We were due to arrive home last Friday, but like thousands of other people (including Marcus Honeysett) my wife and I are stranded by the volcanic ash cloud. We were visiting a couple sent by our church to the Middle-East. Having negotiated all the dangers and difficulties of travel through a recent war zone with no dangers and no difficulties, we ended up stranded in Istanbul. Discovering that UK airspace was closed, we booked an extra night in the hotel. But when it became clear the skies were going to be closed for some time we got a plane to Barcelona in Spain with a view to travelling home overland. But we arrived at Barcelona train station to find there were no trains to France due to a strike. So on Sunday we queued at the coach station and eventually bought the last two tickets to Paris leaving on Thursday and then we booked the Eurostar train home for Friday. I feel a bit like the apostle Paul in Acts 16 – setting off for Asia and then sending his first prayer letter home from Europe.
A couple of reflections.
1. We praise God for the worldwide family of Christ. It is a great privilege to have these global connections. We are staying on the outskirts of Barcalona with Jonathan and Clare Skipper, squeezing into their apartment with their two young children. Our only tears throughout our “adventure” came when they sent a text saying “our house is your house for as long as you need it”. They have been wonderful hosts, generously letting us impose on their hospitality without complaint. (Sadly I have to inform you, though, that they are not unknowingly entertaining angels – Hebrews 13:2!) Compare our experience to those of the travellers sleeping in airports or the woman I saw yesterday in tears of frustration, camped out in a cafe in Barcelona train station, and you realise what a blessing it is to belong to Christ´s family.
Jonathan is an NTI student and works for GBU, the Spanish Christian Union movement. Please repay their hospitality to us by praying for Spain where there is great resistence to the gospel.
2. People asked us before we left whether we were worried about travelling through a recent war zone. The answer is that we weren´t worried for our safety. Our friends assured us it was safe and we were able to trust God for our security. We went through many armed check points, but we were only stopped because the soldiers manning them were bored and interested in the foreigners visiting their country. Plus, of course, our friends live there and we were only visiting.
But we were anxious before we left. My wife was worried about committing a cultural mistake. I was worried about our rather complex travel plans going awry – missing connections, have the wrong paperwork, miscommunicating with our driver, that sort of thing. Of course I didn´t anticipate a volcano would prevent us completing the last leg of the journey! We were talking about the idols that make us fearful with our friends, little knowing God would strip me so thoroughly of the control I idolise. So one of the no doubt many purposes God has for this volcanic ash cloud has been to discipline me and help me trust his soveriegnty more.
Yet his discipline has been so kind and gentle. By his grace I have hardly fretted or got frustrated. And we really don´t deserve your sympathy. We spent a lovely day sight-seeing in Istanbul and due to availability issues our hotel upgraded us for free to a suite. And now we´re enjoying a few days in the beautiful city of Barcelona. It´s not exactly heroic suffering for the gospel! I was able to shadow Jonathan for a day to get a window onto his ministry and meet up with two fine Catalan leaders who are planning to plant a church in the centre of Barcelona.