March 31 - April 1, 2014
The image at the top of this post might seem fun and innocent, but let me tell you a story that will raise your hair. A little over two weeks ago Ramon Canals came into the Lima airport to begin setting up for the evangelism meetings. As he was inside waiting for his plane he heard about an incident that had just taken place in broad daylight while he was there at the airport—a man had shot two people in their car and stole their luggage! What in the world are we doing standing outside with all our luggage in the middle of the night? That's the story I'm going to tell you.
We began "today" (a title I give this period of time even though it lasted roughly 48 hrs) in a state of bewilderment. If you've been reading my recent posts then you know that last night (sunday, March 30th) ended with us not being able to catch our plain in Lima even though we were there in plenty of time. The airline said they would "try" to get us on standby, but eleven people is a lot of people to be on standby. And they made sure to tell us that we would only be on standby for the next flight to JFK airport in New York, from there we would have to figure out how to get to Seattle. Besides that they would be charging us $150 or $200 each as a penalty for having missed our flight yesterday in Tarapoto. At this point we were ready for any viable option of getting back to the states since not even our spanish speaking students could figure out the bureaucracy of the airlines.
Our tickets were purchased online through a 3rd party travel agent, TAM was the carrier that we purchased tickets for, but TAM partners with LAN which partners with American Airlines who we actually flew with. So, which ticket counter do we go to? Everyone was saying that the other one should be doing the work of fixing our travel problems. By 11:30 pm we only knew that we had to figure it out in the morning when the TAM ticket counter would be open.
I called Ramon, who was sleeping in his bed in Tarapoto, and let him know that we had gotten tickets to Lima, but couldn't get on our connecting flight. I asked if he could get us in touch with someone at the University and maybe hook us up with a room or something. Unfortunately between my communicating at midnight, and Ramon's listening at midnight we got our cities wrong and Ramon sent people to the Tarapoto airport to take us to a hotel in Tarapoto. While the Northeastern Peruvian Mission administration was wandering around Tarapoto looking for us, we decided to wait in a place where they could find us, and what better place than the middle of the pickup zone! We started with singing, then joke telling (it was midnight), then small talk, then sitting down, then sleeping. Finally I called Ramon back and asked who we should be looking for and if we needed to be in a more visible spot.
Ramon: "Lima?! I sent them to the Tarapoto airport! No one told me you were in Lima! Where are your students?"
Me: "We're standing out by the road where we can be easily seen."
Ramon: "Hang up the phone right now and get them inside the airport!"
So I did. And we spent the rest of the night/morning curled up against the walls, some sleeping and some watching the stuff. It wasn't until 9:30 the next morning when Ramon flew into Lima that we found out about how dangerous the area was. We praise God that we weren't hurt in spite of our ignorance.
It was amazing to watch Ramon work. We had been standing at the LAN ticket counter for quite some time before we saw Ramon coming towards us (it seemed that no one else would help us but LAN, even though it was a TAM ticket that we were flying with). The LAN agent apologized and told us that LAN should have let us on the flight the night before, and that since it was their fault she would get us on the next flight out. Then Eric pointed out that there are eleven of us and her face instantly changed. She got quiet and began to look intently at her computer. We took that to mean, "Oh, that's a different story." It was about this time that Ramon came up to the counter and started to sweet talk the agent. She told Ramon that she was going to try to get us all on standby, but he would have none of that. He told her about our situation, how we are missionaries, and probably something about our poor mothers who are worried sick about us. Eventually they settled on a solution—we would split into two groups and LAN would secure seats for us all the way through to Seattle. No more uncertainty about standby! We would all be getting home by the next day! Praise the Lord.
This paper is worth about $30,000 since it represents 11 confirmed tickets to Seattle. When American Airlines was talking with us they offered us tickets at $2,800 per person, but LAN confirmed these seats and never asked us for a penny. In fact, "for our trouble" they put us up in a hotel for the rest of the day so we could get some sleep, and they even paid for a fancy lunch. We felt absolutely spoiled.
From then on everything happened while we slept. We slept in the taxis on the way to the airport. We slept on the plane to Miami (the other team went through Dallas), and we slept on the plane to Seattle. When we finally arrived in Seattle, we still felt tired and we slept in the next morning. Actually, we didn't get as much sleep as you might think. In Miami our plane was delayed due to a mechanical problem. We had boarded and taxied out to the runway when the pilot discovered a coolant issue and had to go back to the gate. Amazingly it was only a two hour delay.
God is good. He foresees the future, He smooths our paths. Praise the name of the Lord.