Have you ever had your kid’s international flight be cancelled after waiting at the gate for over 4 hours? …. Then, after being re-booked on a flight for the following morning and taking a taxi to the hotel the airline booked for him and getting to his hotel room, realize he LOST HIS PASSPORT?!?
My college-aged son was looking forward to going to England to take part in the Third Global Congress on Sport and Christianity at Cambridge with his Golf Coach – who is also the Dean of Education at the Division III school he attends. His coach had invited him to the event, and he was flying out a day early to play a round of golf with his coach and two others. Now, not only was he in jeopardy of missing everything, but he was also dealing with the shame and embarrassment of losing his passport, and the increased risk of his identity being stolen.
This wasn’t the first time my son has lost, forgotten, or couldn’t find something. Even though he tries not to be careless, these things seem to happen. It’s 11pm. His new flight is in nine and half hours. What is he going to do? As I talked to him on the phone, I was frustrated, but my heart mostly ached for him. At one point he said with deep angst, “I’m so done with this!”
God, where are you in all of this? As the hours passed, I found myself saying, “Whatever happens, Lord, I hope it will be transformative.” I was mostly thinking of my son when I said it. I was hoping for transformation in a positive way for him – Not in a direction that leads to bitterness or depression. What ended up happening was not only good for him but encouraging for me and my wife as well…
“So, when do you last remember having it?” We started helping my son trace back the last hour to figure out where he might have lost his passport.
When he got in the taxi, he put his backpack on the floor between his legs. During the ride he reached down, opened the front pouch, and looked for his new boarding pass. He had placed it in his passport and put it in the front pouch of his backpack. He thinks he might have lost it then.
He doesn’t remember the cab company he used. He had no receipt. It was paid for with the airline voucher. He went down to the front desk. Maybe they had found it or knew the taxi company he used. We started calling the airline, the airport, the police, the restaurant where he stopped to get a snack, and different taxi companies who might have the type and color of taxi he remembered. About 2:00am he decides to get some rest, and my wife continues to make calls. He doesn’t really sleep. He calls my wife around 5:15am. Nothing.
He heads to the airport. He goes to the airline ticket counter and speaks to a manager and tells them what happened. They give him some hope. They book him on a later flight and tell him to take a train on the “Blue Line” from O’Hare International Airport to downtown Chicago and then go to the Chicago Passport Agency. They might be able to get him a new passport the same day!
So, he goes to the train station at O’Hare. As he enters the station, he realizes he doesn’t know how to use the train. He looks for someone to help him. He finds a kind woman who points him the right direction and he is soon on his way. The Chicago Passport Agency is across the street from his stop, but he reads online that they only see people by appointment. He hopes they will squeeze him in. He walks in the building and is greeted by a security person who says that he needs to call his congressman. What? His chances of getting an appointment through his congressman are better than trying to convince the people in the building to see him….Oh man.
He looks for his congressman online and calls the number. No answer. He leaves a message. Decides to call again, leaves another message. Tries to call other numbers on his website. Finally, they call him back. He talks with a woman who has been working with passport issues for 20 years. She says she can help him…. he might be able to make that evening flight! She sends him a form to fill out and asks him to send some other documentation. He gets it to her and waits. It’s almost 9:30am. Hopefully, she can get him in by noon so he can get a new passport before the evening flight to London – Heathrow.
Then…something beautiful happens. I get a phone call from someone looking for my son….It’s the taxicab driver! He has my son’s passport! He found it where my son thought he lost it. My phone number was written in it because I was his emergency contact! Yes! Praise God!
The driver was already downtown and was able to connect with my son fairly quickly. Oh my! What relief and joy! What a good man! Tears were flowing…mostly from his mom.
As we were talking to my son on his way back to the airport, he said, “I wouldn’t want to do this again, but I’m kind of glad it worked out this way. I learned a lot…how airlines operate…how to use a train…I met a lot of nice people on the way…I got to hang out in downtown Chicago. It’s been a good adventure.”
I chuckled, and then I began to think about my prayer. “Whatever happens, Lord, I hope it will be transformative.”
I thought, “You know, when we know how the story ends….and it’s a good ending…we can see all of the other stuff we went through in a positive light….we can see the good in it….we can see it as an adventure.” Maybe God was reminding me:
The time difference from when my son was originally planning to get to Cambridge until the actual time he arrived was only 21 hours…. but those 21 hours seemed like an eternity! We went through a range of emotions and agonizing moments as my son continued to persevere, hoping for a positive outcome. While it seemed like forever, it really was less than a day. Not long at all. I was reminded again….
(Psalm 39:4-5; 2 Timothy 4:18).
Lastly, in the “adventure,” we were reminded of our humanity and our complete dependence on Him. My son realized his humanity and helplessness. We cried out in desperation for God to help us find my son’s passport or get a new one in a timely manner. However, even if neither of those things had happened, we had walked with God in the journey in a very intimate way. Our dependence on Him to provide for us and meet us in our humanness was kindled afresh. In the end…He showed us mercy and gave us a gift. You could say that what happened was transformative. My prayer was answered.