The Best…

I mentioned last week I’m working on a new website. I hope to launch it in the near future, and I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready.

My goal is to have a page on the website where I can share my story and travels through photos, so the project this afternoon has been looking through photos from various trips I’ve done over the last several years. As I looked at photos from Afghanistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, China, Jordan, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, the UK, Ireland, and more, I realized just how much God has allowed me to see and do in the last thirty-six years.

Yes, there are things I haven’t gotten to do, promises made that weren’t kept, disappointments in abundance at times. During this past week, I have learned that without God’s intervention, another disappointment (with the potential to alter my future in major ways) may be waiting just around the corner.

Even still, God has been faithful. I have lived a pretty remarkable life so far, and I get the feeling it is still just getting to the good part. The best is yet to come!

I don’t know what story you have lived so far. I would imagine there have been some difficult chapters and some good ones too. Maybe you’ve seen the world, or maybe you’ve seen just around your own neighborhood. Perhaps you’re living your dream, or maybe you’re currently living a nightmare. Whatever your story is right now, I believe the best is still yet to come.

The God we serve is full of so much more than we can imagine, and He longs for us to open ourselves to receive more of Him all the time. He is faithful to show up in the midst of our stories and bring His best to us if we will allow Him, and His supply is limitless. No matter how many good gifts He has already poured into your life, there are always more available.

I don’t know what will happen in my life during the next few months. I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. None of us know how the current events in our lives will turn out, but that’s okay. As we put our trust in God and allow Him to work in and through us, the best is always ahead of us! Let’s run into the days ahead with our eyes fixed on Him and our faith firmly rooted in His goodness.

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A Visit to “My Island”

My parents came to see me! After 1 year, 1 month, and 1 week, I was reunited with two of my favorite people on the planet, and I was a little surprised at the realization that accompanied their 2.5 week visit…

Ireland is home.

I know I’ve said that before, but if I had any doubt before the arrival of Mom & Dad, it vanished as I showed them around parts of 18 of the 32 counties on this island. We covered quite a bit of ground, and every mile and every step deepened my feeling of being “home”.

As my dad and I walked along a cliff above the Giant’s Causeway, I told him that if I had any doubts that this island has become my home, they were gone because of this visit. I saw a look of confusion cross his face and realized how that statement could be taken wrong. It could sound a bit like I was saying that having him and Mom visit showed me that being thousands of miles away really was a good thing…. I quickly explained my comment with the true reason for my realization…

I was experiencing an unexpected pride with every new piece of my island that I got to show off. I loved that I could finally show off the beauty of this country to people I love, and that they could see how happy I am here.

As much as I miss people back in the States, I cannot imagine living anywhere else right now.

Here (in no particular order) are some photos of the places and things we got to experience…

The amazing thing to me is that there were customers there!

 

Vanishing Lake

Vanishing Lake

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A full Irish breakfast – YUM!

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Mullaghmore

 

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St. Columba’s Church in Drumcliff

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The Giant’s Causeway

Saul Church outside Downpatrick - Believed to be the site of St. Patrick's first church.

Saul Church outside Downpatrick – Believed to be the site of St. Patrick’s first church.

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Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin

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Sunset over the River Liffey in Dublin

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The Dark Hedge

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Downhill beach and Mussenden Temple

 

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A view from Hazelwood Park

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View from Knocknarea

 

Dun Luce castle - believed to be C.S. Lewis' inspiration for Cair Paravel

Dun Luce castle – believed to be C.S. Lewis’ inspiration for Cair Paravel

 

The "chimney" at the Giant's Causeway

The “chimney” at the Giant’s Causeway

Some of the ruins at Glendalough

Some of the ruins at Glendalough

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The cairn at the top of Knocknarea

 

Enjoying the Northern Irish coastline

Enjoying the Northern Irish coastline

I will never tire of views like this.

I will never tire of views like this.

Tulips! My mom's favorite.

Tulips! My mom’s favorite.

View from the ridge above the Giant's Causeway

View from the ridge above the Giant’s Causeway

Mother daughter selfie at Glencar Waterfall

Mother daughter selfie at Glencar Waterfall

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Trinity College Library - Dublin

Trinity College Library – Dublin

At the Upper Lake in Glendalough

At the Upper Lake in Glendalough

The Joys(?) of Living in Ireland!

I can’t believe that I am nearing the 10 month mark of living in Ireland. (Well, minus those 6 weeks I traveled as a homeless wanderer through the UK.) Anyways, it’s been an interesting 10 months, and I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the things that this Florida/Colorado girl finds exciting about life here.

Weather – I’ve lived at least a decade in both Florida and Colorado, and though they are very different, one thing unites them. I heard it said of both of them that if you don’t like the weather, stick around for half an hour and it will likely change. That statement was true of both places too. Weather could be a bit unpredictable.

However, my definition of “unpredictable weather” has changed since arriving in Ireland – much the same as my definition of “mountains’ changed upon moving to Colorado. In the half hour before I began writing this post the scene out my window went from cloudy with a mixture of snow, hail and rain blowing in wind gusts of nearly 50 MPH, to sun with little or no wind, to rain and hail with the sun as a backdrop, and then to cloudy, windy and dry.

My friends, if you don’t like the weather here, too bad. It will change any second, but that change will probably last a minute or ten at best. You might as well just layer up, make sure you’ve got a raincoat, and move along with your plans. It’s not often dry, but it’s usually exciting! 🙂

Taps – When moving to Ireland I expected things to be different in some aspects. I expected to be confused at times, but I had no idea that sinks would be a culprit. In my experience, most sinks have a single tap with two separate pipes delivering water to it. One brings cold water, and if you’re lucky the other brings hot. By using the valves controlling each supply correctly, you can achieve a comfortable temperature at which to wash your hands or complete whatever task has brought you to the sink.

I have found that many sinks here in Ireland missed out on the memo that both hot and cold water could be delivered through the same tap. The result of this is the user being left with a difficult – sometimes painful – choice. When washing my hands in my bathroom, I can choose to cleanse them with water that feels as though it was just delivered by a passing glacier OR I can decide that I’d rather try to get a thorough clean by sterilizing them with water that nearly rolls out of the tap at a boil. Happily, the hot tap does take a bit of time to reach those temperatures, so if it has been long enough between uses and I am quick enough, I can get clean and warm hands without the necessity of burn cream.

Language/phrases – Ah, the English language. Anyone who has traveled even to different areas of the USA (or any other English-speaking country) knows that speaking the same language doesn’t guarantee understanding. I knew many of the words and phrases that I would encounter when coming here. I knew that if I wanted a cookie, I should ask for a biscuit. If I want something similar to what I would normally call a biscuit, I should get a scone. Most things didn’t take me long to switch in my brain.

The first phrase I discovered that was completely new was a way of stating a time. Where I would typically say “six-thirty” if I saw 6:30 on a clock, people here said “half-six”. That makes perfect sense, but it still took some getting used to.

Another phrase I hear a lot from some people is “yer man”. When watching a tennis match with a friend, she kept saying, “yer man’s playing very good” or “oh, yer man slipped”, etc. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was so confused. The running monologue in my head went something like this: “I don’t have a man. He’s not mine. I’m not even cheering for him. I want the other guy to win.” After subsequent conversations with this friend and others, I have realized that this is a generic phrase to refer to any random guy. Thankfully, I have realized that all of the men my friends mention do not in fact belong to me.

The final word that continues to confuse me is tea. When someone invites me for tea, I still have to figure out whether I should expect a cup of tea or an evening meal. Obviously the time of day is a clue, but if it’s getting near evening hours, I’m lost. I will admit that I have on occasion eaten a small amount of food before visiting my friends because I figured if I am served a meal the small salad I ate at home will not keep me from enjoying a portion of the dinner; however, if I am offered a cup of tea and biscuits, I will not starve or eat an entire plate of “digestives”.

Daylight – Having spent most of my life far closer to the Equator, I’m used to the sun being a bit more present during the day. Of course there were months when it wasn’t bright outside as early or late, but I don’t believe it was ever like this. At the moment, I must admit it is a bit difficult to get moving in the morning because the sun doesn’t show itself until nearly 9:00 am. While the days are beginning to get longer now, and the sun stays out until about 4:30 pm, the evenings still seem long. Just think, though, in a few short months I get to look forward to days that go from about 4:00 am until 11:00 pm again. I know there are many places in the world where this is the case, but it’s new to me, and it has taken some adjustment.

Home – That’s nearly enough for now, but I’ll mention one final thing that caught me off guard in moving to Ireland. I had no idea how quickly this place would become home. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I do know that if I leave, a part of me will stay behind. I will always love Ireland with its quirks and even its frustrations. This is my home for as long as God will allow it be!

My Cereal Box Sign…

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook about my first experience ever of standing on the street with a cardboard sign. I was asked for the whole story, so I thought it was about time for a new blog post. 🙂

I have mentioned previously that I am currently traveling around the UK looking at sites that have significance in Christian history. During the past 3 weeks, I have visited Armagh, Downpatrick, Saul, and Belfast in Northern Ireland, Paisley, Glasgow, Oban, the Isle of Mull, the Isle of Iona, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Melrose, and Roslin in Scotland, and Holy Island and York in England. (Not all of these places held significance for my research, but they are places I have traveled.)

Last Thursday was the day I had planned to leave Scotland and travel to Holy Island. I had been given the names of a couple living there whom I should contact for help both with my research and with getting to the island (which is a tidal island). When I called them a couple of days prior to this portion of the trip, I was told there may or may not be a bus running to the island that day (which I already knew there wasn’t), so my best option for travel was to take a bus from the train station in Berwick-Upon-Tweed to a place called Beal. From there it is 2-3 miles across the causeway and then another 1-2 into the town on Holy Island, so the recommendation was to make a sign that said “Holy Island, please?”

After that phone call, I also began looking online for accommodation on the island. Without knowing it, I had chosen to arrive on the island for the first half of a bank holiday weekend… I called nearly every hotel and B&B on the island, but there wasn’t a single vacancy. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure a wanted a vacancy because I wasn’t convinced I could afford a room. Prices for a single room ranged from 50-85£ per night – which, with the exchange rate, is nearly $100-170!

I finally found a place with a vacancy the night before I was leaving. It would cost 60£ a night, and it was across the causeway from the island. So, I began asking God if I should take that room. It would mean less time on the island because I would only cross on the Friday morning and then have to be back across that evening before the tides came in. I wanted to experience the quiet of the island during the evenings when the tourists had gone, rushing to beat the tides, but maybe that wasn’t necessary after all.

In the end, I decided to step out on a limb with God. The worst that could happen was that I would have to find a bench to spend the night on, or that I would have to leave the island and hope that room on the mainland was still available – provided I could get a lift)… Right? I felt like God was asking me to stop planning for a bit and just let Him show up for me, whatever that looked like.

Of course, when I woke on Thursday, it was to the sound of a downpour. The weather had gone from sunny and very warm on Wednesday to cold, windy, and pouring. However, I continued with my plan, so as I finished my cereal, I saved the box for a later part of my journey and off I went. 🙂

The train trip was fairly uneventful, and after about an hour the bus which would drop me at Beal arrived. Unfortunately, the bus was having some issues, and it kept stalling. Eventually we arrived at my stop, and I do hope that the bus made it through the rest of its route.

Because of the tide times, I had a bit of a wait until the causeway opened, so I bought lunch and enjoyed it while standing inside the convenience store. As my current host would say, it was raining cats, dogs, gerbils and a number of other things.

Finally, it was time to try out my sign. I had borrowed a pen at the train station, and my cereal box was now a cry for help. 🙂 The cry was heard, and after only about 10-15 minutes, I was in a car with a lovely couple headed for Holy Island.

After a pause in a cafe to warm up with some hot cocoa, I made my way to the home of my contacts. There, I was treated to tea and a very enjoyable and informative chat about the history of some of those who were part of spreading the gospel throughout this land during the centuries following the fall of the Roman empire in Britain.

Before I left the house, with one phone call, arrangements had been made for me to have accommodation in a house with the most beautiful view of Lindisfarne Castle, a short walk from every place a needed to visit, and a lovely lady who provided breakfast each morning. All of this for less than half the price of the hotel I nearly settled for on the mainland.

Would God have provided the money if I had made a reservation to be safe? Of course, but where is the fun in that? If I learn nothing else on this journey, I have more proof than ever, that God is faithful. Using wisdom is a must, and I highly doubt you’d find me hitching a lift into London or some place like that. However, planning too much and leaving no room for God to show up and surprise you can be dangerous too. I’m sure I would have enjoyed a day on Holy Island with the comfort of a room to go back to, but I would have missed out on the adventure of stepping out of the boat and seeing Jesus show Himself faithful again… Always.

Perspective

The weeks of travel have begun, and I must say God is taking my level of anticipation a bit higher each day. He is providing contacts, accommodations, transportation, and opportunities that I had not imagined.

Only a week into this adventure, and already, I cannot choose just one highlight. Each day has held a special moment or event or connection of some sort.

However, there is a moment that stands out in my mind as I think about the last week because it was a tangible fulfillment of God’s promises to me. I found a random photo of a sunset behind a little church to serve as my desktop background on my computer last year as I prepared to come here. It was my reminder that God had promised I would make my home on the Emerald Isle, at least for a time.

On Saturday, I took a bus from Belfast to the town of Downpatrick. A couple of miles outside that town is a beautiful little church, the same little church that has been at home on my computer screen for the last several months. This is my own photo of it.
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I was so excited to see this little building that represented the promises of God to me for a while, but there was something far more interesting that I found when I got there….

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I don’t know how accurate the information on this sign is, as I have a sign from another church that claims it was where St. Patrick established a church. It is accepted that this is a likely spot for the beginnings of his ministry in Ireland, but honestly, who really knows the exact location?

What did strike me about this is that there was a church established in this locale nearly 13.5 centuries before my country was founded. Yes, I realize the land was there, and there were people living there. I’m not here to get into the politics surrounding the beginnings of what is now the United States of America. The reason I bring this up is that it once again gave me the perspective of how small I am in the grand scheme of things.

Somehow seeing buildings that are older than my country has a way of bringing into focus how relatively new the USA is in the annals of history. I know many people (both from the USA and not) who become so ethnocentric, so focused on the history, accomplishments or contributions of their own nation that they forget it is not the center of the globe, let alone the universe… I don’t often find myself thinking that way, but there is something about realizing how “young” the USA is that solidifies that acknowledgement.

In addition to the realization that the USA is young, I have a new appreciation for how big it is. In the past 2.5 weeks, I have been on the  coast at each side of this island – north, south, east and west. In fact, I looked it up, and to drive from the southwest side of the island to the northeast would likely take 7 hours or less. By contrast, driving from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL would take 48 hours or more…

These realizations combined could make one feel very insignificant. I am one person from a massive country that has been in existence a fraction of the time that buildings I’m seeing have been standing. And yet, I am feeling quite the opposite. In the midst of realizing how small I am, I have seen how BIG the story I have been invited into is.

As I travel and meet people and learn more about the men and women from centuries past, I am seeing more and more that they were incredible people. I am also reminded that they were still people. St. Patrick was an incredible fellow, and his story is fascinating – no matter what version of it I happen to read! 🙂 I believe the most significant thing about his story though, is the same thing that makes the heroes of faith from Hebrews 11 and throughout history stand out from the crowd…

He said yes to God.

He answered a call to serve God no matter the circumstances. He was willing when others questioned his sanity. He obeyed the God he knew and loved, and because of his obedience and love for God, the world is a different place today.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a man who once considered himself a Christian. During the hours after I met him, he explained to me why he no longer believes in the things he was taught as a child. As the conversation progressed he asked me why I believe we are here. I answered something along the lines of God wanting others with whom to share relationship.

While this man believes in an almighty being and creator, when I asked him the same question, his answer was something along the line of “to play our part”. I don’t have time to fully explain the conversation, and honestly, I’m not sure I would be able to if I did have time. Suffice it to say that in his mind, we are “cells” in the organism of earth, and we are here simply to do our part to keep the whole being healthy. (If I understood correctly in my sleep deprived state, the earth is also a part meant to work toward the health of the next level out which is the solar system, I think…)

Maybe I’m being picky, but that doesn’t seem to answer my question. If a creator was involved in the beginning of these systems within systems, what is the purpose of any of it. If each is only there to sustain the life of the greater system, why make the first system to begin with? What is the overall purpose? If I am meant only to be a cog in a wheel, I’d like to know what the purpose of the wheel is.

That story may seem out-of-place in a post about St. Patrick and old buildings, but in my mind they are connected. As I thought about what I might have said differently yesterday (had I had the chance to really say anything), I realized that all of this really is about perspective. The lens through which we see reality, God and ourselves makes a huge difference in how we live.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a cog in a wheel. My existence is not just a means of making some grand cosmic system function, and neither is yours! No matter how old or young, big or small your place of origin is, no matter what good or bad things have happened in your past, no matter how small you feel in the scheme of things, you have an important part to play in history.

God is the Almighty Creator, and He has a very good reason for knitting you together in the way He did. As you are in relationship with God, responding to Him, and willing to say yes, you, like St. Patrick, can be part of shaping history for centuries to come!

Expectation or Expectancy?

I have often used these words interchangeably, but I’m learning lately that there is a difference. It may not seem like a big deal to change a few letters, but the truth is, the dissimilarity has affected my emotional and spiritual well-being for years!

The dictionary defines these words as nearly the same thing, but their connotations in my mind affect the very foundations of what I believe about God and His promises.

So, what’s the difference? Hopefully, I can put this into words in a way that makes sense.

Expectation feels demanding. When someone says “I expect” this or that, I often understand it to mean that any less – or different – is not acceptable. If I am given a responsibility, I want to know the expectations that go along with it so that I can be sure to meet them.

There, that is the idea I’m looking for. Expectations are things which exist to be met. They are specific, and it’s difficult to accept anything that doesn’t look the way it’s expected to.

Expectancy, on the other hand, feels open. It is a feeling of anticipation for something. It is HOPE.

I have written a lot in past posts about the things I felt God has promised me. (I was going to say recent weeks, but I’ve not written in weeks. Forgive the absence, please!) These past few years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs – high times filled with expectation for the fulfillment of promises, and then times where I feel I’m falling into some seemingly bottomless chasm of disappointment.

Even in the most recent post, I wrote all about the “broad place” that God has been promising to bring me to during this season.  Yet, here I am 7 weeks after arriving, still crashing in someone’s guestroom.  For a while, I was stressing out about it, frantically looking for a place to call home. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t meeting my expectations and demands for Him to fulfill His promise on my schedule and to my specifications.

The problem is He never promised that I would be all settled and unpacked within a couple of weeks. He never said I would have my own apartment, or even my own room. He didn’t promise internet, or a washing machine, or a kitchen sink for that matter!

God promised me a “place” of rest, of ministry, of growth. My stress and disappointment was acute because I interpreted His words, and then built my expectations on that interpretation. As soon as I lay down my own ideas, stopped stressing, and let go, not only was a weight lifted, but new possibilities suddenly had room to make a home in my mind.

The very morning that I finally gave up my search for the perfect housing solution, I decided to make the most of my season of living out of a suitcase. Within hours of first thinking of the idea, plans were forming and I had talked to my leaders and family… I would go on an epic adventure!

Part of the ministry I have been asked to do here in Ireland requires some travel for research purposes. It had been in the back of my mind to do a couple of short trips in the UK to check out some of the Celtic era monasteries and abbeys in Scotland and England, but I hadn’t given a ton of thought to when. As I thought about my living situation, suddenly it just made sense to do all the travel before I start paying rent and bills here in Sligo.

I realize now that this is an incredibly obvious solution, so feel free to say “Duh!” I have said it to myself several times so far. That is simply an illustration of how my expectations for what I thought God would do clouded my mind and blocked out an obvious benefit to my current circumstances. 🙂

All that to say, I will be leaving my temporary home in Sligo next week for a journey that will take me all around the British Isles. I’ll start by seeing three or four places in Northern Ireland, then a ferry to Scotland and travels to several different parts of Scotland, England and Wales. Finally, I’ll catch a ferry back to Dublin via the Isle of Man to see some sites in other counties of Ireland before returning to Sligo.

I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m guessing I’ll be gone for maybe 6 weeks. I don’t have an itinerary. I am traveling on my own, just me and Jesus, and I am filled with expectancy! I have no expectations for what God will do, but I am filled with a sense of anticipation to see what He will do during the next two months! Divine appointments, incredible provision (I don’t know how, but to travel in the UK for several weeks will require some pretty amazing provision.), fun, and new knowledge of history, Christianity, God and myself.  Those are some pretty basic ideas of what might be a part of this, but I anticipate surprises all along the way!

I am so excited to see what will take place over the next two months. There are so many unknowns – I could end up sleeping in a bus depot somewhere, but I cannot suppress the feeling of hope and expectancy that is building inside me. I don’t know what to expect, and I LOVE that! I am simply going to be obedient, take the steps He shows me, and watch in amazement at the ways He shows up.

I appreciate prayers for wisdom, safety, provision, and anything else you’d like to pray for me. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted and hopefully be able to post some photos along the way.

Now, based on the length of this post, I should probably sign off so you can all go and thank the Lord that I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone when I was at the castle last week! 🙂

That One Time in Uzbekistan

On the road from Termez to Tashkent. (The way back was uneventful.)

Somewhere in Uzbekistan

Having been to nearly 30 countries in the last 20 years, I’ve got a fair number of fun stories I can tell. Who knows, maybe my next book will be a book of fun stories – assuming I write another one… When I think of crazy overseas stories, though, there is one that always comes to mind first: The trip from Tashkent to Termez, Uzbekistan during my first trip to Afghanistan.

It was just before Christmas in 2002, and I was part of a team of 7 heading into Northern Afghanistan to work with a development organization for 2 months. Since the town we would be going to was only 3-4 hours from the border of Uzbekistan, we flew into Tashkent, spent a couple of days there, traveled in taxis to Termez (the border town), spent the night, and crossed the border the next day before getting taxis to our temporary home… Sounds easy, right?

Depending on how much you’ve traveled in Central Asia – or anywhere in the third world – you may see several steps in that process that could go terribly wrong. Flights were delayed, we were stranded for a day in Seoul, S. Korea on the way to Tashkent, and extra fees were charged in airports because of the delays, but finally we arrived in Tashkent. I had been there for a couple of months earlier in the year, so we found our housing and met up with our hosts fairly easily. The time in Tashkent went well, and surely the worst was behind us.

WRONG!

Our Uzbek host in Tashkent arranged our transportation to Termez. He would meet us and the driver, send us on our way, and then we would meet up with someone else at the guesthouse. It seemed simple enough, but then again we were in the part of the world where things are rarely “simple”.

Though he was asked SEVERAL times, our host would not give us the address of our destination in Termez. Instead, he assured us repeatedly that our drivers knew where they were going. And yes, I said drivers… Instead of the van we had asked for, we would be traveling in 3 taxis. Don’t worry, though; the drivers know to stay to together. No problem.

So, off we went. Thankfully, we had 3 men on the team, and so each car had a man to accompany us ladies. Because there were only 2 of us in my car, the rest of the back seat was loaded with luggage. (Remember that bit of info for later in the story.) The ride was meant to be about 9 hours, plus time to stop for lunch along the way, so even with the fact that we left about an hour after our scheduled departure time, we were in decent shape.

As you may imagine, our cars were separated before we even got out of the city. For the rest of the drive we kept our eyes peeled for cars that looked like those carrying our team mates. And we did see them once. It was at the top of the mountain pass we had to cross, and there were many cars there. Several were stuck, and several (including ours) had to be pushed to move over a particularly nasty patch of ice. I still look back at that and thank the Lord we didn’t slide off the mountain. 🙂 By the time we traversed that bit of craziness, the other cars were long gone, not to be seen again for far too many hours.

There were a couple of stops along the way. One, a brief stop in Samarkand so our driver could buy bread, (which he was kind enough to share bits of with us since we had no money to buy our own). Another was at a tea/coffee shop where our driver bought the 3 of us coffee. I choked down the bitter but sweet concoction very aware that I was the only female in the building that wasn’t serving the drinks. (Aside from the piece of bread and the cup of coffee, my friend and I shared a 1.5 litre bottle of water and a snickers bar during the trip.)

After approximately 12 hours in the car, thanks to the snowy mountain pass traffic jam and extremely dense fog for many miles, we finally arrive on the outskirts of Termez. Praise the Lord! Unfortunately, this is the moment where our situation goes from bad to worse. Our taxi driver, who speaks only Russian, looks at the guy on my team and asks “Where to?” (I recognized the question only because of my previous visit to Uzbekistan.)

We showed our driver the paper we had with the name of the organization we were to work with hoping that he would know where the guesthouse was they typically used. He was unfamiliar with the group, and so he took us to the Red Crescent Society – the equivalent of the Red Cross in that part of the world. By this time it was after 9pm, and they could not help us. We drove around the town for quite sometime, everyone in the car becoming more desperate as time wore on.

Finally, he drove us outside of town to the UN compound. At least there would be someone there who could speak English, and so a spark of hope was kindled. We were invited in, given tea, and a call was made to the police. All vehicles coming into town were stopped at checkpoints, and the idea was that perhaps we could track down the other cars through that avenue – especially if they had given an address.

The head of the UN offered us beds (for a price, of course), but I couldn’t leave the rest of the team with no word of our whereabouts – especially since the occupants of one of the other cars were my parents and I knew they were freaking out! 🙂 And so, off we went again, this time with a new passenger, a young Uzbek UN worker with a crush on me… Thankfully I didn’t find that out until later in our adventures. (This is where it becomes important to remember that 1/2 to 2/3 of the backseat was filled with stuff. The car was now quite crowded!)

We drove around town a while longer, stopping occasionally at various locations to check one thing or another. Honestly, I’m not really sure what happened during these stops because as a girl, I was told to stay in the car at all times. I do know that, at each place with a telephone, a call was made to the sister of our young UN friend, who spoke English. During these calls, the phone would be passed back and forth between my friend, the driver, and the young man so that the sister could translate conversations for them.

Finally, we ended up at the home of our young friend. We met his sister, and were given some small snacks and probably some more tea while he called back to the UN to see if there had been any new information discovered. Lo and behold, they had tracked down the other cars, and we had an address! As we began to make our way outside to pile into the car one last time, the young lady who had been so helpful began to ask if I was married or had a boyfriend because her brother… I made my apologies that I really needed to be on my way, and while I am very grateful for all of their help, I didn’t think it would work out. I must find and talk to my parents, after all!

At long last, we were reunited with the rest of the team at midnight! 15 hours, very little food or drink, a LOT of praying, and quite an adventure later, we were where we were supposed to be.

Come to find out, the other cars, though they had been separated most of the day, arrived in town at about the same time. They connected at the checkpoint and were able to figure out fairly quickly where to take their passengers – though they had not been given the address either. They arrive at the guesthouse not too long before we pulled into town and began the craziness. They stood outside for a while, hoping that we might happen by. (They assumed that since their drivers didn’t know where to go, that ours would not either.)

Unfortunately, they had moved inside to wait, worry, and pray mere minutes before we pulled up at the Red Crescent Society, ACROSS THE STREET from the guesthouse!

Though not the most fun I had ever had at the time, this will probably always be one of my favorite stories. God was good, and protected us, not to mention the lessons I learned in the process. Lessons such as, if possible, never get into a taxi without knowing the destination, always make sure you have at least a small amount of currency for wherever you are, always have the personal contact number of SOMEONE, and always find the fun in every situation, even the unscheduled adventures! 🙂