It was four in the morning and beads of sweat were already dripping down my forehead. I had carried my two fifty pound bags down five flights of stairs, my stomach churning with anxiety.
The torrential thunderstorm outside didn’t help, either, as I started imagining myself sitting on the plane as it plummeted into the Pacific Ocean.
I should have felt peaceful closing a chapter in my tiny corner of China and elated knowing I had a summer full of friends, family, and fun awaiting me back in the States. But all that had captured my thoughts and emotions was a paralyzing fear of something that had once brought me joy. It’s not uncommon to have a fair share of good and bad travels to and from our home and host countries, but after a string of terrible experiences, I was serious about the possibility of moving back home.
So here I was again, fearfully dreading my flight in a few hours and my current circumstances weren’t helping either.
Due to sleeping through his alarm, our driver showed up 40 minutes late, leaving my teammates and I huddled under the eaves of my apartment building as lightning flashed above our heads. “This is just fantastic,” I thought to myself. My stomach continued to tie itself into knots as my mind ran wild, dreaming up terrifying, flying scenarios.
Things seemed to be improving as our driver managed to make up for lost time but as we neared the onramp to the airport terminal, we noticed that the police had halted traffic, turning cars back around. The heavy rainfall had flooded the road, and we were forced out of our van, with our 15+ pieces of luggage. By the time, I wheeled my suitcases to the side of the road, my clothes were soaked.
Despite being told that a bus would arrive shortly, transporting us across the flooded road and to the terminal, we waited in the rain for three hours. The crowds, pushing, and numerous suitcases made it an extreme challenge to catch a ride, leaving us wondering if we should ditch our belongings and instead walk to the airport.
When we finally squeezed onto a bus and made it to the airport, I could almost hear the Hallelujah chorus in my head. I couldn’t believe how maddening the past few hours had been, but I no longer felt a sense of fear about flying. If God could get me through sitting in the pouring rain with my soaked luggage, I could handle a (potential) bumpy and long flight.
Although most flights were delayed and cancelled due to the weather, my first one still managed to take off, two hours late. This left me with twenty minutes to make my connection in South Korea, something I doubted would be possible. As my feet hit the ground, a burst of energy overtook me as I flew through security and to my gate. I didn’t care how silly I looked, running through the airport panting heavily and holding up my soggy pants. I wanted to be on that plane!
“Final call for Seattle!” I couldn’t believe that I had made my connection despite the craziness of the past 12 hours.
As I flopped down in my seat, I felt a deep peace and gratitude that God had gotten me through the worst travel day and I was no longer worried about flying or if my laptop had survived the rain.
I felt His presence and protection in the Korean stranger who encouraged me to rest after standing in the rain, telling me that he would come and get me when our flight was boarding.
I felt His care and compassion in the air hostess who lent me her phone to message my family when mine wasn’t working.
And I felt His peace and comfort envelope me like a warm blanket as turbulence jostled the plane throughout stormy weather.
It has been in the chaotic moments of traveling that I have experienced His presence in a deep and real way. It reminds me of Psalm 139, and how no matter where I travel in this world, His hand is always guiding and holding me fast.
I no longer view travel as a stressful experience, but one that invites me to be close to my Father.
What are ways you have seen God work amidst travel disasters? How have bad travel memories become funny stories to share with others? What is the biggest lesson God has taught you through your travels?