We knew what we were in for, but hearing it and seeing it laid out on an itinerary is not the same as the experience. I never could have imagined the toll it would take on us to get home. Four countries in twenty-four hours.
We awoke early Wednesday morning to depart for the airport in Nicaragua. It wasn’t just early, it was military morning early. We got through customs easily and flew out or Managua without any troubles. The flight to San Jose, Costa Rica about an hour later. Then we settled in for an eight-hour layover. Then it was another customs process, another ticket gate, and our flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala.
The customs official in Costa Rica noticed the seashells we had collected on Sunday, at our day in the beach in Nicaragua. One member of our team lost a very beautiful shell, because it could have been used as a weapon. Then it came to my bag. The customs official asked if I had any shells. So, I quickly showed him my bag. He took most of my large rocks and threw them into a bucket under the table. Why did I have rocks? Well, because my little girl collects rocks.
Anyway, he stated that I did not have permission to take those on an airplane. I was afraid that all of Erin’s shells would follow the rocks into the bucket, but instead he smiled at me, handed me the shells, and said, “souvenirs.” We had most of the conversation in Spanish, and I really enjoyed being able to communicate with this nice man.
That’s when it happened. Then I got to put back on my shoes, watch and other items. As I went to put my Gospel bracelet back on my wrist. The plastic snapped in half, flew up in the air like a rubber band weapon, and was launch over the custom agent’s head. It landed unnoticed in the chair behind him, as I stood there in shock. I was torn between being afraid of being detained and busting out laughing. Instead I quickly got my stuff together and moved off as soon as I could. I may have been the first person charged with assault of the Gospel.
Our flight from Costa Rica to Guatemala was the worst flight I have ever been on. We hit major pockets of turbulence the entire way. The plane moved side to side, shook and would drop suddenly. We were rattled the whole way. When we finally landed, we had just enough time to depart the plane, get through bag check, and then get back on. Then it was on to our flight to Los Angeles.
We arrived in Los Angeles at 11:30 PM to find the terminal closed down. The only area we had access to was the ticket counter. So, there we were, lying on the concrete floor or ledges trying to get some sleep. It was uncomfortable, almost painful, but I caught a few minutes of sleep until everything opened and we could get through to the flight gates.
We are now about to board our last gate for our final flight, which will take us to Kansas City. Project HOPE will be two vans waiting to take us on to Springfield. Four countries in one day. That’s a new record for me. We are ready to be home. We are ready to be surrounded by our families. We are ready to rest in our own beds and get some rest.
It has been a difficult two days of travel. However, if that is the price of what we had to go through to spend that final day of ministry in Nicaragua, it was worth it. I would do it all again, just for a chance to be a part of God’s work there. We are so grateful God for being with us on this mission journey. He was there with His grace, His mercy and His strength. We all felt it, and we rested in it.