Remember the TV stories and pictures of the ash plume spewed from an Iceland volcano that shut down most of Europe’s airports and stranded millions of passengers worldwide? That was not about statistics for me; that was the helplessness of being unable to get home from Frankfurt, Germany.
My husband Ray and I, along with our colleague from Probe Ministries Todd Kappelman, were on our way home from sharing some of Probe’s worldview and apologetics material with young adult believers in Belarus. Before leaving Minsk we learned about the volcanic eruption in Iceland, but it was too far away to have any impact on our flight. We checked our bags all the way through to DFW, since we only had a one-night stay in Frankfurt. My small sack with nightwear and a change of clothing was inadvertently stuck in one of the checked bags instead of a carry-on, but I shrugged it off since it was only one night.
That’s what we thought.
German airports were shut down two hours before our Dallas-bound flight was scheduled to leave. Lufthansa covered what turned into a three-night stay and all our meals. We were so grateful for God’s provision of a bed to sleep in and three meals a day when thousands of people were stuck at airports worldwide because their airlines did not cover these needs, or their visas did not allow them to leave the transit zone.
Processing this experience through the grid of a biblical worldview colors the way we thought–and continue to think–about our “adventure.”
We know that the sovereign Lord of the universe is in control of volcanoes, and eruptions, and winds, and the timing of it all. He is in control of the world’s flight systems. He is in control of our schedules. He knew when He allowed us to be stranded in Germany that Todd had philosophy classes to teach at Dallas Baptist University, that Ray had a number of events and meetings scheduled in his role as president of Probe, that I was scheduled to speak at several events in New Mexico. And He allowed us to be stranded in far-easier Germany, not in Belarus; twenty-four hours later, and our flight out of Minsk would have been cancelled. That would have meant an additional four days in a country that is not only very handicap-unfriendly (there are stairs everywhere) but the spiritual darkness is oppressive. He provided food and shelter for us. He gave grace for Ray and me to have our laptops with us, with internet access from our hotel room. We only had the clothes we were wearing on the plane from Minsk, but it was early spring and the temperatures were comfortable enough that they didn’t stink.
We didn’t know how long we would be in Germany, or when we’d see our luggage again. We DID know that God is good, and the fact that we were blessed with so much favor doesn’t mean that He loves the people stuck inside the airports any less. Or that any of us did anything wrong to have Him punish us.
And then He just plain showed off in getting us home. He put us on the only flight to the U.S. before the airport was closed again. And all five of our bags made it onto our flight, even though they were tagged for Dallas/Ft. Worth. The whole plane broke into applause as we pulled away from the gate, and then again when we landed on American soil. I loved it!
We are aware that the more the world grows flat and interconnected, the greater the fragility of the systems. So many of our comforts and so much of our technology relies on everything continuing to run smoothly without interruption. It is good for us as human beings to be reminded that we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our souls, as the obnoxiously humanistic poem Invictus declares. God is bigger and more powerful than we are; a Fall-impacted nature, producing things like disruptions from volcanic eruptions, is bigger and more powerful than we are. We are tiny and insignificant in the face of something like Iceland’s exploding mountain; and yet, God still counts the hairs on our head and is still Immanuel, God with us—whether in an “adventure,” or a disaster, or the blessedly uneventful days of blessedly uneventful routine.
As we lived from hour to hour, waiting to see when the skies would reopen, we clung to the truth of this bottom line: God is still good. He is still loving. He is still sovereign.
And now that we’re home, we still live by these truths.