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A wide door for effective ministry...Part 1
February 13, 2010

Almost two-thousand years ago, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul penned these words: “...a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.” (Holman CSB) I thought a lot about Paul earlier this week as our mission team was waiting to leave the country to minister in Uganda.

I could have written a post during our long wait at Dulles, but I remembered listening to Joyce Meyer one time as she shared what I thought was some really wise teaching: Don't preach about the trial you are going through until you have Gone through it...lest you fail the test before you complete it. Wise advice.

Many of you who are reading this post are aware that on the weekend of the mission team's initial departure date the entire mid- to northeastern United States was hit with a major winter storm. Airports, including Dulles, were closed along much of the eastern seaboard. With the imminent arrival of a storm that dumped almost 3 feet of snow in the DC area, the prospect of departing as scheduled didn't look good. Pastor Rick Sadler, the head over Mission Link International in Charlottesville, was already in Uganda, working with the national pastors there who were coordinating the many health clinics and construction projects the team was scheduled to carry out. Our stateside leaders, Glassell, Beth and Pastor Jackie were left with the major responsibility of rescheduling flights, ground transportation and so forth for a group of 27 missionaries. It's a huge responsibility (and a LOT of work) being in that position, and I'm very grateful for each one of them who did such a fantastic job of Plans B, C, and D!

With our flight rescheduled for Monday, February 8th, the group headed toward Dulles Airport. Despite the delay, there was a definite air of excitement at finally being “on our way”. The ground and many roads were still covered with snow and ice when the bus and the Penske truck carrying all of our supplies pulled away from our rendezvous point in Charlottesville. The closer we got to Washington, DC the more we saw the effects of the weekend's storm. VDOT crews were still pushing massive piles of snow off the interstate, and the secondary highways still had large stretches of snow-covered surface. To add insult to injury, another 10-20 inches was being forecast for the following day. A major blow to all the areas that hadn't even dug out from the recent snowfall.

Our drive to the airport was uneventful. We each made it through check-in without any problems, and only a couple of our people were the “you have been chosen for additional security screening” winners. It all seemed to be so easy...LOL!

We navigated our way through the airport to the gate area and sat down to wait the couple hours until boarding time. The plane arrived from its previous stop, passengers disembarked, and it was “just a matter of time” for KLM to refuel, restock and load our baggage. Then we'd be “off”! Yeah, well, the “best laid plans of mice and men sometimes fail.” An announcement came over the paging system, “KLM Flight 652 to Amsterdam has been canceled.” I was thinking, 'You've got to be kidding, right?' Wrong. The plane had hit a bird on the way in and had been damaged to some extent. Wow, a technological wonder that big can be taken out of commission by a bird...seems really sad.

Our fearless, not by his own choice, leader went up to the agent to negotiate another flight. The Air France flight that left at 9-something that night was an option, but there were not enough seats for our entire team. Even if there had been enough seats, we'd have been suck in Amsterdam overnight because we'd have missed our 2-hour window for the flight to Entebbe. After a couple hours of talking with the gate agent, we were sent back to the Check-In desk on the other side of the airport. They were passing us off to Delta's agents because it was a shared flight. “KLM sent you HERE?” Lol! So began another round of negotiations and waiting. “We have part of your group unbooked from the canceled flight, but we can only do nine. We're going to have to send you to Air France's counter...” (Air France and KLM are owned by the same company.) Hurry up and wait...

All of the airlines had been closed down over the weekend, and of course Air France had their own set of passengers and problems; so seeing a bedraggled group of 27 KLM passengers descending upon them probably wasn't the most joyous part of their evening. After another long period of negotiating, the only option we had was to pick up our previously checked luggage, be shuttled to a hotel overnight (on Air France's dime of course), and be re-booked on the following night's know, the one that was scheduled to go out during the new snowstorm that would dump up to 20-more inches of snow on Dulles' runways...Sure.

We waited for the hotel shuttle to whisk our group away from the airport, and after three trips we were all gathered in the hotel lobby. I'd like to say that in the group of 27 everyone was happy and had great attitudes, but I try not to make a practice of lying. Some were discouraged; some questioned that we were even supposed to go to Uganda at all since we'd had the various roadblocks.

I'm somewhat biased, because I never want to leave Uganda once I get there anyway. A couple canceled flights weren't going to keep me from getting there. Then too, much more important than what I want, is the issue that many people have sown financially into this mission trip. .

I'd already settled the question of whether or not God had called me to “Go” several months prior. I KNEW I was called to be on this mission team and go to Uganda. That's got to be the biggest hindrance to faith: not knowing that you've clearly heard the voice of God to do something. Without a peace about your call, you don't have anything to hold on to then when distractions or roadblocks come along.

Tuesday morning we all met in the hotel lobby. Three of our group decided that they were not going to continue. I felt sad about it because I felt that they would be missing out on some awesome blessings once we got there, but we all have to make our own choices.

By noon we were loaded in the shuttles that would take us back to the airport. After several hours of waiting and moving 48 army-sized duffel bags full of supplies and personal items to four different places (Don't ask...bad memories), we had part of our team ticketed all the way to Entebbe, while others were only ticketed to Amsterdam. They would have to get boarding passes once they got there.

It was like dejavu as we made our way through security again and to the terminal building. The original snow forecast for the day had been for it to start early, but each successive report had pushed it back a little farther. I think it was maybe about 1/2-hour or so before boarding when the snow actually started. I can only imagine the number of prayers that were flung heavenward at that point. When the boarding announcement finally came we were so grateful. The de-icing process took almost an hour, so we were very late leaving, but at that point we didn't care if we ended up stranded overnight in Amsterdam...we'd at least be half-way to our destination. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see the ground fall away from me!


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