We are safely in Peru and have already met many of the people that we will be working with. They were all so excited as they watched us unpacking the puppets and the equipment and we are equally excited. We have several training sessions sceduled and dozens of puppet shows. Even today we will begin training the Quechua team and tomorow we have puppet shows with the children.
Please pray that we will make the wisest use of our time as there is so much that we need to teach before we hand off the equipment. Please pray for our understanding of the Quechua children and their needs. We found out last night that many of the children live in homes that are broken by alcohol and drug abuse. These are the stories that we often hear when we work with many poor people but they are also the same stories that we hear at home in America and Ireland. Please pray for God to strengthen families around the world.
Many of the children have a very poor self image and so we need to find ways to encourage them to see themselves as God made them. Often when they travel to the cities they will not want to admit that they are Quechua.
At home in Georgia, we are in the middle of a drought. Everyone is praying for rain, but no one here prays for rain even though it is very arid. Very, very rarely it will rain then there are mud slides and homes crash down the sides of mountains. Please pray for us as we will be working in some high altitude areas.
Already we have discovered that breakfast is a very different meal here than it is at home. People like to take bread and spread olives and avocados on it. I love both avocados and olives so I was very happy at breakfast this morning.
We praise God that all of our equipment arrived safely and we cleared customs with no difficulties. Three of our team members were delayed while there bags were opened, but they were quickly released.
Trouble In The Atlanta Airport
My travel agent has standing orders to always book us on the cheapest flight. So this time we flew Delta airlines and we had big problems. I doubt that many of you are aware of how we pack for a trip. Everyone uses their carry on bag for their clothes and other personal items and they give all of their checked bags to be used to carry puppet equipment and gifts for children. We arrived at the airport with 13 checked pieces of luggage. I knew that I would have to pay an extra charge for the extra bag as well as $25 each for the extra weight in 4 bags. Altogether that should have been around $200. However, she charged me almost $900 for my luggage.
I have never worked with an airline that was more difficult and more unbending. She told me that my bags were 2 inches bigger than they should be and charged me $100 for each bag. I pointed out to her that these bags had made many trips this year on other airlines, Lufthansa, United, and Continental. They had never charged me these extra fees, and besides they did not like are normal suitcases, some only a few months old. She was not receptive to my pleas. I begged for mercy and asked to speak with a supervisor. This lady also refused to help us even though i explained to her that we would give away almost everything in these bags to people in Peru. I saw several other people checking in around us who had the same size bags but they were not having the trouble we were having.
Then she looked at our stage which travels in a large ski bag. She said that there would be no extra charge for that bag if it had skis in it. I could not lie so I told her that we had a puppet stage in it. Then she charged me $100 for that bag. The bag was legal, but the contents did not meet her standard. I repeatedly asked them to consider that I was working with at risk children living in terrible places. They simply did not care. My heart broke and I will be honest to admit that I was furious with their lack of concern for what their actions would mean to the children we seek to serve. From my point of view the extra $700 is a small fortune that could have been much better invested in the children.
I called 3 people who told me 3 things I needed to hear. My mother reminded me that this disaster did not surprise God and told me that he would provide the necessary funds. My friend Amy, told me that clearly this was going to be a very special trip to Peru as we were already under great attack. My friend Richard Mixon, a board member, pointed me back to the word of God and told me to bless those who curse me. Then he had special prayer for the people at the check in desk who had cost us so much trouble.
If you are reading this email, please take the advice of my 3 wise friends. Also is there anyone who could help us make an appeal to Delta to get this money back so that we could use it to touch the lives of children. For my part, I learned alot from the experience, but as always found the lesson very painful. Because of the problems we had, I will not be able to risk flying this airline ever again. Please pray that we do not have the same trouble going home. Also please ask God to provide the necessary funds to cover this unbudgeted expense.
Hold us in your prayers.
Love in Jesus,