When I was young and naive, I loved reading fiction and worried little about its relationship to reality. Now older with a more sober understanding of the world, I appreciate biographies and the encouragement I find reading stories of people who faced difficulties and overcame by God's sustaining grace. This two-part tale is not an epic one (though it felt of epic proportions when our family was in the midst of it!) Rather it is a reminder that God does carry us over mountains and to the other side. My challenge is to acknowledge His presence when the pressure mounts, in the moment rather than a month later when the dust has settled. I am thankful for His undeserved grace.
(Link to Part 1.)
The Miami airport was warm and humid as we gathered our personal items, collected the stroller and strode out into its vast expanse. Unfortunately our national flight dropped us off light years from the international terminal we needed for the next phase of our journey. We walked ... and walked ... and walked ... and still could not find our proper location. Overhead we saw a transit train and hoped it might take us to our gate. Up we went ... and down we returned ... because our destination was nowhere to be seen. The clock was ticking and we knew that one boarding pass (mine) was still missing, thus making it imperative that we find a ticket counter to get it issued. Finally we realized there were doors to our left that exited the national terminal and directed us towards the gate we needed. Even so, we faced another very long trek to our intended location. Everyone was tired and some of the kids struggled to keep stride as urgency pushed us onward. Our surroundings began to look familiar and with a sinking feeling we confirmed that another dreaded security point awaited us. However, our one missing boarding pass was imperative to gain entrance.
Just outside of the security lines we finally found our airline counters. By then it was nearly time to begin boarding our international flight. I flagged an agent who after hearing my dilemma, directed me to a line that said it was for crew members only. Pedro and the kids collapsed in a corner while I waited ... and waited ... and waited. Something was causing a roadblock up ahead. Meanwhile some of the kids needed bathrooms and the baby cried for a bottle but no one wanted to move until that precious piece of paper was in hand, knowing we'd need to sprint for security once it arrived. I flagged another agent who informed me that check in was already closed for our flight. Insistently I replied that there were eight of us traveling, seven had their passes and I was the mother and had to travel with my family! She led me to the front of another line and spoke to the next available ticket agent.
Finally I was at a counter, and God graciously placed a woman behind it who knew what she doing and who assured me - as I worriedly glanced back and forth between my watch and waiting family - that we would be okay. Not only did she reissue all of our boarding passes, but she also took the time to print the ones we would need for our final leg from Santiago to Iquique. Thankful, tired yet still stressed as security loomed before us, I gave the family a thumbs up and we headed toward the line. By this point it was nearly 9 o'clock at night and Silas was at the end of his rope, crying brokenheartedly for a bottle we could not give him because liquids were not allowed. As we pushed our pile of belongings through the x-ray machine, again there were items separated for review and by now our flight was boarding. Dear Isabel tried finding milk for her brother but nearby restaurants were closed and not even a little market carried the now-precious resource. I wish I could say I felt supernatural peace in this moment, but my emotions - as his shrieks echoed through the forced wait for inspection while the minutes ticked before our plane left without us - felt like a time bomb ready to explode.
When the last item was screened and we sprinted around the corner to our gate, I could have laughed if I wasn't so entirely drained. My first thought was, "Of course! This is a Chilean flight." Because there in front of us, despite boarding time having passed and departure looming, was still a long line of people waiting nonchalantly to get on the plane. No one seemed stressed or in a hurry except our sweaty family with the screaming child. Thankfully we were ushered on quickly and as we passed the pleasant flight attendants saying "welcome aboard" I pleaded immediately for a bottle of milk. We stumbled through the process of finding seats, with one (Owen) separated from the rest but content to make new friends with whatever seatmate he might find. (In fact, on our long trek through the airport he had regaled us with facts about the man he conversed with on the flight before!) There was some confusion with Pedro's assignment but eventually he landed on the aisle next to a traveling couple and across from him was Isabel in a row of strangers. Behind her sat Eva, Ian and Alec and across the aisle and slightly behind them in a corner set of two seats I tried to calm Silas (who was devastated when his coveted bottle came and was too hot to drink!)
And then the plane took off ... darkness fell ... and ever so slowly, nerves wound tightly on edge began to loosen as Silas eventually fell asleep, his siblings contented themselves with the novelty of individual screens to play games and watch movies, Pedro crashed into well-deserved deep slumber and the white noise of the humming engines became a lullaby that would last for the next eight hours.
Compared to the first two-thirds of our journey: landing in Santiago; passing immigration and customs; gathering all of our luggage, rescanning it, riding up the elevator and returning it to an agent on the main floor; walking through one more security line where no shoes, jackets or electronics must be removed; and waiting to board our final flight was a breeze. We were tired but adrenaline served its purpose upon arriving in Iquique and the details of those first few days are recorded in another post! All that remains to say is that yes, "You Can Do It!" but only by God's grace and strength. May I remember this next time plans crumble, problems collide and pressures commence! Thank you, Lord, for bringing us safely "home."