27 January 2009

Home Sweet Home

Finally... Thursday, January 22 arrived... the day we were scheduled to fly back home to Niger and the rest of our family... but that day didn't start off too well. In the few days before, Jonathan, Elsie Mae and Mary Michelle all began to get sick. At first, it was just head colds, but Elsie's progressed into a fairly bad case of croup and I had spent most of the night using steam and holding her head up so that she could breathe... wondering if she was too sick to get on a plane for 8 hours and fly half way around the world. So we called her doctor first thing Thursday morning and they felt she needed to be seen. Fortunately, after a thorough check up and two different prescriptions, we were given the OK to go ahead and make the trip instead of postponing until the next week.

While Gampy and Uncle Rich loaded the van with our 9 pieces of luggage, we bundled the kids up in their removable layers (since we were going from a Michigan winter to the Sahara Desert), gave hugs and kisses goodbye to the aunts, uncles and cousins and then departed for the airport.

While I was greatly looking forward to getting home, I was dreading the getting there part. After all, I was traveling with three small ones, our full quota of allowable luggage with no time to waste in Paris to make our connection... So I'd been asking many - family, friends, our churches - to please pray for us on Thursday and Friday as we made our voyage. Surely, we felt God's presence all along the way with us, and sensed the power and grace granted as a result of those prayers.

We had bulkhead seats on both flights (for anyone who has traveled with a lap child, that bassinette in the wall in front of you is a huge blessing... it was so nice to be able to lay the little peanut there... especially at meal time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old on each side, trying to navigate an airplane meal... or when both littles decided at the same time that they needed to use the bathroom). The stewards and stewardesses with Air France were incredibly kind, gracious and helpful - anticipating needs, chatting with the kids to help them feel comfortable and accomodating whenever they could. They even stuffed a large bottle of water and several sweet cakes into my backpack for the kids to eat/drink while we waited for our next flight. Since my wallet "disappeared" somewhere after security in the Detroit airport (I almost panicked when I realized we were traveling with NO money or credit cards), I was thankful... and I didn't even have to ask.

As we exited the plane in Paris, I was surprised to be met by an Air France employee who escorted us from our arrival gate, through security (where we received priority attention) all the way to our departure gate. He pushed one of the strollers and carried one of our bags the whole way, and didn't leave until he'd pointed out the bathrooms and seen that we were settled into our seats to await the next flight. God was certainly taking care of us!

Since I'd been up all night, I laid down to close my eyes for a few minutes... while Rebekah held the baby and Jon and Elsie sat in their strollers and played with the toys in their carry ons. Rebekah woke me up 45 minutes later - they'd called for our flight to board! Just about that time, the mother of one of our missionary friends, who was also on the flight, showed up and helped us navigate everything onto the plane... and kept prompting the flight attendants to make sure all of our needs were being met. :-)

Arriving in Niamey, once again the flight attendants and airport staff were incredibly helpful, helping to carry bags and just woken up children down the steep stairs used to exit the plane. On the bus ride from the plane to the airport, a kind gentleman offered to help get the kids into the immigration department, even reading passport and visa/residence permit numbers while I filled out the immigration paperwork for all 5 of us.

Safana, our houseworker, had persuaded the security folks to allow her to come back into the airport to help us (normally everyone has to wait outside), and the airport staff enjoyed observing the kids' delighted reactions at seeing one of our favorite persons! By the time we had cleared immigration, our porter had already collected all of our luggage (same guy we always use, so he knows us and even recognizes our luggage tags!), waved at the customs officials as they oohed and awww-ed over Mary's full head of silvery blonde hair (I did have to convince one of the ladies that if she really wanted to keep Mary, she'd have to come and talk with Mary's daddy first, since he'd never yet met his baby), and walked out of the airport to see the rest of the family.

So, all of that to say - Thank you to the Lord for providing us with a "so much better than I ever could have dreamed or imagined" trip! And thanks to so many of you who remembered to pray for us. We surely felt the power of those prayers. We are so thankful to be back together - it has been delightful to let everyone meet Mary Michelle, to hear our gang exchanging stories and experiences of the past 3 months... even to hear them fussing at each other again.

And... after having shoveled snow almost every 3-4 days for the past 8 weeks, I'm delighted to announce that I'm happily back to the full time job of keeping the Sahara Desert from moving into my house!


  1. Very glad to hear of an excellent travel experience - did your wallet ever show up?? What a happy reunion for you all!

  2. Glad you are all back together again!! From snow shoveling to sand sweeping--what a contrast!


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