Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I didn't even get sunburned.

I'll be honest, I'm pretty proud of the fact I was able to travel to one of the countries on the planet that has not only received it's namesake from being directly on the Equator, but receives some of the sun's most direct rays. In the past I would have allowed myself to get sunburned just so I could come back with something to show, but in recent years I've realized that getting sunburned just isn't worth it for vanity's sake, if one can help it. I talked with someone yesterday who said, "Wait, you were in Ecuador? You don't even have a tan to show for it!" No ma'am, and I am A-OK with that.

Anyway, I want to tell you one of the stories that prove just how much the Holy Spirit took care of this trip from the very beginning. Now that I'm reflecting upon it, it's hard to believe that the trip only lasted one week and that it's already over, but that's just the way life is.

One of the things planned in our schedule/budget was a day-trip to Quito upon our arrival in Ecuador. A brief sketch of our arrival itinerary was this:

-Fly from JFK to Panama City (PTY) at 2:30 am on Sunday
-3 hour layover (a.k.a. naptime!) at PTY on Sunday morning
-Fly from PTY to Quito (2 1/2 hour flight)
-Spend Sunday in Quito, seeing a few sights which included some amazing churches
-Return to airport and fly from Quito -> Guayaquil on Sunday night (which meant we needed to get back to the same airport we flew into)*
-Spend the night at a Schönstatt retreat center in Guayaquil
-Leave for Daule on Monday morning (where we will be stationed all week)

*The pertinent part of that outline is that we flew into Quito on Sunday morning and then needed to fly out of Quito on Sunday night. Also, I failed to mention that the airport is new and now situated about an hour and a half outside the city. For those of you familiar with the topography of Ecuador, Quito is located in a nice big mountain valley, which means you need to make some serious strides up and down the mountains to get to and from the airport.

The 18 of us hop off the plane in Quito in the morning, excited to venture out and see the city. The bus that picks us up is hard to imagine but looks like it literally transported our parents to and from Woodstock in 1969. I didn't take any pictures, but let's just say that if this bus were in the United States it would probably no longer be able to legally transport people from point A to point B.

One of the two churches we visited in Quito.
We spend a nice day in Quito, seeing seriously some of the most amazing churches I've ever seen, laden with gold and incredible paintings. Dinner time rolls around, we enjoy a nice, fairly traditional Ecuadorian meal at a restaurant, and then start noticing that if we need to get to the airport an hour ahead of time we need to go. Ahorita. As in, 20 minutes ago.

So we pile back on the bus and start trucking to the airport. For whatever reason the roads are pretty bad in many places and every time we go over a pothole I'm pretty convinced we're either going to experience the entire frame of the bus falling apart, or get a flat tire.

I continuously check my watch, seeing the minutes tick by, noticing that we are drawing closer and closer to not only being an hour ahead of time, but simply being on time for our flight. For those of you who are familiar with flying you're probably like, "wait, what?? How were you not freaking out?!" Well, this is Latin America, and plus, FOCUS Missions trips tend to require not only extreme flexibility, but flexibility to the point of being liquid. Recognizing there is literally zero things I can do to speed up our trip to the airport, I accept it as it comes, trusting that everything will work out.

We continue our trek, bumping over potholes, barely making our way up the mountain and to be honest, I'm laughing by this point. Watching large semis and other vehicles zoom by this rickety little bus trying to make it's way up is truly a reason to chuckle.

At one point I hear Frank say something to the effect of, "Ok, we really need to get a move on if we want to make our flight." No sooner do those words escape his lips that--bump!--we go over what seems a pothole bigger than all the rest and then I can tell something is different about the way we land after this one.

We have a flat tire.

Recognizing that there's literally nothing I can do about it, and somehow still in good spirits trusting that the Lord has allowed everything to happen for a reason, I turn around and ask Frank, "How surprised are you that that just happened?" He responds with a smiling, "I am 110% not surprised!" And to be honest, neither am I. Of everything that could happen, this seems relatively minor. We are only about a 10 minute drive from the airport, and conveniently the Ecuadorian women that took us around the city are on the bus with us and their dad is in his own personal vehicle right in front of us. (I have a hunch that they knew all along this bus would be trouble and that's why he was there. But that's just my own theory. He was probably just in front of us to give them a ride home after the bus dropped us at the airport.) For those of you familiar with non-American cars, they tend to be much smaller, but the drivers tend to be much more generous, allowing far more than the capacity number of people to pile in at one time.
Waiting for taxis while watching our bus stay put.
The nice gentleman offers to take some people and their packs to the airport and then swing back to make another trip. Our flight leaves at 9 and it's already 8:25 by this point. Yikes. Are we really going to make it? We have no idea what security is like nor how long beforehand the cabin doors close, but we're certainly not giving up yet. There's at least 35 good minutes left!

A group of six pile in a surprisingly small space with their giant packs, make it to the airport, and one of the women notifies us that her dad got a couple taxis to come back around and pick us up so we could make it in one more trip rather than three. I don't know that I would have thought of that, but I was so glad he did!

The rest of our motley crew arrives at the airport, flustered and already de-jacketing, getting out liquids, etc so we can go right through security and onto the plane, which has already begun boarding.

All of us make it through security in record time except Frank, who makes an earnest attempt to check his bag due to all the liquids he has and his beloved pocket knife, knowing he certainly can't take that on the plane with him. Due to the tardiness of our arrival, the people at the check-in counter tell him in perfect, laid-back, Latin American fashion, "It's too late to check the bag now because it won't get to the plane in time. You'll be fine!"

Frank obliges and sends his suitcase--liquids, pocket knife and all--through the luggage scanner. Just his luck, they stop and send the bag back through, taking note of the potentially dangerous weapon tucked inside his backpack. He knows instantly what they are looking for, but they open up his luggage, begin tossing things out, digging for the pocket knife. After a few minutes of doing this, Frank reaches in, pulls out the pocket knife and asks if this is what they're looking for. They nod, he shoves everything back in the backpack and puts himself back together to run and meet up with the rest of the group, who at this point have already mostly boarded, except for myself and a couple other people.

We all get on the plane a little after 8:45 and the cabin doors close shortly after.

And that is one of the many stories showing how well the Holy Spirit took care of us while in Ecuador. That's not even mentioning how I managed to bring a group of us from the airport almost two hours late while in NYC, and it worked out out perfectly to the minute.

God is good, and I am so thankful for this trip. I am still processing much of what happened, and would greatly appreciate your prayers for myself and the other students and missionaries that came and had their worlds rocked. May God continue to shower us with graces of peace, clarity and an understanding of His will in our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment