I walked out into the heat of the African night on Saturday looking for faces that are hard to miss amidst the crowd of dark Ghanaians. I didn't see my friends, but plenty of people saw me.
"Taxi, madame?" "I will carry your bags for you," as hands quickly invaded way more than personal space to grab my overloaded luggage cart. The people are not unkind, or ill-meaning, they are opportunist to be certain, and someone with light skin on a dark continent usually spells m-o-n-e-y.
Ask anyone who has ever traveled with me, I can hold my own in such situations and NOBODY is touching me or my bags that is not authorized to do so!
Where were my friends?
One persistent fellow kept following me and saw I was scanning the crowds. He also was assured by me many times, I was not budging on the offer of help. Finally, he said, "I have a cell phone, do you want to call your friends?" Now that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I dialed the number and connected with them. "Where are you?" "Where are you?" They replied.
"I'm out here in a sea of darkness." We had inadvertently passed each other. As it turned out, they were dropping off a missionary couple leaving for furlough at the departure area above me, and in their haste to get downstairs to the arrivals, didn't scan the crowd that had made it outside.
I was in that crowd.
Watching and waiting.
Shortly after our hugs and thanks to the persistent gent, their cell phone rang again. It turned out the airline had placed an "embargo" on passengers flying "non-rev." From December 15 until January 15, people using "buddy passes" leaving certain "listed" countries could not fly without the airline employee who provided the pass. The missionary couple were no longer "on stand-by," they were out and out STUCK!
There was nothing else to do but to load them back in the car and drive the 1 hour back to my friends to try and sort the mess out.
Welcome to Ghana.
Sunday was spent making phone calls to family members who were meeting them, numerous calls to the airlines, emails to the employee in Columbus, Ohio on what to do, and waiting. An airline official suggested they return to the airport, only to be informed that there was no chance they would be leaving Ghana until the 15th of January - unless the employee flew to Ghana and took the flight back with them personally.
Who would do that? It's Christmas! Flights out of the US were being cancelled right and left due to weather. The employee, even with senior status would have to fly standby. Fly for 20 hours and then turn around and fly 20 hours back!
The odds and the weather were definitely in no one's favor. But by this morning an email came through letting them know the employee (a close friend of my friends) made the flight out of Washington D.C. and was on the way to the rescue.
All this activity made me think more of what a treasure we have been given. We all had dismal thoughts. "Oh, we can't ask this lady to do THAT! Not for us, she doesn't even know us that well. She just let us use these passes as a favor (to my friends)." This morning, my friend was looking at Facebook only to be reminded it was their friend's (the airline employee) birthday today.
Grace, undeserved favor was at work. So was a good dose of Christmas spirit.
"While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
We have 4 shopping days left to show our friends and loved ones what they mean to us by giving them a gift. A gift they probably won't remember receiving next year. We are meant to celebrate what was given to us that we did not deserve, we could not afford to buy, would not dare ask, and we could not even imagine we needed.
The employee is here to accompany the missionaries back home, but they are still on "stand by."
Thank the Father for His sacrifice of His Son. It was a priceless and precious present. How WE give and receive at Christmas should reflect and acknowledge what was given to us. "Freely we have received, freely give." Pray for favor and space to get this couple (and the most grace-exhibiting employee) home for the holiday!
"But those who wait upon the God get fresh strength, they spread their wings and soar like eagles." Isaiah 40:31 The Message
I'm smiling still, and watching always!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T