The trip to ///// was eye-opening, to say the least. God showed me things about himself that I had not seen previously. God is very big, and his presence is felt around the world.
I got to witness first-hand, a miracle, and heard stories of others. I got to teach a large crowd of //////// Pastors about the Lord. I taught over acts 20, on living a significant life for God. One part of doing so is teaching/preaching about the Lord whenever and wherever, as much as possible. The point of doing so, as often as possible that is, is so that your people do not get tricked into believing other skewed versions of Jesus. It's a risk, especially in /////, that people will try to move in and teach things that are not biblical. It was true during Jesus' time and is true today (even here in America, which is not so surprising).
What was interesting about this, specifically with that part of what I taught, was the last teaching we witnessed at the conference was from a guy teaching something unbiblical. The third day of the conference was then devoted to correcting what that guy taught on and rebuking him publicly in front of the other pastors.
That guy was a part of the organization that put it all together but is leaving soon to go teach his odd-ball belief on his own, good riddance.
///// is weird. The food is delicious. The driving is pure insanity. Nobody shakes their head yes, there is the normal no-shake, and a wobble from side to side that could possibly mean yes, as well as anything else under the sun.
Some parts of cities are covered in trash, others have had attempts at being cleaned. People use the bathroom in the streets in broad daylight. Cows walk the streets freely (being that they are sacred animals, alongside giant rats!). Nobody looks before crossing extremely dangerous, fast-moving, congested traffic.
People speak one of the hundreds of languages, alongside whatever main language is spoken within the area as a whole, and usually also English to some degree (some more than others).
You eat spicy food for breakfast lunch and dinner. The “spicy” there is much different than American spicy. You can get the spiciest they have to offer, and sure it's very spicy, but it's delicious. Instead of burning your mouth for the next 20 minutes, you feel it, taste it, then it's gone.
A general run-through of our week went like this:
We left for ///// on a Friday. First, we drove to Pittsburgh, flew to Paris, missed our connecting flight, flew to //////, then to //////////, /////, at last. We did not have time to mosey around, only enough time to grab our bags, use the bathroom, and get in our car to our first hotel. I wanted to stop at the Krispy Kreme’s there but there just wasn't time. I took a mental note, knowing we'd return on the way home - and we were on our way.
By the way, my friend and I's luggage was lost in this first set of flights. That was pretty cool (sarcasm).
Our first hotel on the land owned by the organization that sent us. It's also a school for all ages up through high school, and a summer camp for kids and an all-year camp for orphans. We were welcomed by the kids who clapped us to our seats and sung us some songs, as well as danced and recited Bible verses from memory. It was beautiful. Our team-lead (Greg) gave a short speech, we did a skit for the kids and handed out candy, and shortly after that went to bed. It had been quite the trip already and we were all very tired.
The next day we toured other parts of the city, a nearby village, the school, their conference center, their hospital (the organization owns it, ////// ///////////// //// /////////// //// ////, amazing). We shopped around and saw a few other things and later had a cookout hosted by the leader of the organization. It was delicious, but still, we were very tired and two of us still remained without luggage.
We were set to leave this place and fly to another city the following day. Late that night our luggage arrived via ///-/// (a three-wheeled yellow car with room up front for the driver, and room in the back for maybe 3 people to sit). A guy drove this tiny, door-less-windowless vehicle 5 hours to give us our luggage, handed it to us, and left.
I was very relieved to have my stuff. I set my alarm for 6 am and celebrated with the other guys about how amazing the trip had already been. Regardless of any setbacks, everything was still going as planned.
Our team leader (Greg) came in not too long after that and told us, "there's been a change of plans, we are going to leave at 3 am". A very odd tradition in ///// occurs when a dearly loved politician dies. The day becomes a holiday, all travel closes down, and everyone riots. It's very bizarre.
We got word that a politician just like that was going to die, so we had to leave or else we would be stuck in the city. So just like that, my alarm changed to 2:50a, and we left promptly at 3 that morning (that was probably the groggiest I had been the entire time).
We stayed in a hotel near the airport awaiting our next flight, watching WWE wrestling, and then the news which told us that the politician did, in fact, die, riots did break out, and multiple people died as a result. I'm telling you I do not understand why this is a thing, but it is indeed a thing.
So, then it was time to fly to the conference. We were all prepared to teach the next three days. When we arrived at the conference we were once again welcomed as if we were kings. Clapped and sung into the room. We sat on the stage in front of everyone, were given flower necklaces, etc. etc. It felt so surreal, but they were very excited to learn from us.
They are not as fortunate as we are to have the huge amount of decent biblical resources to study from and teach from. They love when our church sends people because we tend to be much more bible based than others and teach deeper teachings, less fluff, less nice easy-to-teach but un-applicable stories, and more thought-out deep theology.
Like I said previously, we taught for two days, but didn't go to the third day of the conference (for multiple reasons). Throughout the week cops were looking for us, suspicious of our reasons for being in the country. They were convinced eventually it was for a tour, but it was too dangerous to leave again and go to the conference with the risk they might follow us. It’s illegal to proselytize in /////, which we were not doing, but they most likely would not believe that we were only there to teach fellow Christians. Also, because our visas were strictly for tourism, coming to instruct others, in general, would most likely get us kicked out too.
Another reason we didn't go is that that guy who taught the crazy stuff needed to be corrected and they'd rather us not have to sit through that. I was going to teach a second time that day, but instead, I got to teach that teaching in my college bible study after I got home from /////.
With the new-found free day, we went to some historic sights, saw some amazing views, and did some more shopping before hitting the hay and preparing to leave.
With our bags packed, we departed the hotel and boarded a flight back from ///// to /////////. It was an in-country flight, so nothing was free on this flight. We paid for our dinner and landed shortly after.
It hit me, this is the airport with the Krispy Kreme stand out front. I wasn’t going to tell anyone but when we get out of this airport I was dead-set on getting a donut!
So just like that, we exited the airport and out front was the Krispy Kreme shack, shaped like a box of donuts. My group ran the other direction to the car (we were going to stay in a hotel until our next flight 8-or-so hours away). I start to order donuts but realize something...
I have no idea where my passport is. I looked, and I looked again. Endlessly I searched my bag, canceled my Donut order and then the team leader (Greg) showed up. "What's going on B", he asked. "Well, I think I left my passport on the plane". Panic. Panic from both of us. Although panic from both of us appears as straight faces and deep thought about what we were to do next.
I spent the next several hours trying to figure this all out. The airline searched the plane, couldn't find it. Lost and found received nothing. Asked the airline again, nothing. Had to write a police report. Went to the cops. They were not very helpful. Hours pass. Nothing.
It seemed like my fate was sealed. My friends gave me money, we said our goodbyes, and I was going to travel to another city to the embassy in order to get an emergency passport. When all was said and done I'd be in ///// for at the very least, another week. Possibly two more weeks.
Not only would I have to wait for my police report to be filed in court, but then I'd have to wait for the embassy to process my passport, and then and only then could I try and find a flight home which I would have to pay for out of pocket, since they were unable to cancel my flight, probably because it was so late.
The /////// man who accompanied me volunteered to take me through this journey of travel, and that was nice. We were about to board the bus to the next following cities when he received a phone call. He started walking in the other direction. Get this - up until this point I had been praying for a miracle non-stop. I've seen miracles happen on this trip, now I needed one myself.
After I finally got the ////// guy to tell me what happened, I found out that - my passport actually was on that plane. It flew to Central ///// (we were in the South). However, it would return in time for my next flight.
Now, had I not decided to run off and get Krispy Kreme I would be returning to the airport when it was time for the flight, no passport in hand. So many more variables would have been introduced, it could be in the car, at the hotel, etc. Luckily, I never had to deal with that.
Had I not run off for a donut, my ////// friend would have been long gone, my American friends would be leaving, I would have been stuck and all alone, having to try and figure it out all by myself.
I think the Lord used my desire for that donut to save me and also teach me a lesson. The Lord says to never worry, but you better believe I was worried. In the end, it all worked out just fine, and God says he can use all things, all situations for good - we don't always get to see that good, but he's going to do it.
I truly learned from this experience about how truly useless worrying really can be.
Philippians 4:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
All in all, it was a wild ride. We all made it safe and sound back home after 40+ hours of travel. Thanks for your prayers, financial help, and for reading this!