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May 18th, 2010

Ukraine Mission Update

Every three years the Singing Men of North Central Texas go on mission. Aaron joined the group just after their trip to the Czech Republic and was very excited about the planned trip to Ukraine. He had gone overseas on mission with a choir in Seminary and I had told him that next time he needed to take me with him. We had been planning for a very long time for both of us to go on this trip. We figured the kids would be old enough to leave with Grandparents by that point and we could make it work.

It took some doing to arrange everything on this end, from fund raising to planning with Gram and Grampa to come from out of town for about half of the time (knowing that two weeks was a lot of ask of Grandma by herself). As the date got closer, the fund-raising fell into place. We made extensive instructions for the grandparent caregivers, including medical release forms and directions to school and everything else. Knowing that we were packing for an overseas trip with a dress code and also knowing that we had small children in the house and our time wasn’t always on our own, we started packing a week out. We finished packing just before Bob and Judy arrived on Friday afternoon so we could spend as much time with them as possible before we left.

Our plan was to leave from church and go directly to the airport on Sunday, April 18. The group had several different flights going through two different cities to have us all end up in Kiev. We would stay the night in a hotel in Kiev then get on buses all together headed for Odessa. We would board our river cruise boat there and it would head back to Kiev making many stops along the way. This plan meant that instead of spending half the trip in buses getting from one city to the next and spending every night in a new hotel, we could unpack once and while we slept the boat would take us to our next destination. We would then leave from Kiev back home, with layovers in a hotel in the European city we came through the first time. The two cities our group was being routed through were London and Amsterdam. We happened to be on the Amsterdam flight.

Saturday came and after a while we got the news that the London flight had been canceled due to volcanic ash. Good friends of ours were on the London flight and we were concerned for them, but at that point ours was still good to go. As the day progressed things got worse and worse on the ash front and the flight situation in Europe was deteriorating. We held out hope that something would change and things would still happen because it just seemed so outrageous that all the preparation and all that had gone into this would come to a halt from a mountain in Iceland. By the end of the day on Saturday it was obvious that getting the entire group to Ukraine would be impossible and a priority list of people to fly over to make something work was made and I realized that I, as a non-singer, was at the very bottom of the list. If anything, Aaron might be able to go, but I couldn’t. This was very hard to hear. As much as I had fears going in about leaving my children about going on mission in a foreign country, not getting to go was really hard. I’ll admit to shedding some tears.

But we also soon realized that God was in control. It was for His sake we were going and if He had a different plan, we needed to wait on Him. It was also very comforting to not be remotely in control of the decision making process. We were just part of the group and others had to make the tough calls. We also came to realize God’s provision. If the volcano had started its pyrotechnics just a day later, we might have made it to Amsterdam and been stuck there, neither home nor able to complete our mission. We were stranded at home and NOT stranded half a world away from my children in a place whose language I can’t speak. This brought me huge comfort. I said, “Well, God, I’ll go where You send me and stay where You leave me.”

But the thing that made my spirits lift the most was the decision made by the Singing Men in charge of things. There would be no scrambling to get a few guys on flights. They were going to cancel the whole thing and reschedule for October. Our trip had been planned for April because it was before the “summer” cruising season for the cruise line. We were booking the entire boat for our purposes and it was much easier to do before their busy season, but still not winter weather. The cruise line knew that we couldn’t make it and they weren’t going to hold that against us. Instead we could make our trip at the END of their summer season. The weather would be comparable to what we would have had in April and it wasn’t an entire year later, just six or so months. It was still possible that the trip would happen and it wasn’t just gone forever.

But in the mean time, here we were with out-of-town child care and Aaron had worked amazingly hard to do all his church work for the next two weeks. I had made arrangements with my work to be gone and we were feeling a little emotionally spent. Bob had said to us very early on in the volcano that no matter what, we should go somewhere. Aaron talked with our pastor and he very graciously allowed us a week for spiritual retreat. We did some looking but ended up making a last minute reservation at our favorite bed and breakfast in the Texas hill country in the city of Wimberley. We spent a week together, enjoying nature, reading some “God books” (a book on worship, a book on parenting and we finished up the 5 Languages of Apology book we had been reading), and being together. Then we came home and spent some wonderful time with Bob and Judy. We weren’t expecting to get to spend so much time with them and we are so grateful to them and for them. We did fun stuff around town like taking the kids to the Fort Worth Water Gardens for the first time and going to the recently remodeled Museum of Science and History.

So, we are now in the process of submitting the claims for the Cancellation Insurance. We have to get all the money back from this attempt and then we will work on making the arrangements for October. This is a less friendly time of year for a music minster to miss two weeks as it is right in the middle of Christmas music preparations and so forth and we don’t know yet if Gram and Grampa can make a return trip. But we know that God is in control and He will make a way if He wants us to go. And if He doesn’t, clearly He has ways of stopping us. :)

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