Traveling Home, Still on Mission
GO Ministries desires for each and every team member who works with us to experience mutual transformation – as they serve and equip local leaders here in the Dominican Republic, they also are served and equipped. Below is the story of how one team member discovered that, although she may not be with her mission team anymore, God still has her on mission to serve those around her.
This was my 4th trip to the Dominican Republic with GO Ministries. Some friends and I went down to serve at the annual Women’s Conference. The Lord worked in amazing ways to make the 10th anniversary an extra-special conference. Still, I remember praying, “God, I haven’t seen a big miracle like I usually do, but I still have a day of travel, so you never know!”
After struggling to decide whether to try for an early flight to NYC, or take the later flight with the Louisville groups, I decided to get some extra sleep, and go with the Louisville group. I knew there was a risk that taking a three-part flight home could be problematic, but I trusted God to get me home.
I sat around the airport for several hours, only to check in and discover there was a 2 hour delay, with the flight scheduled to leave at 3:30. So, I spent a few more hours sitting around waiting for our flight to arrive. This is when I saw her – a little girl, trying very hard to carry her baby brother. Soon an old woman hobbled over to them and got into the wheel chair. The child continued to try to corral her brother back to the wheel chair, and he desperately worked to escape her grasp. I started helping too, trying to get him back to the wheel chair without actually making them nervous by picking him up.
When it was time to pre-board, the representative had flagged me as deaf, so I was the first person on the plane. I explained that while I do have hearing aids, I could still hear. The next people on the plane were my baby/child/grandmother friends. I felt the call to offer help, and at first I thought, “No. That baby had a snotty nose, I just had a week-long mission trip, I’m probably going to have problems getting home and I’m T-I-R-E-D”. But then I thought, “Who is going to help them on this flight? How is this grandma going to manage?” So against my inclinations, I offered to trade spots with whoever ended up in the open seat next to these three and help out with the baby. As it turns out, another older lady in a wheelchair was slated to sit there, so the attendant accepted my offer.
Come to find out, the child’s name was Yaneili. She is 8 years old, intelligent, precocious, lives in NYC, and was returning from a month long visit to family in the Dominican Republic with her GREAT(!) grandmother who only spoke Spanish. She told me how she threw up all over on her flight down (great, I am a germaphobe and we’ve got potential puke to deal with). I told her about my kids, and showed her pictures of my trip, and then she had fun looking at the pictures that my kids had taken of their pets and Pokemon GO. Our flight left at 3:40pm – we couldn’t hear or understand the announcements so all we knew was that there would be an extra stop in Miami before continuing to NYC.
I started knitting and Yaneili was fascinated, so we worked on some knitting lessons. Within an hour, the baby – Liam – was awake and I ended up holding him for the remainder of the trip. At one point he sneezed and a huge snot bubble came from his nose and covered his face. We wiped it with an airplane blanket, and I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I get sick, I get sick. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” I can be pretty germophobic, but the grace in knowing I was in God’s providence was enough to set those thoughts aside.
When we finally landed in Miami, grandma was anxious to call the children’s mother. First grandma spoke with the mother, but I knew she was confused about what was going on. Next Yaneili started talking to her, panicked about her ears popping on the descent, so I took the phone to try to explain the situation to the best of my abilities. She thanked me over and over for helping her family. We told her we would text her when we landed.
We landed in NYC around 10:30pm, and waited in the skyway for an hour because there weren’t enough wheel chairs or wheel chair attendants for this large group of disabled people. We had decided that I would stick to them like glue, carrying Liam, since grandma was not allowed to hold him in the wheelchair. The wheel chair attendant was a gift from God! He knew the story that I was a neighboring passenger, but had decided to help them get to their family since they didn’t have anyone to help hold the baby. So we pretended like I was part of their group as we went through immigration/customs. Thankfully, the customs man was so taken aback that grandma had lived in the US for 50 years and could speak no English, he didn’t ask me who I was, or how I was related to them, like they usually ask at customs.
Next, the baggage security guy wanted to know what was in all of the suitcases. I had no idea what was in their suitcases! I stammered and he got more angry. I nearly snapped – I was about to throw a fit. But I looked over at the wheelchair guy and God bless him, he gave me a look that said, “Do. Not. Blow. This.” Back to reality, and by the grace of God I said, “well there is clothing and toiletries and stuff in our suitcases.” That’s all he wanted to hear, and out of the terminal we went, to a tearful reunion with the mother. They all offered to let me sleep at their house that night, but I didn’t want to make them wait while I got my new plane reservations. So we said our goodbyes, promising to keep in touch with each other.
I do not regret taking the later flight. I do not regret sleeping in a few hours and trusting that I would get home. I did get home with blessings upon blessings. And so did Yaneili, Liam and Grandma. All glory to God in the highest, who answers prayers and provides strength to us when we seek him.
- Alison Hlathein, GO Team Member