After a 45-minute delay the lightening had ceased just long enough that the airline thought they could squeeze us out of DFW airport before the next wave of storms hit. They started calling classes onto the plane with almost no order at all, just trying to cram people on as fast as possible. After a killer delay (killer-when you have an international flight to catch at LAX ) we thought we were finally going to cart down the runway and off into the threatening skies...everyone was wrong. By the time our plane made it through the protracted line of airliners and onto the runway we hear over the speaker, “Hello there folks.” Only the sound of his breath as he pauses for dramatics, or out of fear that the cabin would be ransacked and his life taken for what he is to say next, “This is your captain.” More breathing, “Uuh-So the wind has shifted here and it has made it impossible for us to take off. We are going to wait here until the weather is suitable to depart. I’m sure it will only be a matter of minutes. Thank you for your patients.”
One hour later we had much more than the wind to deal with, the lightening was striking like camera bulb flashes as if Marilyn Monroe had just come back to life and was dancing on the tarmac, the thunder was crashing, and the skies were green. Everyone on the plane had their iPhones and iPads out and were keeping up with their personal weather apps hoping to see a break in the monstrous storm long enough to escape above the clouds. After another half hour of the wind yanking the plane back and forth and seeing what seemed to be funnel clouds sweeping over head the pilot finally squawked back on the intercom, “Okay, sorry about the delay but it looks like we are cleared for take off. Flight attendants, prepare the cabin for takeoff.” The atmosphere in the plane was accentuated with a mixed fragrance of overwhelming joy, that we were about to take off, and utter fear, that we were about to take off. Having our weather apps open we knew…they were about to sneak us off between storms!
Almost as soon as our wheels had left the runway, lightening filling the thick clouds we were darting towards, surrounded us. After a minute of severe turbulence we broke through the lower plain of clouds revealing a smooth, bump free, flying lane sandwiched between two ugly storms. It was beautiful; below us were clouds blasting the earth with wild lightening and above us were clouds also brilliantly lit up with lightening bolts. It was like we were stuck between the static electricity of a sock and the carpet, but the flight was much more smooth as we traveled further west and broke free of the incredible storm. It wasn’t until we made it to LAX that we found out we had escaped the same system that dropped 16 tornados in North Texas and one EF4 that landed in Granbury Texas leaving 6 deceased in its wake. I pray even now that God would be with their families and bring full restoration to their town. That tragic storm was certainly not the last obstacle that satan hurled our way on the trip, especially in the first 48 hours!
Once we made it to LAX we had no time to spare, we were fortunate that the leader of the trip had made a last minute change to our layover time in LAX from 45 minutes to 3½ hours, but even then we were full out sprinting from the domestic flights terminal to the international wing all gear in tow. We had just 20 minutes to get a team of 30 international students each with their 50-pound bags, let alone, instruments and suitcases full of props, games and charity items across the 6th busiest airport in the world, to the ticket counter and through security before the plane would leave us. On top of that we’d have to wait until the next morning to find out how we can get our tickets redeemed. Fortunately, my God is bigger, than satan and any delaying storm. They ended up holding the flight an unbelievable 45-minutes for us to board. If you have ever flown you would know that, that
DOES NOT HAPPEN.
But that night the FAA kept the security gates open an extra hour just for us and asked to delay our flight until our group made it on. Just as our morale could not get any higher our excitement was squashed as we learned of one major snag in LA. Although we all made it to the ticket counter, we did not all make it onto the jumbo jet. We had to leave two of our international students behind that night because their visas were not in complete order. It was like a punch to the gut and the wind was knocked out of us. So we had to make the 13-hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan without our Brazilian and Kenyan companions. I will repeat, though, My God is bigger. During our 2-hour layover in Taipei we got news that Mauricio (Brazilian chap) and Patrick (Kenyan chap) made it on the first flight out the next morning and would soon catch up. satan (not a mis-punctuation, though Word tried to autocorrect it three times) does all he can, when he is threatened, to dismantle the plans of God’s people, so you can imagine he wasn’t finished trying.
After our 3-hour and 45-minute flight from Taipei to Bangkok we were more than ready to get out of the airplane and onto the mission field. Unfortunately, again, we were not all able to continue the plotted journey and we had another visa snag. We found out Jackie our Hispanic friend was not allowed beyond Thailand customs. We were all so thrilled (sarcasm) that they waited until we got to Thailand, 24-hours later, to tell a bunch of sleep deprived, Jesus lovin’ charismatics that their compadre couldn’t come into the country. So we did what any sleep deprived, Jesus lovin’ charismatics would do, we prayed. I will rejoice once again, MY GOD IS BIGGER, though sometimes He works in mysterious ways-HA TRUTH. We were told of a loophole, that if she flew into L*** (I cannot write this countries name on the internet due to the ministry we did and the lives it would risk there but if you look at a map…you can figure it out) and came in through the northern boarder she would have no trouble getting into Thailand. This worked out perfectly because the whole team was to travel northeast into L*** two days later. There was one more kink, our leader Mrs. Hobbs, the one who had done this trip back and forth for 15+ years had to go with her, being the only one who understood how to negotiate this situation. So we lost Jackie and our veteran leader, but God had us so much in His grip that He provided us a fantastic leader in another one of our Brazilian brothers Matheus who was the only other person on the trip who had taken the trip before. It was under his commanding leadership that we all successfully navigated Thailand and later made it into L***.
We all arrived at our first hotel of the trip wrecked and ready for a 16-hour comma, but when are you in Bangkok? Forget sleep…what should we do first… but EAT!? I know you are all so excited to hear about the food, and many pictures to come, but I will have to tell you about that in the next post.
The following day Mauricio and Patrick arrived in Bangkok and with great celebration we went and picked them up from the airport. Two days later (much happened in those two days, but once more…that will have to wait for another post) we all drove 6 hours up to L***, took a bus across the boarder and for the first time over seas our whole team was finally united and complete. Ministry happened, souls were saved, satan continued to plot but for the remainder of the trip we all remembered those first 48 hours and knew what ever he tried to throw at us, that:
OUR GOD IS BIGGER!
More to come soon…