Three years ago in July, our team of nine boarded planes in Texas and California headed toward Minneapolis, MN to reunite, and then on to Africa for a six-week exploratory mission trip. We were eager, excited and ready to take on anything that came our way, just so long as we got to see first hand the needs in Africa and minister to the people we encountered. Little did we know that our first obstacle would manifest itself as a “mechanical difficulty” on our plane in the US. That delay created a ripple effect in our flight schedules, and we ended up stranded in Amsterdam overnight. In order to keep all nine of us together, the ticket agent booked us on a flight to Nairobi, Kenya (East Africa) via Accra, Ghana (West Africa) instead of a direct flight. Note #1 - Never allow your flight plans to be redirected to the other side of the continent of Africa. Wait for a direct flight. That little detour ended up costing us 3 more days (for reasons too long to explain here). Note #2 - Don’t leave the airport without the proper visas and paying the proper entrance fees...even if the airline agents tells you it’s okay. Immigration does not appreciate that.
What a discouraging start! We missed the time we had planned in Nairobi, and would have to leave immediately for our next destination in Rwanda. As our team prayed over and discussed our frustration, we were reminded of God’s sovereignty over our trip. We had barely even begun, and in our minds we had already taken over control. Thankfully, God lovingly reminded us who’s trip it really was before we travelled very far.
We also realized that we needed the rest we found in Amsterdam before our difficult journey. The time of preparation before our trip had been, for many, a stressful time, particularly as the final dollars of our support came in literally days before we left. Additionally, readying our households for a six-week absence had been an enormous task of its own. God prepared this time of rest for us - in an amazing hotel - when we didn’t even realize we needed it. Indeed, His plan is best, even when we don’t immediately understand (or agree!).
Our time in Ghana was really a unifying time for our group. Our adventure through the airport, among the crowd and in a stressful situation helped us see how we could better work together and support one another. As we sat in a compound outside the airport, in the dark and in a foreign country that was not part of our plan, we had to admit our complete dependence on Him. We were tired, scared, confused and frustrated. At exactly the moment of our deepest emotions, we heard praise and worship songs that we knew - in English - wafting over the radio of the armed guard protecting the compound. We were assured of God’s presence and His Sovereignty.
When we finally arrived in Nairobi, we exited immigration with little hope of finding our luggage, which should have arrived three days before. As we glided down the escalator, we were astounded to see ALL of our luggage - every single piece of it - stacked up in a neat little pile waiting for us. He is sovereign even over the tiniest details.
All of these precious reminders were just in the first five days of our trip. God displayed for us His Sovereignty throughout the entire time, and I am still left in awe of His plan and His provision.
Photo: Praying in the Minneapolis Airport, Minnesota (2004)