I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the circumstances that we went through exactly a year ago.
We thought we were headed back to the United States on Aug 9, 2015. We were so excited to show off our new baby girl to our families and to see them after 10 months apart. Matt was finished teaching at the Bible College and we felt that the time had come for us to return to the U.S. and then prepare to return for a new type of ministry in the Philippines. After Libby was born had we waited the allotted month for our recovery and traveled to Manila to apply for her passport and amazingly we received it very fast and secured our return flight to our homeland. The rest of us filled out the necessary paperwork for our exit certificates, since we all had visas after living in the country a longer time. Little did we know the journey we would be be on the next few days.
It was midnight as we approached our departure gate in Manila, passports in hand. As we tried to pass through we were bluntly told that our sweet little Libby did not have the necessary paperwork to leave the country; that since we had visas she also needed one and the subsequent exit certificate. We were so confused since the officials we had talked to in the city we had lived had told us that Libby did not need said paperwork. Matt did his best to try to persuade the airport authorities to let us on the plane while the girls and I waited, praying, in an office. (At which point, poor Chloe also let me know she had to use the bathroom. Thankfully that girl can hold it longer than anyone I know.) Finally, Matt came in to get us with the news that they were getting all 7 of our suitcases off the plane for us. (Thanks, I guess?!) We were denied boarding the plane and was told we needed to go to Immigration Office, across the city, the next day to get the necessary paperwork.
Airport baggage porters loaded up all of our luggage on two carts and started walking with us to leave the airport as we were thinking, “What in the world are we going to do?” and “Where are we going to spend the night?” We did know some friends in Manila, but it was midnight and we had a 3 month old (who was thankfully sleeping the whole time in a baby sling) and a 3-year-old. We needed to think fast. The only place we knew of was a hotel we had stayed two other times in Manila that wasn’t too far from the airport. Thankfully there was a concierge who was able to confirm a vacancy at the hotel for us. Once there Chloe and Libby crashed on makeshift couch and chair beds and it was wonderful to be at a place that we were familiar with. Of course we then had to inform our families we were not headed home as we thought. Side note: We were so hungry and Matt ordered pizza and then we had to wait 2 hours for it to arrive. I went to bed but then, when I smelled pizza, wandered out and sloppily sleep-ate a slice. Is that a thing? Sleep-eating?
The next day we set out for Immigration and thankfully it wasn’t too far from our hotel. We also thankfully had a few extra copies of Libby’s passport pictures with us. (Has anyone ever tried to take a passport picture of a 3 month old? It’s really hard!) We spend 5 hours at Immigration, basically in one large room filled with chairs and 30 numbered windows. Matt was sent back and forth from window to window, filling out paperwork, paying money, and waiting.
Praise God, Chloe and Libby were on their best behavior and somehow waited patiently in those hard chairs that entire time, only breaking for lunch at a small place next door. Finally we were told that we could have the paperwork by the end of the day (for a fee), so we all left for the hotel and Matt went back later and miraculously, after waiting for another three hours, the paperwork was completed!
Back at our hotel for the night we started looking for flights back to the U.S. Matt spoke with our travel agent who began looking for us also. At that point the only flight leaving the next day was full, so we decided to go to the airport the next day at midnight to try to catch some tickets on standby.
August 11, 2015. Our 8th wedding anniversary! Since we had nothing else to do during the day, we figured we would celebrate by going to the nearby humungous SM Asia Mall. We enjoyed an Italian meal together for lunch as a family and Coldstone ice cream for dessert. (Can’t complain about that!)
We went back to our hotel and took Libby for her first swim in a pool. I will truly never forget that anniversary! That night we left for the airport after dinner. The bellboys carried all of our luggage again down to the taxi and we waited at the airport, but it didn’t look promising. Matt spoke again the the airline supervisors and then to our travel agent. There were no flights for weeks. After a while our travel agent found us a flight on a different airline the next day. That meant we would have to forfeit our current tickets and buy new ones. Ugh. So, that’s what we did. On this flight we would have to fly out of Manila, then spend the next night in the Seoul airport (they have rooms to rent) before flying directly to Detroit. It seemed perfect. What a relief! Again we loaded all 7 suitcases back in the taxi to go back to our hotel for one more night. The bellboys graciously carried our luggage back to our room. We’re so grateful for those wonderful generous bellboys and airline porters. I will never forget the feeling the next day as we passed though the security gate in Manila. We were headed home! The rest of the trip was smooth sailing, including our stay at the Seoul Incheon Airport.
I tell you all of these details so that I don’t forget God’s goodness to us and also because I feel like it applies to the circumstance we find ourselves in today. Throughout that whole ordeal I never once thought to myself, “We will never get there!” It was always just a question of when. Right now we are marking a year of fundraising in the U.S. to go back to the Philippines. We’re not thinking, “We will never get there!” It’s just a matter of when. God will provide just like He provided a year ago. As we wait we can look back and remember that God is a good God who will provide. When He provides we will continue to thank Him and make our departure for the next journey. God is good!