Monday, January 9th, we loaded up two minivans and headed for the airport. We checked in with our airline for our flight to LA, CA and, upon receiving our boarding passes, found that not two of us were together. We were all assigned middle seats and scattered throughout the plane. (In case you’ve forgotten, we have four kids 11 and under.) We took our boarding passes to the agent at the gate and asked what she could do for us. We received a quick speech on economy class tickets and suffering the consequences of our ‘cheap’ actions, but she did move a few things around and get us two pairs of two seats together. We were grateful for that and took our seats in the waiting area to await boarding, but a greater agent was still working on our behalf. Shortly after boarding the plane, a lady volunteered to give up her window seat and trade with Cole, who was in a middle seat, so that he and I could be together. So now no one in our family was left sitting by themselves, although each pair of us were still separate from the others. But God wasn’t done. We sat on the plane at the gate and waited and waited for the plane to close its doors and begin taxying to the runway, but after an hour we were still waiting. The flight attendants on board announced that the plane was overweight and an additional 11 people needed to disembark and wait for another flight. People all around Cole and I vacated their seats and left the plane. I zipped up the aisle twenty rows to where Micah and Maisie were seated and asked if they wanted to come back and sit by Cole and I. They were overjoyed to be able to sit by a parent and they came back to where Cole and I were sitting and the four of us sat together.
Despite our enormous amount of luggage, getting from the airport to our hotel in LA proved easy and simple. Numerous people helped us along the way and by early evening we had placed all our belongings in our hotel room and found our way down to the Denny’s adjacent to the hotel for dinner.
While the damp LA air didn’t make it out of the 50s on Tuesday morning, our kids still insisted on jumping in the outdoor hotel pool and swimming for a while. Late in the afternoon we made our way back to the airport rested and ready for the real travels to begin. We started checking in with the airline that would be carrying us from LA to Manila and then to Papua New Guinea, but the ticket agent looked at me and said we needed to have return tickets before we could travel to PNG. I looked at her, confused, and told her we couldn’t possibly have return tickets because we’re not returning for years. She punched some more buttons on her computer and then talked to another agent before giving us the same line. We needed return tickets before she could check us in. I didn’t know what to say or do and we stood there in an awkward stand-off. Then a thought came to mind and I offered, “We have PNG visas.” “Oh,” she replied and took a look at our PNG visas that were in our passports which were in her hands. “Ok. You’re good,” she said and checked us through.
Wonderfully, all our luggage got checked all the way through to our final destination and so we did not have to deal with it at all during our twenty hour lay-over in Manila. In Manila, a New Tribes missionary took us from the airport to the New Tribes’ guesthouse just a forty minute drive away. We enjoyed home cooked meals, some leisure time, and a long nap during our stay there before returning to the Manila airport and hopping our next plane to Port Moresby, PNG.
In Moresby we had to collect all our luggage to go through customs, but one piece of our luggage could not be found on the baggage claim carousel. We talked to some folks and they disappeared to go search for the missing piece while we began the process of filing a claim for it. Less than a half hour later, one of the workers returned with the missing bag. We went through customs and immigration, and rechecked our bags for our final flight which would take us up to Goroka. Everything went smooth with that flight and we arrived at our temporary house on center by early that evening.
Thanks for praying us through our travels. Praise the Lord that we are here, and all our luggage made it. Other than the little blips of stress listed above, our travels went really smooth. We are settled on a New Tribes center for now as we fight through jet lag and prepare to return to the tribe. Our plan right now is for our whole family to head to Pal in early February. Continue to pray for us and specifically for Maggie and her health.
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