Flying on a Prayer

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Leaving the US is always hard.

When your heart is in two places, each with people to love… yep. It’s a blessing and a thorn all in one.

This time though, it was hard in a rather logistical sense.

In case you forgot, there still happens to be a pandemic at large. This makes international travel more interesting than usual. For example, one must get a covid test (the molecular one, not the rapid antigen one), get results back, and get into the country on the literal opposite side of the planet, all within 7 days.

Needless to say, I spent at least a week before my departure praying over this. That I would have faith that God would get me there. That I would not worry about it, but trust. That I would be just thankful as He came through, instead of being anxious and finally relieved. I asked various other loved ones to pray. I figured God told me to return to Indonesia, so He’d get me there, right?

On the day of the flight out, my test results were still not back. That’s fine, I reasoned. I’ll go to the airport, hop on a plane in faith, and surely it will show up by the time I get to Tokyo. God will come through. Let’s do this.

What I didn’t count on was the airport holding me up on work visa reasons, not covid testing! I spent probably a full ten minutes trying to convince the airline that I really DO have a job overseas, I CAN get into the country, and yes, this stamp thing really does mean all of that. Slightly panicked at that point. But finally a supervisor came and cleared things up. I was cheered for all of 2.5 minutes, as the next thing that was requested was my missing covid test. The lady helping me really was kind about the whole thing. She disappeared to confer with superiors, returning to tell me that she would be able to get me and my bags as far as San Francisco, but that I would then be on my own. If I took it, I could get stuck in San Francisco with no test, and then run out of time to get into country, resulting in the need to return to Oregon to get re-tested. Or it might come through.

I thanked her for her kindness and decided to take the flight to San Francisco.

Once there, I called the now-open clinic. No results. They gave me the phone number of the lab and said to try that. I did. Busy. All five times I called.

At this point, I parted ways with my friend who was flying the same route and went to collect my luggage and sort out life. All prayers aside, I was definitely feeling anxious by now. I plunked down on a bench with my luggage, took a deep breath, sent up another prayer, and decided to call the lab again. Two hours left til boarding.

I got through this time. The lady on the other end gave me a new phone number to call and wished me luck. Thankful and still holding onto a thread of hope, I called the new number to talk with a nice-sounding man and earnestly request his help.

“You’re going to be one happy woman.”

Apparently, the lab is backed up and most results are taking two weeks to come in. For divine reasons, mine was in. I hastily dug out my laptop, filled out the HIPPA forms he sent me, and waited rather breathlessly for the email I needed. I admit to a few hastily swiped away tears of relief as I thanked John rather profusely for his help. Then everything was shoved back in bags as I took off for the ticketing counter.

Once there, I encountered the same problem I had in Portland. Apparently Indonesian work visas were just confusing to people on this particular day. In all four years of traveling back and forth, I have never been faced with quite so much skepticism! But at last all was resolved, and I raced for security screening.

A plus of being hung up a lot is that you don’t have to wait at the gate long. It was only about 15 minutes until boarding, so I mostly breathed (cause hastening through airports with a mask on is always fun) and greeted the other folks I knew and loved who happened to be flying the same route. Friends are awesome. Katie even got me some juice as I sat there, rather dazed, thanking God for His timing. Even if it was rather close for my comfort.

The rest of the flights were pretty uneventful. Arrival in Jakarta was interesting, though. We all got shuffled to rows of seats that had been set up in the hallway and had our vitals taken while we filled out paperwork. Lots of extra stops, but it was actually pretty streamlined. Doing strange things is always more fun with friends, so it was nice to be able to confer with Katie and Rachael and crack jokes over how no one who’s been flying for over 25 hours should be asked if their neck is sore.

I think we all felt relieved once we stepped outside the airport. It was like a signal of sorts that we had actually been successful. Besides, you get a little fuzzy after that much travel, and we were more than ready to get home to bed.

Did I hold out and rely perfectly on God the whole time? Nope. Definitely got anxious by San Francisco. But I think He gets it. I’m a small person in a big world, and sometimes my faith feels small too. Perhaps this was a good reminder to me that God doesn’t demand perfect faith.

Just faith. He can work with that.