Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adventures in airport travel and miracles along the way...

Our tired lil group finally at Sea-Tac airport!
First off- we made it!! Thank you for any prayers sent our way as we were navigating 14 little ones and 2 adults from Kiev to Seattle--- boy were those prayers felt as we saw God's hand of protection and favor on our 25 hour ordeal--- and let me tell you, it was a story for the books!!  (The story below is a little long, but it's a good story, I promise! )

All seemed to start of with smooth sailing when we showed up at the airport in Kiev and checked all 16 of us in for the first 2 legs of our journey.  However, things quickly changed when we got to passport control. Tanya (the chaperone) and I went up to the window and handed all the needed government papers to the man behind the counter, so he could check our documents and send us and the kids on our way.

Not so fast.  I handed over the power of attorney to take the one extra boy out of the country, and Tanya handed over her power of attorney with the other 13 names of kids on it....or so we thought.  When the official counted the names on the paper he only came up with 12 names.  Counted again.... 12....again....12.  WHAT?? How many times had we checked these documents?  How could we have missed this? How could there only be 12 names and not 13?

The man said we didn't have the right to take the 13th child (a girl named Mariana) out of the country, if her name wasn't on the list.  Her name was on all other documents, but not on this one- not on this important document.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  My heart was in my throat as I walked away and just started to pray.  The man said he'd call his supervisor to get a higher opinion.  I prayed harder.

 Lord, you've not brought us this far to have it end like this. Lord, forgive our mistake, don't let it affect this little girl because of our error and our oversight-- Lord, please we NEED a miracle here.

Within 5 minutes the supervisor was back and determined we were fine-- we had enough documents to prove she could go.  Wow!! Thank you Jesus-- you are too good to us!! What an amazing answer to prayer-- I was humbled instantly.

Boarded plane and headed to Paris and all seems great.....for the time being.

Arrived in Paris and then all hell breaks loose for the kids.  Everyone is complaining, fighting, hitting, swearing, eye-rolling, wandering away without permission, and I'm starting to lose what shred of calmness that remains in my being.  I gather the group for a little pow-wow about expectations and attitude adjustments.  Next thing I know,  2 American women are yelling at one of the older girls in my group.  My girl looks petrified as I realize she has no idea what is going on or what the woman is saying.  I ask the woman what is wrong and she proceeds to tell me that this girl was continually hitting the younger boy in our group sitting next to her (he is seven and looks far more innocent than he is in reality!).  The one woman is distraught at the 'child abuse' she has witnessed.  Trying to use the next five minutes to explain to these women 'orphan behavior' proves futile and I just end up trying to calm down the distraught 15 year-old who was berated by the American woman.  Sigh.  What have I gotten myself into?

Mid-way through the melt-down of yet another girl, I suddenly realize our flight is now delayed by an hour and a half.  Panic sets in as I know we had only a 2 hour lay-over scheduled in Atlanta and the chances of making our Seattle connection will now be slim.  More Prayer.  I knew my worry wasn't going to help pass the 9 hour flight to Atlanta, so I just prayed and attempted to surrender this worry to the Lord.

Lord, you've given us your favor today with the documents, so I just ask for your favor again. You know we want to be in Seattle tonight and not taking all these kids to a hotel.  Please Lord, let us make that connection.  I trust you Lord-- I know you will take care of us.

9 hours (and a few stories & throwing-up/crying moments not to be discussed here)  later...

We ended up making up some time in the air, so by the time we landed in Atlanta we had about 65 minutes to make our connecting flight.  By the time we exit the BACK of the plane and get to the passport line we have lost another 25 minutes and the customs officer seems more interested in making small talk with me about how long it's been since I've been in the US, then getting my 14 kids through the line!! We're on a time crunch buddy, can we speed things up a bit??

I'm the first through the line and start gathering the children on the other side as we wait for the others.  I keep looking at my watch.  Down to 30 minutes.  I notice two large men standing next to me with Ukrainian passports.  They are told to 'move along' by airport security.  They respond, 'No, we security President.'  Hmmm, I think-- president of what?  This thought hardly has a moment to pass through my mind when I look to my left and see none other than former president of Ukraine, VICTOR YUSHENKO walking in our direction.  What??  Hey look kids, its your former President....welcoming you....to America.  Yes-- surreal is an understatement.

Yushenko and his wife then notice our Ukrainian entourage and come over for a little chit chat.  Had I been in my right mind, not sweating and consumed with making our connecting flight, I may have been brilliant enough to pull out my camera and capture this oddly fascinating moment. But no, none of that.  Instead, the last of our group makes it through immigration and we go bolting past the Yushenkos and down the escalators to reclaim baggage.  Catch you later Mr. Yushenko.....dasvidanya!

In the midst of all this chaos we are befriended by an angel (aka an Interpretor in the airport) who decides she will help us locate our connecting departure gate.  Had it not been for this woman, we never would have made it!  We grab our bags (then run back for another bag that I forget)--throw them at the guys that send them back to be re-checked and go sprinting towards the train to take us to our terminal.  When the doors of the train open all 16 of us go sprinting UP the escalator towards our gate- by this point we have stopped counting children.  We were a SIGHT let me tell you!!

We run up to our gate literally as the last five people are boarding.  I see the man we were to meet who is collecting our 14th child from us and give him a quick hello and hand off child and passport  (really hope it was the right guy!) and quickly count all our remaining kids to make sure they are all still with us (which Praise God, they are!)

Let me tell you, I have never been sooo happy to sit on an airplane in all my life.  I didn't even care that our kids were spread out throughout the entire plane-- we were sitting on the plane and bound for Seattle and that was ALL that mattered. Tears filled my eyes as I sat in my seat and just thanked the Lord--overwhelmed by his grace towards us. I just sat there, in awe of how he watches out for his kids, and he sure does have a special place in his heart for THESE kids.

In-spite of the low-grade nausea and the airsickness of a couple kids, the 5 hour flight home seemed like a breeze!!  Upon arrival in Seattle at midnight, we were greeted by a delightful set of host families from and our Window to Hope team.  The families, lovingly scooped up the weary kiddos and headed to their homes, there was a lot of nervousness and excitement in the air.

I, on the other hand crashed into the arms of my mom and dad too-- never had it felt so good to be home!

Kids and host families with our project 'Window to Hope'


Team Airhart said...

Wow! What a story! Can't wait to hear all about your time at home when we all get home!

Anonymous said...

I will have to read the story later when I have time, but love the pictures. ENjoy your stay and blessings on all of you.

Danielle Beaver said...

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!! This is INDEED a story for the books! You are a hero, Karen Marie!! I love you!

Anonymous said...

Karen, I finally read the story. WOW! Praise God and I love reading about God showing himself in situations like these. I love the, "catch you later, Mr. President..." Too darn funny.

May our Lord continue to bless you and your work.