God Going Before Us

Another true story . . .

After arriving at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida where my wife, our youngest daughter, and I were going to catch our flight to Costa Rica, we were greeted by our airline customer service agent who asked us our flight number and then redirected us to another line where we stood with about a hundred other folks staring at each other wondering what was going on.  There we heard the rumors about our flight being canceled due to the start up of a pilot strike. That flight was to take us to San Jose in Costa Rica, our church missions team meeting point, before being taken to our final destination in the village of Rio Cuarto near Nicaragua.  Knowing that we were on a schedule to meet the rest of our team, I said to my wife, “I wonder how the Lord is going to solve this problem?”  We stood in line and watched as folks started arguing at the ticket counter about their canceled flights.

While waiting our turn, I thought to myself about the time years back when my wife and I with our five-year-old twins and two-year-old son boarded a tightly packed subway train under Mexico City.  We wanted to take the kids to an animal park petting zoo we had heard about.  What we hadn’t heard about was that we would be passing through the notoriously worst area for pickpockets in all of Mexico!  (To be safe while traveling in Mexico, I had purchased a Harley Davidson wallet that zipped shut and was on a chain connected to my belt.)  We squished our way onto the subway.

I held the hands of our girls while my wife held our son with one hand and with her other hand hung onto my belt, so we wouldn’t get separated in the dense crowd.  The whirring whine of the electric engines started up and the subway took off, and all was calm for a few minutes.  Suddenly, I hear my wife yelling, “NO, NO!!!” Thinking someone is grabbing my wife, I turned around to grab whoever was grabbing her.  Turning, I saw the chain attached to my wallet pulled taunt straight out into the crowd!  In an instant, I see my wife grab the chain, give it a yank, and rip it right out of the pickpocket’s hands.  He had it timed so the subway train would be stopping in time for his escape–I saw him jump out the door and thought about going after him–then thought that would be stupid with me ending up lost from my family in a city of over 100 million.

We quickly checked my wallet, and the contents were safely zipped inside.  However, we soon discovered another pickpocket had gotten my passport that was in my front left pocket!!  We got off the subway and surfaced, knowing we needed to get to the embassy to report the theft.  Standing on the corner near the subway entrance, we had no idea where we were or where the embassy was, and we spoke little Spanish.  I prayed, “Lord, we are in a serious jam and need some help.  Amen!”  Moments later, we hear someone in perfect English behind us ask if we needed help!!  We turned around and saw this smiling couple.  We explained our situation and immediately they hailed a taxi for us to get to the embassy, negotiated with the driver in Spanish on a price, and told us not to give him a penny more!

The taxi driver was driving an old VW Beetle with the front passenger seat removed for easy access to the back seat.  When the taxi driver stepped out to open the door, I saw that he only had one eye!!   Well, that could present a serious problem because with only one eye, you can’t judge distance very well, and he was about to drive us through crazy congested traffic!!  I held my breath and got in.  He had some close calls but to our complete amazement didn’t hit another car all the way to the embassy.  I was impressed!

After getting to the embassy, we found out that getting the travel papers we needed in Mexico City were very expensive because of the bribes necessary to expedite the process.  While wondering what to do, we bumped into a guy named Jose, who was anxious to practice his English with the Americans.  After filling him in about our situation, he recommended that it would be easier and cheaper if we got our new travel papers in Oaxaca since we were headed there anyway.  However, traveling to Oaxaca, which was over 300 miles from Mexico City, without any travel papers was very risky.  Jose instructed me, “If the military pulls you over and takes you into their office, speak English very fast, use the word ‘attorney’ several times while you‘re talking, lay a big pile of pesos on the table, walk out, and don’t look back!”  Gee, that made me feel good about the trip to Oaxaca!

Praise the Lord, we made it into Oaxaca without being stopped.  After asking a bunch of folks including police officers for directions through hand gestures and a few Spanish words, we found the “Embassy” after climbing up a dirty, dark, narrow hallway of stairs above a copy shop!  I walked up to the lady at the desk, who very quickly became frustrated with my English because it was obvious to me that she knew absolutely no English!  I then tried the best I could to explain our predicament in Spanish as I frantically used my well-worn Spanish-English dictionary.  As her frustration furiously escalated, I saw that we had hit a wall and were at a dead end.  It was then I prayed, “Boy, Lord, I’m in deep crap now; we need some serious help here!”  Out of the blue, once again, in perfect English from behind us, a man says, “Hi, can I help you folks?”

He was a Wycliffe translator who had just stopped in the embassy for a minute to pick up a document he needed in order for him and his family to fly out of the country later that afternoon.  He spoke to her in perfect Spanish and got everything straightened out for us, and we quickly and cheaply got our travel papers.  How thankful we were to the Lord for his timely intervention!  While chatting with our new-found friend, he told us he and his family were flying out later on but wanted to know if we would like to join them for lunch before they left.  We gladly accepted, and he called his wife to let her know we were coming.  He then gave us directions to his house since he had another errand to run before heading home.

There was all kind of road construction going on–it looked like a war zone.  Parts of roads were missing, new sections were being laid down in other areas, detour signs were all over the place, and heavy equipment littered the landscape–so much so that I had to edge my van around them carefully.   After we made the first few turns, we were completely lost!!   It didn’t take us long to realize that there was no way we were going to be able to find their house and were bummed that we wouldn’t be meeting our translator’s family and have the opportunity to thank him again for his help.  “HONK, HONK, HOOOOOONK!!”  An old green Buick throwing up a dust cloud from the construction starts pulling up beside us while I’m driving, and in my side mirror, I see some lady waving her hand at us through her open window.  When she gets right next to us, she yells through my wife’s window, “Are you the folks from Ohio my husband invited to lunch?”  In stunned surprise, we nodded, “YES.”  She yelled, “Follow me!”  We followed the dust-storm all the way to her home.  She was on her way back from a store to get food for lunch and had spotted us!  The Lord had rescued us again!!

Returning from my reminiscing . . . back at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, we finally made it up to the ticket counter four hours later!  The airline gave us food vouchers for three meals, a voucher for an overnight stay at a nice hotel with a continental breakfast, a voucher for a taxi to take us to the Miami airport, and American Airline tickets for us to fly to Costa Rica the next day.  We had been very fortunate because later I found out that so many flights had been canceled due to the pilots’ strike that the airline had changed their procedure and started only giving folks their money back and a $100 airline voucher.

The next day when we got to the Miami Airport, we discovered the airline had NOT booked a flight for us with American Airlines but had only paid for our flight!  We were surprised when ticket agent said, “We can get the three of you on the last flight but you won’t be able to sit together.”  I was curious as to why.  She then volunteered, “Because there are only three seats left!”  My wife and daughter and I looked at each other and were not surprised that the Lord had gone before us once again! . . . as He had done so many times before.

“The Lord your God who goes before you will be fighting for you, and will do such wonders as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;” –Deuteronomy 1:30

Copyright © 2010 by William D. (Nick) Nichols

PS:  Later when I told other folks about my wife yanking my wallet out of the hands of the pickpocket, we kidded about her “trolling for pickpockets.”

One Comment

  • Krista Fox (one of your youngest daughter's friend's) says:

    Wow, wow, wow. This is absolutely amazing. I am so encouraged by your family. It is so clear how much God wants to intervene in all the deep crap, as you put it, that we get in. And even the shallow crap. =) I love how each time you prayed a person spoke with perfect English. And the green Buick part is just so fantastic!! God You are AMAZING!!

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