I would almost say this is de ja vue, as I sit here alone on a Sunday afternoon like I did the last time I wrote – Tanika was hanging out with her friend and the guys were at the rec center playing tennis. Today, 3 weeks later, Tanika again is with her friend and the guys in the family are playing tennis. However, when I think of all that has transpired since my last entry, I’m amazed that it’s only been 3 weeks!
I’ll start with Team Word of Life from Kansas. They left western Kansas on Monday at 3am for a 5 1/2 hour drive to Denver, where they caught their flight to New York. From New York they were on their way to Casablanca, Morocco. We were expecting them to arrive at 3:30am on Wednesday, July 30th. On Tuesday afternoon we called our faithful baggage guy #11 to help us get a ‘badge’ so we would have permission to go inside the airport and help the team through immigration/baggage. He informed us that the airport was closed so there would be no flights coming in or going out. What?! That can’t be! We have a team coming in – we have a plan! How could ‘they’ put a wrench in it like that? That’s just not right. But right it was. This is Africa. The team, however, was waiting to depart from Casablanca where they had just completed something like a 15 hour layover and didn’t know they would NOT be boarding the plane that night to arrive in Niamey in the wee hours of the morning. They were actually bussed from their hotel to the airport that evening to board a flight that we knew hours earlier had been canceled. This is Africa. Back to their hotel they went to play the waiting game. We called around and heard that the problem was an air traffic controllers strike that covered West Africa. It was scheduled to end Thursday afternoon. Which we knew meant that our ‘happy’ travelers would not be arriving to us until 3:30am Friday morning. They didn’t know this, but we did. So, with flexibility being the name of the game (not to mention a word describing our lifestyle) we had to make some scheduling adjustments. They were coming to speak at our annual alumni meeting in Maradi, and to do some first ever night-time evangelistic crusades in surrounding villages. The alumni meetings were to start on Friday evening. They have been planned for a few months, so we felt that we should do all we could to keep the meetings as planned. So here’s what happened. Our flexible team wa supposed to board their plane in Casablanca at around 11pm Thursday evening. Keep in mind that they left their home at 3am the previous Monday. Since we were prepared for the team on Wednesday, we had their beds ready at our house and Grama and Grampa’s house. All 3 kids were staying there. So as not to mess up beds, the kids had been staying there since Wednesday. We attempted (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep Thursday night and got up at 2:30 to head to the airport. Our plan was to wisk our guests off the plane and into the vehicles and head straight for Maradi – an 8 – 10 hour drive, depending on the roads. They knew in advance that 3 of them would be joining Trae and Tanika on the bus. THE bus. I’ll have to save that for another post. The bus people were supposed to be at the station at 5:30am. So if the plane arrived at 3:30 as scheduled, (yeah, right) we felt that we would be able to at least get them through immigration etc and get them to their waiting bus on time. When we arrived at the airport we were told that the plane would arrive at 4:20am. Huh. Grama and Grampa also drove with us to the airport to bring water for the travelers, and to take home the luggage that wasn’t going to Maradi, and to rush to the ‘busees’ to the bus station. 4:30 came and went and we were getting a bit concerned. Maybe a bit more than a bit…Neal was pacing. If they didn’t make this morning’s bus, they would have to wait until the next morning, thus some of them missing the 1st alumni meeting. I reminded him that it was possible that the bus would leave late. This is Africa. The plane landed at 4:45. We saw our team through the glass partition filling out their white cards in what appeared to us to be slow motion. We were pounding on the glass (this is when we learned that the glass was likely sound proof) trying to get their attention to get them to put some fire under their pencils. They finally saw us and began to get the picture. They came out and we didn’t even let the 3 bus riders wait for their bags. We quickly welcomed then and then threw them into Grampa’s car for their race to the bus station. Their journey was far from over… The rest of us waited for the 17 bags and they all arrived. We sorted through what had to go and what was to stay. Amazingly we got all the needed bags and 11 bodies in 2 vehicles, including Tobi, who was stuffed into the way back with the bags (3 cheers for my kids who are so great about stuff like this). We were on our way at 6:30, just as the sun was coming up.
To be continued….my writing time is up.