Last year when I prayed about and booked travel to the US, God changed and enlarged the scope and purpose of my plans, using the Bastrop Wildfires (http://www.nbcdfw.com/weather/stories/17-Missing-in-Bastrop-Fires-1554-Homes-Destroyed-129616998.html). He had told me to return to the US for five months, so I thought I would be using that time to fix up and sell my house. Instead, my house became available just when my brother and his family needed a place to live. Their house had burned down in the wildfire. That left me without my plans for those five months. In thinking about it before flying home, I said, “Lord, what am I going to do for five months without a house?” not really asking Him, just musing, but He answered immediately, saying: “Promote missions in Europe!” And I saw that it was a fantastic idea. So I attended conferences and spoke at churches and to church groups about Europe as a mission field.
It was a very fruitful trip, and my brother and sister-in-law helped me fix up the house to sell, so everything worked out even better than I could have hoped for, certainly better than my original plan.
This year God has changed my plans using Hurricane Sandy. Waaay back in May I prayed about and booked travel back to the US for three months. My travel date was October 31. I had less than a week between returning from the Tallinn, Berlin, Moscow trip to get ready. That left little time for seeing friends before flying back to the US.
One friend in particular that I had wanted to see before going was Francesca, an Italian missionary to Cambodia. But I returned to Milan only to find out that she was in the hospital, surely dying. When I went to the hospital the doctors told me that she had already died. I visited her in the hospital morgue, which I wrote about in my post “Goodbye Dear Friend” (http://europeanfaithmissions.com/2012/10/30/goodbye-dear-friend/). The celebration of Francesca’s life (what others call funeral) was scheduled for October 31, my departure date. I felt bad about missing it because I hadn’t gotten to see any of her family at the hospital. When I learned that my flights were cancelled because of the hurricane, I was grateful to be able to attend after all. Her son remembered me, and it was good to be able to tell him how much I had loved his mother.
Another friend I had wanted to see was Giulio, whom I had met in London two years ago. We had set a dinner appointment for my return from Moscow, but illness had incapacitated him, so we had to cancel. With the change of plans, I was able to have dinner with Giulio (fully recovered) last night.
Finally, there was Enza, a dear friend for many years. I had felt bad that I hadn’t had time to pay her a visit, even though she only lives a block away. This morning I visited with her, and we made plans for a visit to her house in the country in February when I return.
I know that a lot of peoples’ travel plans were disrupted by the Hurricane Sandy. How we react to a change of plans reveals a lot about ourselves, especially our flexibility and our trust in God. At first I was not pleased about the change of plans, but not because of delayed travel. I was unhappy at having the United Airlines website telling me that all my flights were on schedule, and then after schlepping my bags all the way out to the airport to find that they were all cancelled. Of course they knew and could have updated their website accordingly. United Airlines handled all this very badly in my opinion, and cost me over 3 hours travel time to the airport, and €16 for the bus ride. But I’ve learned that the quicker that I can remind myself of God’s goodness, and the fact that He is in control, the happier I will be. So while on hold with United, I did an attitude adjustment. And that’s when I saw the opportunity in the delay. If I had allowed myself to remain annoyed with United (and justifiably so!), I might have failed to see the opportunity to see these three dear friends.
Having visited my friends, I feel ready to leave Milan for three months. And as I prepare for my travels tomorrow, I realize that relationships are important to God. God is a relational God who delights in loving relationships: our relationships with one another and even more, our relationship with Him. God is good.