Sometimes the plans we make come undone…sometimes our best efforts don’t lead us where we expect to go…sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that we just cannot understand. And, in these moments that are so far beyond our control…when we cannot make our own way, how do we find peace? How can we live unafraid in a world that shakes beneath our feet?
One of my oldest and dearest friends recently found herself in one of these moments…and I am so thankful that she is sharing her experience with us today. I hope that you are as encouraged as I am by Carrie’s testimony of the One we can trust – always, in everything – to hold us in His hands.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
Because Jesus is alive…I find rest and hope in the knowledge that He is in control.
It was my first overseas missions trip in ten years. A year of anticipation, a month of preparation and we set off early in the morning the Saturday after Christmas. Our church has a special missions ministry in Honduras and my husband, Josh, has been going since he became pastor four years ago. I was excited to be a part of this ministry, and looking forward to serving with the rest of the missions team.
Our in-laws had picked up our kids Friday night. Sarah, 5, and JD, 3, would be staying with them for the first portion of the trip and my parents later in the week.
We had a smooth travel day until we approached the airport in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Weather conditions had closed the airport temporarily and as our pilots began a holding pattern, they discovered one of the wing flaps was not operating properly. Tegucigalpa is a notoriously difficult landing and requires full flaps because the runway is so short. Our plane would not be able to land there. Over the speaker we were informed that we would be landing in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Landing in a different country presented some challenges, but eventually we settled into a nice hotel and Delta Airlines arranged for a flight back in Honduras the next morning.
Sunday dawned. We enjoyed our hot showers and Central American breakfast, and were shuttled back to the airport to wait. And we waited. The customs process for the wing part had been slow. Everything was delayed. The flight crew updated us. “The part arrived.” “They are repairing the flap now.”
My husband called a meeting with some of the team’s leaders to discuss our ministry plans for the upcoming week. And of course, about the time we found a quiet spot to begin the meeting, our plane was ready.
As my husband and I walked back to the gate, my brother, Michael, met us. He was holding out his phone. “Mom needs to talk to both of you.”
“Both of us?” (skeptical looks)
“JD is sick.” I took the phone as Josh and Michael walked ahead.
““Hi. What’s going on?”
“JD is sick. He’s going to be okay, but he’s very sick right now. They are admitting him to Duke Hospital. He has diabetes.”
Tears were streaming down my face and only when Josh looked back to hurry me along did he realize something was very wrong.
I told my mom I was coming and I would let her know information as I knew it.
Josh immediately spoke to the Delta agents at the gate and they began making arrangements to change my return ticket. He passed the word around to the very concerned team and a dear friend prayed words of comfort and strength over me as I sobbed on her shoulder.
My baby was in the hospital and I wasn’t there.
On the short flight back to Tegucigalpa Josh and I decided that I would go back and he would stay. The doctors knew how to treat JD. He was going to be okay. We sat in silence, squeezing each other’s hand, trying to hold it together. I put my headphones in, hoping music would drown out the scared voice in my head.
Our Delta flight crew was amazing. They arranged to move me to the front of the plane before landing so I would be first to disembark. A Delta employee would be there to get me to the next flight. As one of the crew informed me, “This plane is going back to Atlanta. There is an earlier flight we are trying to get you on, but if we don’t make it, we will get you back on this plane.”
I was escorted off our plane and stood by a Delta staff member on the tarmac. I realized I had something Josh needed and waited on him to disembark. He was speaking to the nurse in ICU. She assured him JD was going to be okay. We assured each other it was going to okay. Hugs and tears and my husband and brother stood brave-faced as the Delta crew escorted me through a staff door, while the rest of the team headed to customs.
We took a staff elevator up (the door wouldn’t open automatically, he had to pry it open – I actually giggled) and I was led to a gate. The gate for a flight to Atlanta that was already boarding. I sat, anxiously waiting, not sure what was going on, not understanding the language, and wondered if maybe I had been forgotten. Then a Delta employee was handing me boarding passes and gesturing me to board the plane.
Twenty minutes after touching the ground in Honduras, I was on a flight back to the United States.
I had my first experience with blood sugar numbers as I waited on the plane to take off. My mom was texting me updates. I didn’t understand any of it.
It was a quiet flight to Atlanta. I watched the sunset over the clouds. I drank coffee. Ate Biscoff cookies. Prayed. Tried not to think.
I had a boarding pass for a flight into Greensboro, but I wanted to fly into Raleigh. In Atlanta, they instructed me to speak with the agents at the Delta counter. The customs area was practically empty. The customs agent read the scripture on my shirt, asked me why I was in Honduras, and after I explained, suggested I look into holistic medicine for diabetes. It took ten minutes.
When the team came home eight days later, they waited two hours in Atlanta customs.
At the Delta counter, I asked if they could get me to the Raleigh-Durham airport faster than I could get to Greensboro and drive to Raleigh. She said she had a flight leaving in an hour. New boarding pass. No charge.
I had just enough time to go through security, ride the shuttle across the Atlanta airport, and find my gate. They began boarding moments after I got there.
My father-in-law picked me up at the airport, with my daughter in the backseat…we went straight to Duke.
Eight hours after receiving the phone call from my mom, I was holding my son in ICU.
Four hours after that, our team finally made it to the missions house in the Honduran mountains.
We were all amazed.
If our trip had begun as planned, we would have already been in a small town in the mountains and it would have likely taken me two days to get home.
The night we stayed in El Salvador, re-routed by that wing flap, my husband reminded the team that God is in control and that He has learned to trust in His plan. That maybe we would find out the reason for the change in our travel plans. Or maybe we wouldn’t. But there was a reason.
I truly believe that one of those reasons was provision for my family. God’s provision is weaved throughout that day and the days that followed.
My son has Type 1 diabetes. His body no longer produces insulin to regulate his blood sugar. He requires insulin injections to survive. We prick his finger 10 times a day. He receives a shot of insulin at least 4 times a day. There is no cure. But he is brave. And strong. And loved by an Almighty God.
I didn’t make it to the mission field in Honduras. I don’t even have a Honduran stamp in my passport. God chose a different way for me. And my faith will never be the same.
“May You be praised, Lord God of our Father Israel, from eternity to eternity. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on the earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. In Your hand are power and might, and it is in Your hand to make great and give strength to all. Now, therefore, our God, we give you thanks and praise Your glorious name.” -1 Chronicles 29:10-13
“When the earth and all its inhabitants shake, I am the One who steadies its pillars.”-Psalm 75:3