International travel is always an adventure. However, this trip started out with more than I like. First of all, at the time our flight was to be boarding in Oklahoma City, we were told that the flight crew had not arrived. As it turns out, three had arrived, but they were looking for the fourth. Finally, they came to the plane, hoping that the other flight attendant would show up. She did looking hurried, harried, disheveled and embarrassed. Shortly thereafter, we backed away from the gate, only about 10 minutes late. I was keenly aware that I only had a one hour layover in Houston to make my connecting flight to Managua, Nicaragua (it had been suggested to me that I try that route as an alternative). After backing away from the gate, we sat…..for about 30 minutes before being told that there was a problem with the plane and we would have to return to the gate and de-plane. The delay only lasted about 10 minutes, but by the time we were able to take off, we were more than an hour late and I had serious doubts that I would make my connection. Because of that, I had talked to the personnel at the gate in Oklahoma City and they had backed me up on the next flight to Managua, which left at 6:10 p.m., 9 hours later than the original.
We landed in Houston 5 minutes after my connection left. Of course, it was in a different terminal so it took me about 20 minutes to get there anyway. After visiting the customer service desk and getting a new boarding pass, I settled in to wait. Actually, the waiting didn’t begin until after almost an hour of frantic calling trying to tell the men who were coming to pick me up in Managua that I was not on that plane. As I learned later, their Honduran phones don’t work in Nicaragua. I had no way of knowing if they received the message or not. Because of my frequent flyer miles, I was able to spend that time in the President’s Club of Continental Airlines, so the wait was not uncomfortable, just boring.
I finally made it to Managua at 8:30 p.m., local time. By the time I had cleared immigration and customs it was 9:00 p.m. I still did not know if anyone was waiting for me or not. One of the greatest things I have ever seen was a hand waiving that caught my attention. There was brother Nery on the other side of the glass and he was motioning in the direction of the door where I found Jesús waiting. After a very relieved greeting we headed for the pickup truck. It was too late to be traveling 200 kilometers to the border of Honduras, so we headed across the street to a nice hotel where we found a room with three twin beds and settled in for the night. The next morning we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel and then hit the road. We arrived in Danlí at the Hotel Grenada about 11:30 a.m. About 4:00 in the afternoon I walked over to the church building and met with one of the new students and we visited about his situation some. After returning to the hotel to get my Bible, I returned for the class with the congregation at 6:00. It was a good class; it’s good to see the brethren of the El Zarzal congregation every time I do.
Sunday morning worship begins at 10:00 a.m. About 8:00 a.m. the power went off in the hotel. It came back on about 10 minutes later. When I arrived for worship, I learned that there was no power there either and that it had been off since 8:00. It seems the hotel has its own generator and that’s why the power had come back on there. I was to preach today, but there was no light and I was going to have read out of my Bible in order to preach my lesson. Well, I generally move around a lot when I preach, so it worked out that when I needed to read, I was close to the window. After worship we had our regular class and then I returned to the hotel for some lunch and a little siesta.
A little past 2:00, Nery and Yoni (one of our graduates) came by and picked me up and after picking up Nery’s brother Jairo (one of our new students) we headed south to the town of El Paraíso (Paradise) and visited with two of the new students who live there, one of them is the father of Yoni Gonzalez, brother Porfirio, who preaches in the mountain community of La Union. I met him about a year ago when I visited that area. The elevation of La Union is quite a bit higher than El Paraíso, but brother Porfirio travels up there every Sunday to preach the Gospel…by bicycle!! I asked him how long it takes to get up there on a bicycle. He said about an hour and a half. As we were leaving El Paraíso we could see the rain that had descended on Danlí. It looked like an angry cloud. On the way back, we took a short detour to the little town of Cuyalí, where live two more of our new students and we visited with both of them for a bit. So, on this trip I have gotten to meet and visit with 6 of our 7 new students. Four of the six I talked to I have met before. One still has not arrived in the area so I won’t get to meet him until classes start on August 1.
When we arrived back at Jairo’s house, or when we turned onto his street, we could see that the street was flooded. We were able to drive up it, but the water was moving very quickly. I was concerned for Jairo’s safety as he exited the pickup, but he made it fine, having to cross quite a stream to get to his front door. All of that water flows into the creek that runs past the church building at El Zarzal and which threatens to cut the street in two. On the way back out of that neighborhood, Nery showed me homes that are below the level of that street by a good bit and which suffer horribly during floods like this. When I arrived back at the hotel, the night manager told me to be careful because there was water in the passageway to my room. I negotiated that just fine, but when I entered the room I could see that a leak had started over one of the beds. I informed the management and was moved to another room, but it took a little bit to find one that was dry. None of my things were affected and I was fine, just a little inconvenienced; nothing like the people having to deal with real problems because of this flooding.
Monday broke with the sun shining and the streets around the hotel appeared dry by the time I got out, but since I had the morning free, I didn’t get out until mid-morning. Although the rain had gone for the time being, it was very hot and humid. By the time I returned to the hotel from about an hour of walking to the local grocery store (the new La Colonia supermarket is really nice) and back, I was drenched with sweat. Shortly after lunch I walked over to the church building and met Nery who had spent the morning taking his father to Tegucigalpa for his bi-weekly physical therapy. After enjoying a cup of coffee with the Irías family, we headed downtown to do some research on the availability of broadband internet access at our location. It seems this is a possibility, but it will be expensive. While at the building, Nery showed me a video he had taken Sunday evening of the creek that runs along two sides of the church property. I mentioned earlier that the flooding was bad in the part of town we were in. Well, all that water has to go down that creek, as I also said. I have uploaded that video onto my computer and will try to make it available somehow, but it shows how the water crested about one meter below the top of its banks. It was quite a scary time for Nery’s wife Daisy who was at home alone for a while as the water climbed.
Our business concluded for the afternoon, I took the memory chip to put that video on my computer and headed back to the hotel. Just as I walked outside, I heard thunder, so I didn’t waste any time walking back. I had been in my room less than five minutes when the rain started; it sounded like it did the night before and others times when the flooding has been so bad. I hope everyone is ok. The rain was as hard as the day before, but it didn’t last as long.
In the evening I met with Nery, his wife Daisy and their two children (Nery Felipe, who today turned 16, and Amalia who turned 12 in May), Jesús and his son Rafael, and Luis David and his wife (I’m embarrassed that I do not remember her name) for dinner at a local restaurant called Ovi y Ser. That is the usual place for our dinner/faculty meetings when I’m there. We had a great time together. After dinner I returned to the hotel and packed for my trip home the next day.
On Tuesday, Jesús and Nery were at my door early for breakfast. I learned, however, that Nery could not accompany us to the airport because Daisy woke up sick and he was headed to find a doctor. After breakfast, I checked out of the hotel and we headed to Tegucigalpa and the airport. The flight to Houston was uneventful and even though we were a few minutes late, I wasn’t worried because on this trip I had a five-hour layover since my final flight to Oklahoma City did not leave until 9:15 p.m.
Not long after our arrival, things began to “go south.” The scheduled departure of my flight began to be pushed back. Before long it was not scheduled to leave until after 10:00 p.m. After dinner I headed to the gate and found that the gate had been changed, but it wasn’t far so I moved and found a “great host” of people gathered there waiting for more than just a couple of flights. Before it was all said and done, my 9:15 p.m. flight did not take off until 12:25 a.m. We landed in Oklahoma City right around 1:45 a.m. and we got home about 2:30 a.m. I guess I had time for a second helping at supper.
All in all, even with the frustrations of travel (more this time than usual) it was a very productive trip and I came and went in perfect safety, due in no small part to the prayers of so many. I thank you all and pray God’s blessings on each of you.