6:30 and I had moved my luggage out to the gate by the street.  We loaded it in the back of the truck and then left for the airport arriving there close to 7:30.  I went in and went to the Avianca ticket desk to check my luggage and get my boarding pass.  I had to stand in line for a long time and finally made it to a ticket agent.  This lady looked at my itinerary sent to me from American Airlines and then checked the computer and told me I was not in the computer and there was no ticket for me.  She then told me to go the the ticket desk for American.  So I went to that desk and waited for another lengthy time.  The man found my itinerary but said the Avianca flight was not scheduled and I was given false information.  He worked for quite awhile and came up with the best option, flying on American on Thursday the 21st.  I would fly from Quito to Guayaquil then to Miami then to Fort Myers.  I explained to him that Phyllis and I were flying that day to Indianapolis to attend a funeral and asked if there were any other way of getting home before then.  He talked with another agent working beside him and after some more time I had boarding passes for a flight leaving for Mexico City in about a hour.  There I would pick up a Delta flight to Atlanta and the another Delta flight to Fort Myers arriving there close to 1 am tomorrow.   

As I approached the gate to board the AeroMexico flight I was paged to come up to the agents at the boarding area.  Some other men were called up as well.  This lady then took us down a long hall, down some steps into an area underneath the nose of the plane into a room.  A policeman found my bag I had checked and opened it to look through it in front of me.  He was kind and asked me some questions about what I had in there.  Once I answered his questions he let me repack with his help and the the lady took us back upstairs where we had to go through security screening again and then back to the gate so we could board the plane.  I was able to get to my seat about 30 minutes before we pushed back and took off for Mexico City.  The ticket agent told me when I get to Mexico City I will need to go through customs, recheck my bag at the connecting flights area and the go to the Delta desk to get my boarding passes for the rest of the trip.

I had to remind myself about what I wrote this morning about resting in God’s peace and not being consumed by fear and worry.  I have to admit I didn’t listen to myself well as fear and worry took over when the first ticket agent said I was not scheduled to fly on the airline the American agent had said.  After thinking about the perfect peace that God brings I have kept my mind fixed on Him and am resting in His presence as He is leading me home by way of a different route.  

Father, I know You will keep me and guide me home today. Thank You for giving me the message to write down and to internalize myself today. Thank You for the perfect peace You gave me and continue to give me as I travel to Mexico City right now and for the rest of the journey on home. Thank You, Lord!

In Mexico City we had to go through customs on the way to the luggage carrousel.  That went fairly quickly.  The customs agent asked me why I was in Mexico and what my business was being here.  I told her my business was to get to my next flight before the plane left for Atlanta.  She smiled and wished me a good trip home.  At the luggage carrousel we had to wait till the luggage that was taken off the plane was inspected by customs.  There were some dogs sniffing the luggage and since my bag was of interest in Quite maybe it would be fully inspected again.  I had only about 2 hours before the next flight was to leave and I stood at the carrousel for an hour before my bag came out on the belt.  I took the bag to the place where where it was deposited for the connecting flights and then had to go out of the secure area to go upstairs to the arrivals section to go to the Delta desk to get my boarding passes.  Fortunately, there were no waiting passengers and I walked up at an agent and he quickly gave me my boarding passes and told me where I needed to go to go through security again and to my gate.  I walked briskly to the security area and went through without much delay.  Then on to my gate where I found boarding in process and only a few people still in the waiting area.  I got in line and boarded the plane.  Fortunately, my seat was near the front of the plane so I didn’t have to work my way to the back. Once I sat down I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for giving me this seat on this flight and escorting me back home.

Several times while standing at the carrousel waiting for my bag and watching the time get shorter and shorter I had to remind myself about letting God handle this process and rest in the peace that He gives.  I had to purposely keep my mind on Him to keep the feelings of anxiety and doubt away.  The enemy kept whispering to me that I was foolish for trusting in God and that He didn’t care about my problems and fears. I even told the enemy to leave me alone that I was focusing on God no matter what.  The whispers stopped after that.  

After scrambling to get through all the process steps to be able to board the next flight, I thought about the other passage that God gave me this morning.  “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  I had to smile as I thought about soaring like an eagle on my next leg of this journey but to get to that point I had to run and not grow weary and eventually walked and not be faint.  But, as I write this I am soaring like an eagle over the southern part of Alabama.  My hope truly is in the Lord!!

Upon arrival in Atlanta I had to go through customs again including getting my checked bag and putting it in the belt for connecting flights.  Then another trip through security allowed me to go to the concourse where my gate was located.  In less than an hour I was on the plane to head to Fort Myers.  There I will be picked up by Terry and Norm, two of our closest friends from Fort Wayne.  Terry and Barb are in Englewood for the winter and Donna and Norm are visiting for a few days.  Soon I will be home!

Arrival at Fort Myers was 12:30 am on Tuesday.  The plane was about one third full.  When the baggage was delivered, only a few bags appeared on the carrousel.  Several passengers, including me, did not find our luggage.  The airlines only shipped a few of the bags and the rest of us had to go to baggage services to put in our claims for our missing luggage.  The people in baggage services tracked the claim tickets we received and said the bags were still in Atlanta and would be delivered in the morning.  So, I went with Terry and Norm back to my home and hopefully my bag will be delivered tomorrow.  

It was a thrill to hold Phyllis in a long hug when I went into the house.  Our dog, Lilly, also was very excited to see me and wanted held.  Our friends left and Phylis and I went to bed to get some sleep.  The bed felt wonderful!

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