Marianne wrote a guest post the other day. She’ll have another tomorrow, too!
God did it. There is no other explanation. The time from when God called me to teach at the Philippine College of Ministry (PCM) until my continual and start-up support was raised was only six months. Some missionaries spend years raising the support they need. God called me to the Philippines and provided all I needed to go.
My last semester of college was a whirlwind of activities. I was raising support, studying hard, building relationships with supporters, graduating, and spending as much time with family and friends as I could. Was I excited? Yes. Was I physically ready? Yes. Was I spiritually ready? Yes! Was I emotionally ready? NO! In all honesty, how can you be emotionally ready to leave all your family, friends, culture, comforts, and Taco Bell? (Yes, I was addicted to Taco Bell.)
It was 17 days after graduation. Departure day had come quickly. As my parents drove me to the Detroit airport my mind wandered around the world and back (literally). What are the Filipino people like? Did I pack the right clothes? What kind of furniture will I be able to find? Do they sell deodorant there? If they do not, are the 20 bottles I packed enough to last until my first visit home? Did I remember my passport and plane ticket? (I checked again for the 8th time.)
I was so glad to see my closest friends gathered at the airport. As my parents, my friends and I sat at the gate waiting for my plane (This was pre-9/11.), the airlines announced that my plane would be delayed three hours. Arg! Talk about prolonging the agony of farewells.
Finally, I was called to board the plane. We stood there hugging, refusing to cry, and pretending to be strong for one another. As I boarded the plane, the tears began to flow. (I later found out that they flowed freely from my family and friends as well.)
As the plane began to move, I realized I was past the point of no return (without seriously frustrating more than 300 people on a plane).
My best friend gave me a package to open on the plane. I decided to open it soon after take-off. Among some much appreciated money, there was a Walkman (Yes, I am that old.) and a tape. I decided to listen to the tape. Huge emotional mistake! She made a tape of our favourite songs to sing together and songs of friendship. If I was not enough of an emotional mess before, I certainly was then. I think I scared the flight attendant.
As we neared Japan (the one stopover on the way to Manila), I began to get nervous. I was meeting two missionaries in Japan who flew the same day from California. Our travel agent arranged it so we would meet in Japan and finish the flight to Manila together. They would also be my transportation up to Baguio City where PCM was located. He was the academic dean and his wife the registrar/business manager. I was nervous to meet them but comforted to know I would not be alone upon arriving in the Philippines.
Then it happened, one of the scariest realizations in my life. Since our plane left three hours late, we were not allowed to exit the aircraft in Japan if we were continuing to Manila. To save time, they wanted to refuel and board the passengers joining us while we stayed on the plane. My brain went into panic mode. If I did not get off the plane, how would I find the missionaries? I found the flight attendant who worried about me and explained the situation. She assured me there was nothing to worry about. They would board and we would meet on the plane.
I had never met these people. I only saw one picture of them in an e-mail. After take-off when the pilot finally removed the “fasten seat-belt” sign, I roamed the plane looking for them. Imagine my surprise to find they were not there! As I sat down, I tried to control my breathing.
My mind began spinning. Who would get me at the airport? Did anyone other than those missionaries know that I was arriving? Why didn’t I get any phone numbers of other missionaries (Hind-sight is 20/20.)?
I realized I had a choice. I could panic or I could trust God who brought me safely this far in the journey. I decided to trust God. I had been to Mexico twice, so I was fairly certain I could manage myself in customs and immigration. The only real issue was how long I would sit on the sidewalk outside the airport waiting for someone to come claim me. I decided to put on my brave face.
Upon arriving, I smiled meekly at the man across the aisle and he helped my get my heavy carry-on. I straightened my shoulders and walked as if I knew exactly what I was doing.
I impressed myself that immigration went so smoothly; it gave me the confidence to keep going forward. I was looking ahead to the baggage claim area. It was full of people. As I was walking that direction, I noticed an older (like my mom’s age) woman stopping every white woman from my plane. I wondered what she wanted and why it only concerned white women. When she approached me, she asked if I was Marianne Ellert. (This was before I was married.) I was so relieved I could not even speak. My eyes became teary; all I could do was nod my head.
They found me. I was not lost. The funny (because it’s over) aspect of this adventure is that we were never supposed to meet in Japan. The travel agent did not realize California flights go to one airport in Japan but Detroit flights stop at another.
I am glad I chose to trust God.