The day that just kept going...
Thanks to Aaron's great planning and packing, all we had to do the morning of May 1 was last minute sweeping and enjoy breakfast with some generouse SITAG colleagues. After breakfast, we walked around SITAG and said our goodbyes, then we loaded up the vehicles and drove out to the airport. Check in went smoothly, and the Pacific Air guy checked our bags all the way to Orlando!
We checked in so quickly that we still had plenty of time to drive back to a little shopping center in Honiara and grab an iced coffee while Aaron filled out the remaining paperwork for the flight. Henderson Field only has one gate, so it's easy to come and go from the airport until the very last minute when you walk through security and board the plane.
On the way back to the airport, we stopped to say goodbye to a friend from Marulaon. Vava (Mama) Katherine has had a lump on her forehead for a while now, and the last time we were in Marulaon she finally had enough money to pay her way into Honiara. The doctors at the hospital told her she has inoperable brain cancer and they have no medicine to help her. So they sent her home to die surrounded by her family and friends in Marulaon. Currently, Vava Katherine is staying with one of her daughters in Honiara until she goes back to Marulaon, and we were so thankful for the chance to say one last goodbye.
When we arrived back at the airport, we found some of our SITAG friends waiting to send us off. Karen and Caroline,
along with the Pierce family. What amazing and encouraging friends we have!
Karen and Caroline even stayed until we boarded the plane and screamed and waved from the top of the airport. We felt so loved.
Then our journey began in earnest as we boarded the first of four flights
and settled in for the ride. Our first flight was short, and we stayed on the plane on the runway in Vanuatu as new passengers came aboard. One the second flight from Vanuatu to Fiji, a really interesting guy sat next to me. He was on his way to speak about the alternative indicators for well-being in Melanesia at a workshop in Melbourne. I really enjoyed hearing his story about his time and experiences in Vanuatu.
During our layover in Fiji, we marched and stretched and tried to take advantage of the time to move around before our long trans-Pacific flight to Los Angeles. Once again, I got to sit by somebody with a fascinating story. She was super patient during the long flight as Katherine kicked and squirmed in an effort to get comfortable enough to sleep, and we had a great chance to visit about how God had been working in her life and what He had in store for her future. As we disembarked, I commented on how thankful I was that God had placed her next to me. She replied that it was especially unusual to find another Christian, particularly in this part of the country. I hope our paths cross again!
I didn't realize how special it would be to read this sign...
and to see this flag again. Those were the sights in Los Angeles that made me smile. God took great care of us through the long lines and customs. We found our bags right away, sailed through customs and popped those bags right back onto the conveyor belt bound for Orlando. Several times, a new line opened up just in front of us or a custom officer came and directed us to a shorter line. The whole process went so smoothly. We KNEW people were praying for us!
After we got checked in for the fourth and final flight, we spread out the lava lavas and tried to make up for the lack of sleep from the third flight.
After another overnight flight, we finally arrived in Orlando around 5:30 a.m. and enjoyed our "breakfast of champions" from Starbucks - bagels, yogurt, and coffee. Oh, what comfort food! Our ride from Wycliffe Associates picked us up at 7 and drove us to the beautiful apartments at the Wycliffe Center - just one more of the blessings that keep lining up like pearls on a string. We had to keep reminding ourselves that May 2 had only just begun. May 1st seemed to drag on and on, but the Lord walked us through every step of the way.