“On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on that road again. Da da da da music with my friends, I can’t wait to get on that road again.”
You know the song. Willie Nelson wrote it but I’ve taken ownership. I usually start my long trips with this tiny bit of song and I’m sure, after hearing it for the thousandth time, my family is tired of hearing it. But, it’s a fun way to begin a trip. And, it’s true. I’m on the road again.
This time I’m in Nigeria. I left my house on Saturday, September 30th, at 1:00 PM for a 5:20 flight out of Charlotte. I know it’s a little early but I figure it this way… it takes an hour to get to the airport so, after parking the car and taking the shuttle to the terminal, I’m at the ticket counter a little after 2:00 PM. Check. Because I’m well over two hours ahead of flight departure, I breeze through through the ticket and visa checking process and then walk through security. And, I’m a little worried this time because I am carrying multiple computers. Fortunately, I sailed right through. Again, check. And then I sit down for a bite to eat knowing that I won’t arrive at Jos, Nigeria, my final destination, until Sunday, late afternoon something like 24 hours and six time zones later. So, here’s how it played out.
- Eight and one-half hour flight from Charlotte to Munich. I only have one hour layover between Munich to Frankfurt connection and start to stress because the jet is totally full and my seat is wwwaaayyy in the back taking 15 minutes to deplane after arriving in Munich and parking at the gate; the next flight is gate changed so I need to find the new as quickly as possible, certainly within the hour!
- Found the gate. Next leg, the one hour flight from Munich to Frankfurt, is delayed 25 minutes. A little stress is added on knowing that the next flight (Frankfurt to Abuja, Nigeria) is scheduled to depart Frankfurt only 1 hour and 15 minutes after I arrive in Frankfurt. Successful Frankfurt arrival, albeit 25 minutes late.
- Brisk 25 minute walk to other side of terminal gets myself on time to the proper Frankfurt to Abuja gate.
- Five and one half hour Frankfurt to Abuja, Nigeria flight departs on time. Plane arrives at 4:50 PM Abuja time. I am standing in line and suddenly realize that others are holding green and white immigration and customs cards that I don’t have. With little time to be shy (and with a “who cares? You’ll never see these people again?” attitude), I ask the people around me, “Where did you get these cards? Are we supposed to have them now?” “Why of course!” responded one man, gazing at me like I had three eyes. “Didn’t you get one on the plane?”
A man two people in front of me must have heard me ask this supposedly stupid question and loudly exclaims, “Hey, I didn’t get one either!”
Aha! Now I don’t feel so bad anymore proving the old adage that misery really does love company. The irritated man takes two of each off the counter and gave me one of each. As if on queue, I suddenly hear the customs official give a hard time to person already at the counter, about five in front of me, for not having his customs and immigration papers filled out properly. At least he had some, thinks I starting to panic.
Good news. This was evidence I slept at least a little on the plane.
Bad news. Five people in front of me, customs and immigration forms newly in hand, and no pen in backpack!
Back to good news… Borrowed pen from sweet woman behind me.
Bad news… bottom of pen falls off three times in a row! What? Is this a joke? Am I on Candid Camera or something?
Good news… I assemble the pen once more and a slow line allows me to finish the paperwork as I am walking up to immigration window.
Whew! A little stressful but I just made it and am greeted with a smile. I get the stamp and with a “Welcome to Nigeria” no less.
But one has to ask…Why didn’t the flight attendant leave it on my lap if I was sleeping???? Note to self… Reduce travel stress. ASK for customs and immigration forms next flight to Nigeria!
Jos is only three hours from Abuja but it’s too dangerous to drive at night so we head for a Baptist Mission guesthouse. Snarled traffic, broken down vehicles, and many security checkpoints double the normal travel time. We arrive around 8:00 PM and are warmly greeted. It’s 8:30 PM, I’m in my room fighting to stay awake another hour or more. I turn the air conditioning on, sit in a comfortable chair, prop my feet up, and start to watch an American history Khan Academy video. I suddenly am cognizant that the video is over and I haven’t watched a bit of it. My bed calls and I dutifully obey.
A 7:30 breakfast of coffee, eggs, oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, and juice await this weary traveler. Monday morning, October 3rd is Nigeria’s independence day so the roads are empty as we pull out of the driveway at 9:00 AM. Three hours and several security checkpoints later I arrive at the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT) compound, my destination.
Good news. It’s Nigerian Independence Day. Bad news. Everyone is gone for the holiday. The place is deserted and I’m totally alone for the entire day.
So, what’s the moral of the story? The moral of the story is about stepping out in faith. You see, preparing for this trip was quite stressful this time. I am bringing over a laptop with a helpdesk program call Spiceworks already installed. NBTT will be using this program to track and manage all their technical support needs, particularly those relating to the BGAN satellite terminals we’ve recently installed throughout the country. And I get one shot at it. I have already done most of the software set up in preparation for the trip but the computer now needs to be joined to their network, configured to work through their firewalls, and then adapted to NBTT’s specific needs. And it all needs to be done before I depart on Friday afternoon.
On the way here, I reread A Walk Across America, by Peter Jenkins. I read this book in 1979 and it was instrumental in me coming to know the Lord. Peter, disillusioned with life and his country (after the Vietnam war), and not knowing who he is and where he was going, literally walked across America to find the answer. In the process, Peter loses Cooper, his Alaskan Malamute, his traveling companion, and up until he meets a southern belle, his best friend. It was during his walk that he also come to know Jesus as Savior. I read this book in 1979 at a time in my life when I, too, disillusioned and asking similar questions. The book touched a raw nerve and ultimately became instrumental in my walk to faith.
Somehow, someway, rereading A Walk Across America while flying over the ocean calmed me down, giving me a fresh perspective. Yes, there still remained times of stress and even panic, like when I was approaching the Nigerian customs and immigration officials sans documents. But, in general, rereading this book reminded me that I am not alone, that God is real, is in control, and He provides the peace that passes all comprehension. And, although I have a responsibility to do my part, it is ultimately up to God for the outcome of the helpdesk project. I am only to be faithful to what He has required of me.
So, here I am, sitting alone in my room on the NBTT campus. No one around and it’s quiet as all get out. But, just has Peter Jenkins learned in his journey, I have been reminded that God is sovereign and, rather than walking across America, God and I have flown across the Atlantic. I have some work to do, a lot of reading material to catch up on, and I feel at peace. What more could I want?