In the summer of 2004, I was up on a ladder doing some volunteer painting at our new church. My cell phone rang and my mission trip travel agent had some bad news. I was taking a team to Peru to build a memorial church in honor of my late wife Beverly. I had NEVER even been on a mission trip, let alone led one. We were scheduled to fly into Lima, Peru the next week and then fly a 500-mile leg to northern Peru on a Peruvian airline. Only one problem. Well, one really BIG problem. Unbeknownst to me, Aero Continente was suspected of drug money laundering, and our government had placed an embargo on American made parts for their planes.
We weren’t flying anywhere in Peru! Even with the now doomed flight, we would have had several more days of travel to get to our worksite. I began to fear all my planning and good intentions would come to nothing. What a disaster! But, in a later ham radio conversation with Dr. Larry Garmin, our missionary, I was assured it could still work. We would ride an all day bus to Chiclayo instead of flying. I had visions of chickens in crates in the back of the bus and dust billowing in the open windows while I was squeezed next to a hefty Peruvian woman. In actuality, we rode in a beautiful double-decker bus on the Pan American highway that parallels the Peruvian coast. Many of the team said they were glad the flight fell through as we would have missed a great experience and beautiful scenery. Even though we lost two days of work time on the job site we were still able to complete the building in time.
On our last evening back in Lima, at a celebratory banquet, I was given a souvenir “Aero Continente” plane. My friends know that I am not a big one for souvenirs, but this little plane occupies a honored spot in my office. God has used it repeatedly to remind me that He is not beholden to my plans nor is He limited by my feeble attempts to implement them. He can and will accomplish what needs to be done. He is totally faithful and reliable. He does not need my “expert” planning. He just needs my obedience. He’s kind of funny that way.
Today a congregation still meets in that church in the jungle village of San Pablo. Many people have come into God’s kingdom in the humble building we erected. And I have a souvenir plane to remind me that God did it, not us.
In a little over a week, I will be leading my 4th overseas mission trip. A team of 14 from my church will be constructing part of a building for feeding sponsored children in Ecuador. Will we have challenges? No doubt. Will things go wrong? Most likely. But over and over this little plane reminds me that I serve a God that can and will work to use our inabilities for the greater good. What challenges do you face today? Trust Him to work even when it seems hopeless!