Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Missing Luggage

Wednesdays on the Wooded Path - Impacting the World with Compassion

When you travel to a third-world country, the contents of your luggage become pretty darned important.
The packing list for our trip to Uganda, Africa included some critical items: food for our lunches at the work site (no McDonald's or restaurants of any kind in that area); bandannas to protect the backs of our necks from the glaring sun as we worked outdoors in construction; old shoes that could tromp through the red dirt and musenyu (hand-mixed concrete); well-used clothes; sunscreen; and work gloves.

Our flight from Chicago to London was delayed - considerably. In fact, we reached London so late that a Kenya Air representative was waiting at our arrival gate to escort all 20 members of our team to our connecting gate. Because our travel agent had erroneously booked us on two separate round-trip flights (instead of two connecting flights), our luggage was not checked all the way through to Uganda. We would have to pick up our luggage in London and recheck it on the flight to Uganda. The rep from Kenya Air said there wasn't time to retrieve our 38 bags and recheck them. So we bypassed the baggage claim area with his promise to send them to us on the next flight. My stomach felt a tinge of panic - no, it was more like a wave of panic. 

Our plane arrived at the Entebbe airport a little after 11:00 p.m. We filed our missing bags report with the ardent hope that they would arrive later that day. Honestly, I was a little skeptical.

Although we had packed immediate essentials into our carry-on bags, the necessities for our workdays were in the missing checked bags. Many of us were wearing flip-flops or sandals that would be completely inadequate for a construction site. 

The absence of food for lunch would be especially difficult for the children on our team. We desperately needed those bags.

When we arrived at our hotel, we ran into a sweet group of Tennessee teens who just happened to be constructing a home at the same village. They noticed us checking in sans luggage and heard about our predicament.

On the morning of our first workday, our bags still hadn't shown up. As we walked to the dining room for breakfast, I could hear the Kenya Air rep's promise ringing in my ears. In the dining room our team was feeling a little frustrated and dismayed about our situation. We prayed together and started eating. About that time, the group of teens we had met earlier walked up to us one-by-one and placed shoes, bandannas, sunscreen, work gloves and food on the table where we were sitting. We sat there speechless as each member of their team deposited a gift in the growing pile without saying a word.

Their offering was a real sacrifice. Some of them might not have work gloves or the proper shoes for their workday. Their food supply would now be limited. They would have to ration what they had left or they might not have enough to last the duration of their trip. The teens then prayed with us before we all left for the workday.

We had prayed that God would send our luggage. He provided for us that day by sending a group of teens instead. The actions of these young people remind me of the early Christian churches in the book of Acts in the Bible. "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32 

We experienced God's compassion through those teens and it buoyed us up. That's what we need in the church today. God places us in community with other believers so we can buoy one another up on the challenging waters of "life".

Is there someone in your church who has a need? What can you share with them today to buoy them up? 

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16

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