October 13, 2017
Just when did I stop liking to fly? Did I ever actually like it?
These were a few of the odd questions I pondered as I kissed my wife, said “so long for now” to our youngest son (he’s all of 15 now so kissing him wouldn’t have been kewl—I did it anyway!) and hit the road headed back to West Africa for what I believe is the 14th time in 14 years. 14 so long for nows, 14 stolen kisses…
…or is this the 15th time. In any event, by God’s grace my journey this time began as it had several other times: With a solo drive to the Corning Incorporated hangar at the Elmira/Corning Regional airport. I say by God’s grace because I’d managed to get one of the last seats on the corporate jet that was flying down to Morristown, New Jersey so instead of a 5 hour drive to JFK, I enjoyed a 35 minute flight to Morristown in a leather-seats-only, mahogany accented jet followed by a 90 minute ride to Midtown Manhattan in an executive van and finally a 40 minute Uber from Midtown to JFK where I was standing in line to drop off my luggage before 10:30AM—a full 6 hours before my flight’s scheduled departure! (Not bad for a guy who hadn’t packed a single stitch until just hours before leaving home!)
As I write I’m actually on the 3rd plane I’ve been on since leaving home some 32 ½ hours ago. The 6 hours at JFK passed pretty quickly as did the 6 hour flight to Amsterdam. The 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, though, not so much! It’s all good, though. Within an hour of landing I’d made my way to Transfer Desk 6 to pick up my boarding passes for the rest of the trip to Liberia (they couldn’t give them to me in New York because my layover in the Netherlands is longer than 6 hours…who knew this was a thing?) and found a cozy, if not comfy, place to crash. I actually managed to get a good nap in, too. I’d planned to sleep for 5 hours and then get up and call in for the 6AM prayer call that I lead on Fridays (6AM in NY that is); instead I only managed to get about 90 minutes—and I’m sure it was one of those mouth-hanging-open, snoring-up-a-storm deals! Had I not been solo on this trip surely I’d have been photographed AND videotaped by whomever was traveling with me!
Solo. I just realized that half of my trips to Africa have been solo. A team of 1 (1 person, that is—I’m never alone though, you know that!). When I first started my sojourns to the Motherland, I would NEVER have even considered the possibility of making the trip alone. We (Min. Ricardo Rowe and I) were knowingly traveling into a war zone after all! (What were we thinking??? What were our wives thinking??? About one thing and one thing only: Obeying the will of God. Min. Rick will forever have my respect for his faithful sacrifice in following me to Africa that first time.) Since my first solo trip in July of 2008, though, it’s become apparent to me that solo is in my DNA. Don’t get me wrong, the team trips are still the best (you don’t want to experience Ducor in Liberia or Kakum and Elmina Castle in Ghana solo!). Still, I do solo pretty well. My family even gets on me about this. After 31 years of marriage, 6 kids and a grandboy, I still enjoy solo—as long as my crew isn’t too far away (just downstairs or a few minutes’ drive). That’s the hardest part about these trips (or any trip that takes me more than a few hour’s drive away from home. Once I’m wherever I am, solo is the only option until I get back.
So back to my original thought: Just when did I stop liking to fly? I guess if you force me to, I’ll admit that I still do like it. I do, however, recall when the joie de vivre that attended my long distance air travel more than 30 years ago started to wane: It was after we had kids. And then 9/11 happened. And then I became a Grandpa. My reality: I have too much to lose (or leave behind) if something were to happen to me. THE reality: But by God’s grace, something could happen to me on the drive to the airport! So, since I am called to the nations and can’t easily get to them by boat, I’m gonna be flying and from this moment on I choose to enjoy the experience…as much as I can!
Tray tables and seat backs up. We’re about to land in Freetown…then on to Monrovia.