Monday, December 31, 2018

But Worth It!

I started to just comment on my post entitled "Not So Easy," but decided this is worth a post all of its own.  I mentioned how my bags' zippers were cut off, and I really wasn't looking forward to contacting the airlines.  Well, as if the Lord hadn't been gracious enough already, He outdid Himself.  

In case you've never filed a claim, they ask for a lot of obscure info that I just happened to have all available.  When I called, the two ladies I spoke with basically warned me that they don't cover zippers, which sometimes hit the conveyer belt and break off.  Not looking good, but I would do my part.  As I was on the phone with the second lady, who'd already told me to expect at least a week delay because of the holidays, she surprised me when she told me that she would actually take on my case herself and to email her my photos rather than having to return all the way to the airport.  By the time we were off the phone, she had issued a check in the mail for me, which I received last week!  

Then I was visiting my sister for Christmas and saw that luggage was 60% off at Belk.  I was lured by the tiny French flag on a brand called Delsey, which I'd never heard of before.  A French lady happened to be there and gave a good review.  I would wait till back in Charleston where I had a Belk  gift card and store credit.   Saturday I ventured to Belk and after an hour of pros and cons (unfortunately there was no luggage with all my criteria, and I didn't end up with Delsey), I did find one with my one non-negotiable: the feature that slides the zippers into some grooves to protect them from destruction.  Originally $340, I paid nothing when you factor in the discounts, the gift card, store credit, and reimbursement I got.  Isn't that amazing?  Worth over 5 times my other bag!  Hope the quality is reflective of the price. :).  And thank you, Lord, for this blessing! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Time To Pick Up The Pace?

The past week has been transitioning back to US life.  While I'm used to coming and going, one of the biggest differences is the pace here.  I think it's a combination of the American lifestyle that likes activity, but also the fact that Charleston is the place in the world where I know the most people and have many close relationships.  It's sometimes a shock to my system and really challenges the  lifestyle I normally try to cultivate that incorporates stillness and rest in a very demanding world.

Perhaps the stomach bug stayed around a bit longer because of the lack of rest my body needed; perhaps it was a call to slow down.  Either way, it wasn't the funnest of weeks, though quite productive and full of evidence that God is my help.

I'll spare you the details of my many projects, but I'll write just a bit about one.  We had a deadline of registering our nations for the large Congress coming up in August, which you'll be hearing more and more about.  That may sound easy, but it involves lots of work and much communication.  I spent several hours last Monday writing our national director in Egypt and working on registering several of their team members.  One reason it took so long is because well, I'm not very savvy when it comes to Egyptian addresses; so I kept having to ask, "Is such and such a street or a town?"  "What's the zip code for Alexandria?  And Cairo?"  "I need so-and-so's email address."  

I was starting to feel annoying around 5:30 PM which would be 10:30 PM their time and apologized for yet another message and so late!  He thanked me and asked how I was still awake (11:30 PM in Zurich), that this was normal for Egypt, but for "my country," it was unbelievable.  That made me laugh, and I had to confess that I was jet-lagged from flying back the night before, but I was now on US time again.  As devoted as I want to be, in Zurich, I would've been asleep and definitely off my computer.

These children have been trained by our team in Egypt to share
the Gospel with their friends and family.

I was also incredibly thankful for technology and Internet which I rely on a lot for the work that I do. Just from this registration process, I now know about a few other workers in MENA that I am so looking forward to meeting in August.  They have a great influence in this part of the world in sharing the Good News that Jesus came to bring hope and life to Egypt (and other Arab nations)!  Thank you for your prayers for our team in this part of the world.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Not So Easy...

Among my many visits last week, I picked up a stomach bug, which hit me Thursday night, the eve of our day trip to France.  The Lord was very gracious as I never got sick, but by the time I woke yesterday (Sunday) morning, the nausea was much worse, not better.  Not exactly how I wanted to start my day of international traveling.  I must say I am incredibly grateful to have so many praying friends, which I believe is what got me through the trip, which was not so easy—-that and the Lord's mighty hand of love, which is so evident when we have eyes to see.

For example, as I was doing some last-minute things, I spotted a couple of wristbands that help with motion sickness/nausea that I had just happened to leave out.  I've never worn them, but today would be the day!  Thank you, Lord!

Fastforward to the airport: As I pass through immigration, the lady asks if I have a resident permit.  No.  My last trip was in September?  No, October, to Albania.  This is when she tells me I have overstayed my visit and starts flashing my passport in the air to show me that there are no stamps to/from Albania in October.  Oh no…it wouldn't surprise me if Albania didn't stamp, but how I wish I had checked when I was there and could do something about it!  

Me: Okay, so what do I need to do?
Lady: Pay a fine.  
Me: May I see my passport?  (I was going to find those stamps!) 
Lady: No.  You have to wait for my colleague to come.  

Trying to remain calm, I start searching for emails with my tickets to Albania.  Her colleague arrives and whips out her badge that says "Police."  I have to follow her.  As she types things into her computer, I decide to find pictures from Albania; and would you believe that I had taken pictures of my boarding passes both to and from Tirana and never deleted them?  Praise God!  I've never done that, but will plan to do it from now on!  She calls her boss who agrees to let me go without the 350CHF fine, but lets me know it's my responsibility to make sure they stamp my passport with a legible stamp in the future.  She confesses that Italy (Rome was my transiting country in/out of Schengen) is infamous for not stamping or at least not legibly).  I can only imagine the future conversations I'll have with the Italians and Albanians…🤪

So much for my plan to get a banana at the airport.  (I couldn't stomach the food I had at home).  By the time I made it to the gate, it was 10:44, one minute before boarding.  Thankfully I had all 3 seats to myself and was able to lie down most of the 9-hour flight to Philadelphia, which was just what my body needed, especially since I'd have a 6-hour layover before the flight to Charleston.

When I landed in Philly, I was pretty weak, having nibbled on only crackers and pretzels all day.  How would I manage my bags?  But there was a man with a cart just sitting there!  Perfect timing because the machine with the self-serve carts (which charged a fee) was broken.  He got my bags and took them all the way to re-check.  Don't worry, I tipped well, full of thanks for this man!
The fact that I made it home so easily was again an act of God as the southeast has had winter storms causing delays and closings of all sorts.  My flight was on time, and while there was a good bit of turbulence, we had an otherwise easy flight.  

I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.  Psalm 26: 6-7

Sometimes it takes storms and sickness and false accusations to see and appreciate God's hand of love in our lives.  Now, time to practice what I preach and keep this same attitude as I file a claim with the airlines for my zippers which appear to have been cut and now make it extremely difficult to open and close my bag.  Not so easy...😬

Last Couple of Weeks in Switzerland for 2018

The last couple of weeks have been quite full.  As soon as I returned from France, we had a family from our new Albanian team in town.  I always write this, but how wonderful it is to get to physically be with our team!  It was just a joy to get to know them better.  It was also a privilege to help them get around Zurich, attend church together Sunday, and babysit so they could attend a meeting with Helmut Monday morning. 

With our Albanian friends and colleagues in Zurich

Then back to several meetings, cleaning/packing, and lots of goodbyes.  I have to say that my last week in Switzerland was my most social one yet.  It's been helpful to be here longer (3 months rather than the 2 5-week periods last fall and spring) to meet more people and connect with those I've met before on a deeper level.  I'm really grateful for all those the Lord has blessed me with here in the Zurich area.
At one of Zurich's 3 Christmas markets with Gabriela, who I met in 2016.
It's amazing that we communicate as her first language is Romanian, but we manage by mixing all of our languages, ha!

  Finally, I even got to go back to France!  A few from the Swiss team wanted to take me to a couple of Christmas markets in Alsace before I left for the States.  I'm so spoiled!

Colmar, France at Christmas time (well, Advent)!