I understand why some people just refuse to travel internationally! CONTROL! The fact is that when you are traveling long distances and to foreign countries, you are forced daily to realize that you are not in control of your life at all!
Sherrylee and I are traveling in Europe for the next couple of weeks. Virtually every year since the beginning of Let’s Start Talking, we have made what we call “site visits.” Typically, these are either visiting with missionaries/churches who have strong interest in inviting LST teams, but with whom we have had no previous relationship. In other words, they don’t really know us and we don’t really know them. Rather than risk sending a team to a host that is not what they appear to be or who does not really understand how we work and what an LST team needs, we have found it essential to see these new sites and meet the people to whom we may send teams.
Our first stop this year is Scotland! Several churches in Scotland have FriendSpeak programs which have proven to be very effective with the immigrant population in Scotland, but this is our first invitation to send an LST team.
Tomorrow night then I leave for Ternopil, Ukraine, for a couple of days, then to Athens, Greece, where we have just begun working in 2012, and then to Italy where we will meet with three different sets of workers near Florence and Rome.
We sandwiched this trip between work we had to do in Mississippi and Tennessee and more work in Washington and California, where we will go after Rome. Then we fly back to Nashville, where we started our international travel twenty-four hours ago, to pick up our car.
We stayed at a particular hotel near the Nashville airport because they agreed to let us park our car there for a month without extra charge. I was just slightly skeptical about this arrangement being too good to be true, so I checked with the desk person when I checked in and was completely reassured.
As we were checking out again, I thought I would just remind the new person at the desk of our arrangement . . . at which point she says, “Well, that will be $7/day and have you filled out the paperwork!” That was the first reminder that we are not really in control!
The second incident was just as unavoidable. Flights from the U.S. to London often arrive earlier than scheduled because the jet stream speeds the flights going west to east. On this day when we had a fairly tight connection at London Heathrow, our plane was put into a holding pattern for twenty minutes because of congestion at the airport.
Then, with just barely time to make our connection, the British version of TSA pulled my carry-on off the conveyor because I had a Kindle in it. The innocent bag sat there, waiting to be hand inspected for about 15 minutes. Then they take everything out, swab it for explosive dust, run all my electronics through the scanner again—as they are calling out our name at the nearby gate for final boarding.
We missed our connection to Edinburgh! A very nice BA agent was able to rebook us for about two hours later.
One of the things we have learned over the years is that most things that go wrong in international travel can be fixed without much damage—not everything, but most things. With a little friendly conversation, the hotel agreed to waive the extra charges because of the misunderstanding, and the re-booking agent at Heathrow gave us breakfast vouchers which he didn’t have to do!
Such kind gestures should remind us that we are not in control of the good things that happen either! In New York City of all places, we had a four-hour layover at JFK before we boarded our British Airways flight to London. A very nice BA agent broke all the rules and invited us to spend those hours in the First Class lounge! Then she gave us vouchers for a free supper in the lounge, and then she asked if she could take our boarding passes and try to get us better seats!
She just joined the Travel Agent Hall of Fame!
So being out of control works both ways, which is something those afraid of losing control often forget. Sure, things go wrong—but perhaps if we also gave up taking credit for all the good things that happen to us, we’d better realize the pleasure of being completely in the hands of our sovereign, loving God.
If He is in control, then what have I to fear?