The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)
Planning ministry trips can be a long process involving a number of staff members. Thursday morning arrived as we completed gathering equipment and supplies for our trip to Central Asia. Just after lunch the purchase of additional suitcases provided the final packing cartons for our expedition. Four days of scouring stores and interpreting technical specifications resulted in most of the test equipment we required for the unknown ahead.
Two cars, five men, eleven suitcases, four carry on bags and no tickets arrived at the airport around 1530 in time to see the planned flight depart for Paris. The autobahn traffic was horrendous and impeded out efforts on all fronts. Praise the Lord, a later flight was available which would bring us to Paris before our connecting flight departed, . . . so we thought.
Our arrival in Paris was two hours later than we planned. To insure the satellite equipment and down-link were on the Central Asian airline flight one colleague ran ahead to purchase tickets and pay shipping costs. Passport control was painstakingly slow consuming a precious thirty minutes in our forty-five-minute time window. Another fifteen minutes was lost retrieving our bags.
It was a circus. Our departing flight was in a different terminal. We dragged the bags to the curb and waited for the next shuttle bus. It arrived, the doors opened and we started carefully placing our bags into the back of the bus. The bus driver, a fine French gentleman, started yelling at us to hurry up. He had a schedule to keep. Suddenly, we were tossing our cases in a heap.
We made numerous stops to allow other passengers to reach their destinations. Finally, we arrived at the proper terminal. Before the doors were open and the bus came to a complete stop the friendly driver made sure we knew he was in a hurry. Once more we tossed the bags. This time they landed in the roadway and were still bouncing as the bus roared away from the terminal.
We loaded up luggage carts, ran for the gate, and discovered our colleague anxiously awaiting our arrival. Tickets were in hand and the plane was waiting for us to board.
The counter personnel gaped at our luggage carts piled high with bags. They began rushing us toward the departure gate. We ran toward the moving walkway when wham, our carts hit the rails on either side of the walkway. Carts were not permitted. We quickly pulled the posts from the ground to let our carts through.
Two buildings later we reached passport control and customs. Additional customs paperwork, much to the dismay of the airport crew attempting to get the flight in the air, was required before we could board and load our luggage.
Just past customs were arrived at security. I plopped the first bag into the X ray machine and watched it wedge itself sideways in the small opening. The machine was not designed for large bags. In popped the smaller pieces to the delight of the French technicians. The larger bags were a problem.
One of the officers motioned to bring the big bags to a table behind the x ray machine. Great, I thought, we can have a quick visual inspection and be on our way. I keyed in the combinations and opened the cases. The inspectors began to extract each piece of electronic equipment. One by one they placed each piece on the x ray belt for scanning.
I was required to unpack, scan and repack, cautiously, the test equipment so it would not be damaged during the flight. What took me two weeks to carefully pack was crammed into the cases in five minutes.
Finally, we boarded the Soviet made aircraft under the scrutiny of waiting and disgruntled passengers. Eventually we were provided with claim tickets for the luggage, boarding passes and left the ground in a deafening roar.
The plane was enormous. The seat pockets contained no documentation or information. People piled luggage and other articles in, between and under seats which made a number of them unavailable for actually sitting. Interestingly the seats folded forward. Since no one was in front of me I could fold the seat forward and stretch out my legs. There was a nominal safety demonstration in a foreign language and broken English.
Much to our delight they served dinner on the plane which was not too bad. Vodka and wine passed back and forth in almost every row and the passengers smoked incessantly. They were enjoying themselves.
We were on our way. God provided, in a unique and unexpected way. What were the results? The work was accomplished, the word of God proclaimed from another location. But I think there was more to this than expanding the ministry.
I avoid talking about and especially praying about patience. Sometimes, against my better judgment, God decides it is time to learn a little more patience. This was one of those times.