Greetings from Ohrid, Macedonia!
Yesterday I had what could have been an extremely stressful day of travel. But it wasn’t stressful because I made the decision not to worry about anything. And through this experience, I learned what real traveling mercies look like.
I had arrived home at about 7:30 in the evening from a two day visit with missionaries in Tuscany. That gave me exactly ten hours in which to unpack, do two loads of laundry, pack for this trip (just over two weeks, traveling and ministering in the Balkans), catch up on computer work (bookkeeping, emailing, etc.), and get some sleep.
I got up at 3:30 yesterday morning and did some last minute stuff before leaving the house—later than I had intended!—to get the bus to the train station. The electronic bus arrival sign indicated that the bus would be there in twenty minutes. Thus started my day of travel with the first thing that could have stressed me out. But I decided not to let it stress me. Often the bus arrives sooner than predicted, which was what I prayed for. But no! The bus took every bit of twenty minutes to get there.
When the bus came it was packed with early morning foreign workers and homeless people who use the bus as a place to sleep. At the first stop another woman with a suitcase boarded. The train station is where you catch a bus to the airport. As we approached the train station, the woman became agitated because I was between her and the door. And when the door opened, she shot past me, running to an airport bus. When I got there, I saw that she was on the same bus I was taking, but the bus didn’t leave until immediately after my bag was loaded and I got onto the bus.
On the bus ride, I started praying that I wouldn’t miss the flight because of being late. But, having prayed, I decided to leave the issue with God, who could fix things in any number of ways, including stopping time at the airport, if He decided to do so.
When we got to the airport, my bag, being last loaded was first unloaded, and I went in, looking at the board for my flight’s check in area. I had to do that because my stay in the Balkans is over two weeks, so I couldn’t travel with only carry on. The bus had parked in front of a different door, which happened to be the door right in front of my flight’s check in area. There was no line, and no problem getting checked in. I also went through security with hardly a line at all.
Seeing that I had some time, I got some breakfast and a bottle of water to take onto the plane. Since my flight was with Austrian Airlines, we changed in Vienna. One strange thing that I noticed on this plane was that the information screens all deployed just fine except for one at about row seventeen on the left, as you looked from the back of the plane. That screen opened and shut and opened and shut continuously for the whole duration of the flight, which was odd. Otherwise it was an uneventful flight, and we arrived in Vienna a little ahead of schedule. The plane was parked way out on the tarmac, and we had to take a bus to the terminal.
At the terminal, I had about an hour and a half to make my connection, but as it was in a different terminal, I had to actually exit the security area and walk for at least half an hour before I got to my terminal. Then I had to go through security again, and I was a little annoyed at having to throw out half a bottle of water, which meant that if I had time I would have to buy another. And because I was traveling to a non-Schengen country (Macedonia), I had to also go through passport control. As flight time ticked away, I could have gotten stressed out over all this, but again, I prayed and gave the situation to God.
Once through security and passport control, and buying a new bottle of water, I saw that our gate was one where a bus takes you out to the plane. Usually in this situation, with assigned seats, I prefer to wait until most of the rest of the passengers are already on the bus. Why hurry, just to stand on a bus as people slowly trickle on? As often happens, being last on, I was first off and onto the plane.
I found my seat at the back of the plane, and just before takeoff, I noticed something strange: the information screen several rows in front of me was opening and shutting, opening and shutting. I was on the very same aircraft! At that realization, I laughed out loud, startling the people around me. Just think of the 30 minute walk, out of security, across the whole airport, back through security and passport control, just to wind up back on the very same airplane—and only a few seats away from my original seat. I knew that God had a hand in all this just to make me laugh. If I had been stressed and worrying, I might not ever have noticed the information screen, or might not have noticed it a second time. But my relaxed mood had me calmly looking around and noticing strange things like that.
In Skopje, I got my bag and pulled out the information paper that told us where to meet. We were supposed to meet for the bus to Ohrid at 1:00 PM, sharp. So I read, and it said to meet at the Post Office under the train station—in downtown Skopje! I had only 40 minutes to get there from the airport, and I still needed to change money because although you can change all sorts of money in Italy, you can’t buy Macedonian Dinar there.
I found a taxi stand, and it said that a ride to Skopje costs €20. I asked if I could pay with a credit card. The driver said no, but he would accept Euros. So I got in, praying that we would make it on time. When I told him where to go, he said, “There is a Post Office just inside the airport.” I said, “No, I need to go to the one at the train station.” He kept arguing with me, insisting that I didn’t have to go to that Post Office when there is one just inside the airport. Really? Was he trying to argue himself out of a fare? Anyway, I finally was able to convince him to take me to the train station. Again, I prayed on the drive that we would get there in time, and didn’t stress or worry about it. I had done my best, and now it was up to God.
We actually got there with a few minutes to spare. Right away I found others who were waiting for the bus. Waiting turned out to be some pretty good networking time. The bus ride to Ohrid took about two hours, and on the way, I slept—at least until we got to the winding mountain roads.
The conference got off to a great start, and I look for more good things today. But the most important thing is that I arrived relaxed and feeling good. I hadn’t had a chance to get lunch, but skipping lunch is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, especially in light of all the good things that happened on the journey. God turned what could have been a very stressful day of travel into a good day of travel, even enjoyable. God is good!