Happy New Year from sunny São Paulo, Brazil! I was planning to write this update from 37,000 feet in the air on our way back to Brazil on December 30. However, I waited because I wanted to include as many details as possible before sending this out. I have also been terribly sick, and have just not felt like having to sit at a computer. Anyway, here is an actual account of God working on behalf of our family these past few days. This is lengthy, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee, or a big glass of sweet tea before continuing this epistle.
Back in August of 2016 we began to look for tickets for our return to Brazil. We prefer to fly in and out of Charlotte, NC, but the airfare was more than we could afford. We checked the fares from different airports with 200 miles of Charlotte, all to no avail. Our best affordable option was flying out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which meant that we would have a ten-hour drive from our home church to the airport. It was half the price of what we would have paid if we had left from Charlotte. We diligently searched for good ticket prices, and all of a sudden we saw business class seats that were cheaper than economy. We snatched them up in a hurry! We then had tickets for Friday, December 30, meaning that we would be back in Brazil for Sunday, January 1, 2017. We were thrilled!
When we first bought the tickets, we weren’t sure about the logistics of getting us and our luggage down to Ft. Lauderdale, Becky’s mother said that she and my father-in-law would take us down there. That was easy, but I knew it would be a long, tiring drive for them.
We had the privilege of seeing all four of our older children (and our new son-in-law) before we left the USA. Anna and Ryan came the first weekend of December, and then Rachel, Joseph, and Nathan were with us over Christmas weekend. Becky packed like crazy to get everything we were taking back to Brazil in suitcases, duffle bags, totes, and carry-ons. Since Becky was doing the packing while I was out of town, I didn’t realize how much we had accumulated to take back for us, and also the ministry. We knew that a minivan would not be sufficient to carry everything, so we rented a truck to transport our luggage down to Florida. Due to the death of a church member in our sending church, my in-laws were unable to go with us down to Florida to help with luggage. One of my brother’s-in-law and also a good friend of ours volunteered their time to help us, so we had two men and a truck to drive our luggage down to Florida. Honestly, I didn’t know how much luggage we were taking, and neither did Becky. Wednesday, December 28, the day we were leaving for Florida, I checked the airline’s website, but they did not have any limit as to how many checked bags a person could have, but we did know that we were going to have to pay for excess baggage. Relieved to see that there weren’t any limitations on luggage, we headed toward Daytona Beach to find a place to stop for the night. Thursday morning, we set the GPS for Ft. Lauderdale, and finally found a hotel with vacancies after looking for a long time. Seems like a lot of people had already reserved rooms in the Miami area due to the Orange Bowl taking place on New Year’s Day. While we were waiting to check in, Becky called the airline to ask about luggage, but the person on the phone told us differently than what we saw on their website. The lady on the phone told Becky that we were allowed up to five checked bags per person. That’s 25 bags for our family, but we had more than that. How much more? We didn’t know. I thought we had 32 bags, but wasn’t sure. I began to fret a little, even get somewhat discouraged. Would we have to send seven bags back to South Carolina? It was then that we asked people to pray again for us. We had already asked people to pray for other reasons, but this was huge. We knew God was able, but would He change the hearts (and rules) of an airline? All we could do was pray.
The next day was Friday, our day of departure, heading back to Brazil for our fourth term. But would all of our luggage go, too? We were up at 3:30AM, left the hotel at 4:30AM, and arrived at the airport a little after 5:00AM. We got help at the airport with our luggage, and two guys took everything in and made a line of luggage in front of the airline’s counter. They asked if this was all ours, and how many pieces there were. I told her that it was all ours, and we had about 32 bags. I then decided to count the luggage. There were 36 pieces of baggage! I began to pray some more. They may have had a little bit of mercy with seven extra bags, but probably not eleven extra bags. The lady told me that they allowed 25, but I very nicely explained to her what their website says. She went over to a different computer, and about ten minutes later (or, so it seemed), she came back and told the guy checking us in that they would make an “allowance” for us. Praise the Lord!!! We did pay for the extra luggage, but at least the extra eleven pieces did not have to go back to South Carolina and be shipped to us later.
We were still praising the Lord as we went through security, and then down to the gate before boarding. When we sat down in those business class seats, we knew the Lord had worked this out, as well, as we were exhausted, and I was sick and miserable with a bad cold. I was able to lay my seat out flat, and I was almost asleep before we became airborne. We had an amazing flight, even arriving in Campinas 25 minutes early. Those extra minutes proved to be a blessing a short time later.
The next hurdle would be entering Brazil with that much luggage, going through customs, and praying that nothing would end up missing. The luggage came off in two different places, thankfully not too far away from each other. I think we had eight luggage carts that the four of us were trying to wrestle with, and two cleaning ladies even offered us their help. The Lord answered yet another prayer, and after being questioned about the convoy of luggage, he allowed us to go without asking to see anything. Praise the Lord!
Our colleagues in the interior of Brazil, Garry and Pam Tyler, and Coy and Nancy Shaw, met us in Campinas to pick up a couple of things that they needed to be brought in. After greeting them, they helped us transport our luggage over to where we were going to catch a bus to take us to São Paulo. Then there was the question as to whether the bus would have room for all of our luggage, or not. We surely did not want to split up, because it would be another hour before the next bus came. Within ten minutes of getting our luggage over to the shuttle bus pick-up, the bus arrived and piled all of our luggage in the belly of the bus. We used up most of the luggage space, but besides our family there were only three other people on the bus. If the bus had been full, all of our luggage would not have made it on the first bus. Praise the Lord! Also, we made the first bus by ten minutes because we arrived 25 minutes early. The Lord was orchestrating our whole trip.
We arrived in São Paulo at 10:05PM, and within one minute of getting off the bus, our co-worker, Jon Speights, comes strolling down the sidewalk. He had two men and a truck lined up to take our luggage to the house, and within five minutes we were loading our belongings in the truck.
After a very long and tiring trip, we made it “home” to our beloved rental house in São Paulo. We had a wonderful furlough, saw some wonderful sights, visited some wonderful churches, and saw God work in wonderful ways. However, the most wonderful part of our furlough was leading our six-year-old, Christine, to the Lord on Christmas Eve! Praise the Lord!
We are anxious to get started again, and looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in us and through us during our next term in São Paulo, Brazil.
Happy New Year! God bless! Praise the Lord!