Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
- Proverbs 3:5-6
“A church once sent a man to spend two months as a volunteer at Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta, caring for India’s sick, poor, and dying. He left on his mission with great joy – the trip was a dream come true.
“Standing by a luggage carousel in Bangkok, forty hours later, he felt anything but elation. Somewhere between South Korea and Thailand his luggage had been ‘misdirected.’ Nerves worn raw by sleeplessness, he collapsed into a nearby chair and wondered, Was this trip a mistake? He felt as lost as his bags.
“As his eyes wandered around the walls of the lobby, which was mostly empty owing to the late hour, he noticed a row of clocks on one wall. They displayed the time in London, New York, Sydney, and Bangkok. He quickly noted that it was noon at his home church – and it was Sunday.
“His church had promised to pray for him at noon services that day. They’re praying for me right now, he thought. And with that realization came a tremendous peace. I’m not alone now. And I won’t be alone in the months ahead!
“Luggage may often be misdirected, but not our prayers. God knows your need and He knows where you are.”
- Honor Books Publishing, God’s Little Devotional Book on Prayer (attributed to Guideposts July, 1995)
After I have taken 40 hour flights, elation is not the feeling, more aches and pains than anything. And for two trips to Mumbai and two trips to Bangkok, the international flights seem to always arrived near midnight local time. I rarely sleep on an airplane, so exhaustion and a feeling of illness – like having the flu – is my usual reaction.
Some people are blessed with multiple trips overseas and only having misdirected luggage upon their return, and never losing the luggage with all the special gifts in it. That was me, but I cannot count the times that my teammate lost his luggage. Once, my boss and I flew into Mumbai (old Bombay) and his luggage stayed in Paris. When the Paris airport realized their mistake, they put the luggage on the next flight out of Paris. Sadly, or comically, the next flight out of Paris was headed for Algiers, in Africa, I think. We were only there for five days of instruction, and one of those was when I sat with the steel mill’s management to run simulations of their new process, taking their questions, and then showing them what would happen – all while my boss taught class. I got the nod to do the executive presentation work in that they had wasted a few million dollars putting the equipment in the wrong place. He was the boss; he only provided good news.
After the first day of teaching class, he had an engineer from the steel mill take him into Alibag, Maharashtra, the nearest big town with clothing stores. Amazingly, he found clothing that almost fit. He was over 6ft tall and his pants legs ended at mid-calf. His underwear was a bit tight. We are talking about speaking in a soprano voice all week. More comedy for me.
The airport delivered his luggage at 3:00am, India time, waking him from a deep sleep, a few hours before we were scheduled to leave for the airport on our return. We had no clue why they bothered because they had our agenda.
That same boss lost his luggage on several trips that we took together.
Two times of losing my luggage on return trips were memorable, but once it was I who was “misdirected.” My first trip to India was an around-the-world trip, my only circumnavigation, having gone past hallway round and then returning numerous times. When we changed planes in Singapore, returning after a month of working in India, my luggage was placed on a flight to San Francisco, CA, USA, while I got on my scheduled flight to Los Angeles, CA, USA. What was memorable was that I cleared Emigration and without luggage, I by-passed the luggage carousel and gave my paperwork to the customs agent. While the customs agent looked over the paperwork and returned it, the guard behind him drew his 45 caliber pistol and pointed it at me, demanding that I return to the carousel for my luggage – probably thinking that I had left a bomb on the carousel. Although the pistol barrel looked like a cannon pointed at me, I did not even blink. I told him to talk to the uniformed luggage guy next to the carousel who just told me where my luggage went by mistake. He apologized and reholstered his weapon.
The other time was after a short trip to Iowa. My partner and I had a flight from the Quad cities through Chicago back to Pittsburgh. It had been snowing since lunchtime, very hard, and windy enough to be considered a blizzard. When we got to the airport, we were told that our flight was cancelled and the flight before our flight was cancelled. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We were about to leave to find a hotel when the ticket agent said that we could fly on the morning flight. We thought Thanksgiving morning, but they meant that their morning flight had been so horribly delayed that it had not taken off. Our only hope was to run through the airport, as it was about to take off. We made it along with our luggage. We did the same thing in Chicago, taking a flight that had been delayed about 12 hours, but since we flew “stand-by” on the word of a ticket agent who thought our Chicago to Pittsburgh flight had been cancelled, we had to return to the airport Thanksgiving morning to get our luggage. I had been ‘misdirected,’ not my luggage, so the airline refused to deliver the bags to my home. At least I was home, and in enough time to cook the turkey.
Lost luggage can be funny at times, but when you are an uncommon size for people at your destination, it can get complicated. It can get very frustrating.
But like the church member who volunteered to work for Mother Teresa, we are not alone. I always prayed for my luggage. I knew God was with me, but I also knew that my wife and many others were also praying.
Hmmm. I wonder if that old boss prayed or had anyone praying for him?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.