Saturday, July 6, 2013

Today some of us get to sleep in a little. We need to be out of the guest houses at 10, but if we packed everything last night, there’s not much to do. I drop by the reception desk to give Linda a little carved turtle as a token of our appreciation for her hospitality (she has a turtle farm out back; it’s a long story) and to get a little wifi to email yesterday’s journal. Then it’s just a case of waiting until everybody’s ready.

Bill comes by right on time at 9:30. He’s here to carry the luggage in his van, since we fill our 2 vans with people. I do a quick inspection of the 3 houses, and we’re ready to go.

Funny thing. We have to be out by 10, but our flight’s not until 3:50, and the airport’s not far, so as soon as we back out of the driveway we’re not in a hurry anymore. Someone suggests that we go by Limnos for one last time, and that sounds good to everybody, so off we go.

When we walk in, we pretty much fill the small shop. The proprietress recognizes me and Joy from all the takeout business we gave her last week. I tell her we’re leaving for home, and we’d like to experience Limnos one last time. And that we’re eating in. There’s one customer in the store, a lady, who kindly offers to move to a side table so we can have the main seating area. It occurs to me that she was expecting a nice quiet morning with her book and her coffee, and now we’ve changed all that, so I tell the boss that I’d like to pay for her pastry and coffee.

We sit at pretty much all the rest of the tables and order nummies. As we’re eating and enjoying ourselves, the customer motions me over and tells me what nice children I have. I explain that they’re my students from a university in the States, and she hands me a gospel tract. We have a nice little bit of fellowship.

Soon we’re done, and once again the bill is less than I expect. I could get used to this. We load up and drive over to Bill’s house for a little time playing with the kids and saying goodbye. I watch our kids playing with theirs, and I’m thankful that they’re willing to take the time to create memories for a small group of MKs. That, too, is ministry.

We sing a little around the piano, and we pray, specifically for Joslyn, who’s staying in Africa for another 5 weeks, and then we load up for the last trip to the airport. It’s a brief drive; we drop off everybody but the drivers, who will return the cars while the crew unloads and organizes the luggage.

The car return is simple, and soon Joy and I are back in the cavernous lobby rejoining the team for check-in. We get our boarding passes and then go downstairs to hang out in the food court where there’s more interesting stuff going on than at the gate, and besides it’s still too early to check in at the gate.

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Some of us do a little last-minute shopping in the mall area; some get a snack; some just sit at the table and talk. Joslyn’s hanging out with us; Bill will come get her when we check in. Too soon the time comes, and there’s a big hugging session, and then we’re 13 again.

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Security, gate, wait, board, fly to Joburg. Three-hour layover, plenty of time to meet Abbie and her aunt, grab a bite, and catch up on the 2 weeks we’ve been separated. Then onto the wide-body for the long flight home. Eleven of us are seated together; Joy, Robert, and Katie—you know, the New York crew—are seated elsewhere. I trade with Katie because she has an aisle seat and doesn’t care, and I know I’m going to be walking around a lot on the long overnight flight due to the RLS.

These flights are never easy. You can’t really sleep; the alleged reclining in the seat is useless; there are lights and voices and pokes from people you don’t know all conspiring to make you miserable. But it’s better than the Mayflower, and we soldier on.

[Technically, it’s Sunday now.]

For me, the flight gets easier as it progresses; the others have different sensations. But after several meals, lots of walking around, and even an impromptu game of Signs, we find ourselves over the good old US of A and descending into Atlanta.

Robert, Keri, and Joy have the shortest layovers, in that order, so they hope to get jump on the crowd. Fortunately, Robert and Joy are seated toward the front of coach, so that looks good. As we deplane and head for immigration, however, the airport uses a lineup system that pretty well neutralizes that, and Joy and Keri are among the last to get through. But they don’t have checked bags, so they can skip that step. The rest of us get our bags without incident and go through customs with only a cursory wave of the hand. We’re part of a large crowd, and I guess the customs officials want to avoid a bottleneck.

I text Paul, our driver, that the Greenville 9 is ready for pickup, and the other 5 go on their ways, with hugs and fond goodbyes. Just 1 hour after touchdown, we’re on the van and leaving the airport, and the others are in good time for their next flight. An efficient conclusion.

Several of the kids on the van have asked if we can stop at an IHOP on the way home. Frankly, I don’t know why IHOP is their choice, and since we had breakfast at 5:30, I’d be able to make it to lunch, but there’s money left in the budget, and it’s their money, so why not? We find one in Duluth, just north of Spaghetti Junction, and we settle in at a table in the back. Our waitress has an accent, so I ask her where she’s from. She grew up in Liberia, she says, but she was born in Ghana. Small world. In addition to the tip on the credit card, I leave a 1-cedi Ghanaian note.

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On our way out, a family in the parking lot sees Jordan’s Cameroon football jersey and shouts, “That’s my country!” So we all compare notes, and they take a picture with the Cameroon crew, or as many as are there.

We sleep most of the way home and arrive on campus 15 minutes ahead of the predicted 11 am. Most of the parents are already there, and the reunion is a joy to watch. Abbie’s mom has brought a fancy cupcake from the bakery for each of the team members, and a half dozen for me. Ah, the benefits of doing this. 🙂 I hereby pronounce Abbie’s bakery the Limnos of Summerville, SC: http://abbiesbakery.com/. Drop by if you’re in the area.

We shake hands all around and take a final photo, and I climb into the van for a ride home from Paul. I let myself in the front door; Pam is at church, but one daughter is home.

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Home.

It’s good to be here.

God has been faithful, His people—American and African—have ministered and been ministered to, and we have learned a lot while creating lifelong memories. Thrilled for the opportunity.

But good to be home.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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