After nearly fifty hours of travel through eight airports, seven airplanes, three countries, two delays and spanning over eight thousand miles we are safely back home in the United States!
We were very thankful that the local airport was opened in time for our departure. If you are on our email update list, you would have heard that the airport was closed due to a monetary dispute over the land. We were getting pretty nervous that we would have to take a two year old on to a banana boat for several hours across what could have been dangerous waters. We had a lot of people praying for the airport with us, and we are so very thankful that He answered our prayers by opening the airport in time for our return home.
We had a brief layover in another province and were able to see our friends and fellow missionaries Barrie & Bonnie, who serve with another organization in PNG, but more interestingly are also from our home church here in Michigan.
From there we flew to our regional support center. This was a good time to catch up with some of our support missionaries living on the center, as well as our PNG friends living in the surrounding area. Both Beth & I were able to spend some time with our Tok Pisin language helpers while we were there. They were very excited to hear stories about our lives in the island.
Now we were ready to leave Papua New Guinea. We departed from our regional support center for a 1.5 hour flight to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. Once in Moresby we had just enough of a layover to eat lunch and give Jude a break from sitting before heading to Australia. It felt weird to be in the international terminal in Port Moresby because we were pretty much surrounded by only white people for the first time in eight months.
Being in Australia was strange because culturally it is closer to our home, but it is still different. We were very aware of super smooth roads, how nice everything smelled and the general cleanliness and civilized feeling all around. 🙂 Maybe that was a good thing to ease us back into the States! It was very interesting seeing how Jude reacted to the changes in our surroundings. The first time Jude saw carpet in the airport, he jumped onto it and promptly laid down on his stomach and starting stroking it with his hands! This was right in the middle of a large path of walking people but Tom and I were laughing so hard at him we didn’t even care. Watching Jude see and learn how to use a drinking fountain was also quite hilarious. He was so excited and squealed so much you would have thought he was at Disney World!
Our brief overnight stay at the hotel in Brisbane was transformed into a wonderful time when we decided to order nachos from the hotel restaurant! Let me tell you what, they were some of the BEST nachos we have ever had in our lives! Well, at least it felt like that after our eight months of limited food options. 🙂 It was just simply amazing how such wonderful food could lift our spirits.
We got up early to catch our morning flight to LA, but upon arriving at the airport we were informed that our plane was delayed for nine hours! I don’t know why, but we weren’t really that stressed out, and because of Beth requesting it, they gave us a free stay (for those nine hours) at a very nice hotel, along with food vouchers in the airport and for the hotel. Actually, it ended up being great because we got a free place to rest some more while we waited, Jude got his afternoon nap and we ate like kings! God was so good to us in the midst of unplanned circumstances. Later on we thought a few times that the Lord might have grounded that plane just for us, so we could get more rest before the long international flight. Either way, we were very thankful for how God worked it all out, it could have been terrible!
Finally we made it back to the airport and were ready to leave for America. We boarded the plane and away we went for our twelve hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. Overall, Jude was pretty good, but it is very difficult having a tired two year old having trouble getting a comfortable position. He really wanted to stretch out and sleep, but could not because of our seating arrangements. We tried our best to make him comfortable, and in the end it went well, despite our own lack of comfort and lack of sleep to accommodate his. It’s amazing how the clock can seem to stand still when you are on an international flight! LA couldn’t have looked better when we FINALLY landed.
Upon arriving in LA, we made our way to immigration amid a sea of Australians. After showing our passports to the immigration officer he said, “Welcome home, sir.” Although this must have been a line the man says often to people it was surprisingly emotional and wonderful to hear. We were finally back in our home country and it felt too good to be true. Because of our delay from Australia all our domestic flights had had to be re-booked. This meant we had to stay yet another night before heading back to MI. As much as we wanted to get home quickly, when we finally hit the ground in LA we were very thankful to be getting a good nights sleep before another two final flights… and to finally get our hands on some Starbucks!
When we landed in Michigan the next day, our biggest shock was the cold. (It feels like winter here, even though it is supposed to be spring… although, this is normal for Michigan!) The only person embracing the chill was Beth, being very pregnant and having been miserably hot for the last 7 months. 😀 After picking up our bags we were happy to see Dave & Eleanor, Beth’s parents, and very happy to be home.
Overall, all we can say about our travels is that the Lord brought us home safely, and we are so very thankful for that. We are actually thankful for the layover, as if it were a provision from Him, for us to be forced to rest a little more to prepare for the remainder of our travels. Thank you so much for all your prayers on our behalf. We are back, safe and sound!