Ever have one? One where everything seems to be going wrong? Nothing seems to be going as planned, things take way longer than they should. I did. My day went something like this….
I make my way to the airport at the normal time, but today I see something a little strange…an 8 or 10 year old little girl wearing a mini skirt and high heels, posing for passersby and asking for a “job.” In my groggy morning fog it takes a minute or two to register that this little girl is a prostitute. That sets the tone for my day. I arrive at the airport and say hi to the national staff. Despite what I saw earlier, I’m happy because today will be a short day, I should be home by lunch time. In my mind, I’m already making plans for fixing up the house the rest of the day. There are lots of little things that need repairing.
We just finish loading 450 pounds of cargo when two passengers show up, asking for a ride into the jungle. Wanting to accommodate passengers, we agree to take them to their destination, and begin unloading the cargo we had just secured. During the unloading, I get a call asking for me to make an unscheduled stop an hour North of Bunia for two more passengers. I quickly change my flight plan, add more fuel for the extra stop, and takeoff half an hour behind schedule. The first leg of the trip goes ok and I land in Doko to pick up the two unscheduled passengers. I try and pay the landing fee to the airport official, but he doesn’t accept any of my bills because they aren’t crisp, new bills. He reluctantly accepts the last bill I give him, after 10 minutes of squabbling, because that’s all I’ve got. Then the passengers show up with way more baggage than I am able to take. I’m in a hurry because I’m already behind schedule, I need to pick up a passenger and bring them back to Bunia so they can catch their flight on to Uganda, and here these guys are trying to take a truckload of stuff. I muster some kindness and calmly tell them I can only take two bags, the rest will have to stay behind for another time. They sort through their belongings, wasting more of my precious time.
Now an hour behind schedule, I takeoff for my original destination. Unfortunately the weather keeps me from climbing very high and I am unable to take advantage of the strong Easterly winds higher up. What could have taken one hour takes 20 minutes longer, and I land an hour and a half behind schedule. As soon as I land and unload the plane, I begin feverishly loading up 300 pounds of medicines and two passengers, trying to make up some lost time. It seems like all anyone wants to do is talk with me, but I am focused on the task at hand and don’t want to chat…at all. I’m almost finished loading up when I get a call that there is a sick person at our next stop that needs to go to the hospital. I very reluctantly agree to pick them up and unload everything I had just put in the airplane. Yep, you guessed it, almost two hours behind schedule now.
I takeoff for a short hop over to a medical mission station in the jungle to pick up one passenger and a medical evacuation. Come to find out, the sick person is actually an infant that needs emergency brain surgery, and his mother is coming along. I load everyone up and confirm that all four passengers want to go back to Bunia. I get two confirmations and to my great surprise, two no’s. The sick passenger and the last passenger both want to go to Nyankunde where the hospital is. Not a big problem, but now I need to get more fuel for the extra stop…which puts me even further behind schedule. I am brief and short with the folks, and as I take off and fly overhead, I mentally say sorry to the people down there who all came to see the airplane and talk with the pilot.
It’s now mid-afternoon and I’m heading straight into the strong wind that should have carried me swiftly out here. I could climb up higher, but there’s no point now. The higher I go, the slower I get and the longer it takes to reach my destination. This leg seems to take FOREVER, and I begin thinking about the day as I drum along. I wonder what that little girl’s story is that I saw this morning on the way to work. Man I was a little short with our national staff this morning. Come to think of it, I’ve been short with just about everyone today. I talk a little with God about the day and He gently tells me (with a thunderstorm directly in my path) it’s time for an attitude change, and I make up my mind to be as nice as I can be with the passengers at my next stop.
I land, even though the winds here are exceptionally strong today. I shutdown, hop out, and help the poor mother as she gets out of the airplane. She hands me her sick little boy, clearly relieved to be at the mission hospital. I cradle him up in my arms and for the first time, I realize why he so desperately needs surgery. He has the body of a 9 month old, but his head is so swollen it’s about the size of a basketball. His eyes look into mine, but nothing is registering in his little brain. No smiles, no giggles, not even crying, just a blank stare. And to think I almost said, “No, it’s just too much hassle today.”
By now, the thunderstorm has moved on, my passenger’s next flight has been delayed so there will be no conflicts, and I head for home, pondering again the day’s events. What kind of witness am I portraying? What kind of person do these people think I am now? How am I going to make this right? Can I just rewind the day and start over?
I land in Bunia, three hours later than I had originally thought. I get out, bid the passengers farewell, and make a B-line for the national staff. I need to apologize. On my way home, I once again think about the day's events. Today I carried folks with medical missions, and SIL/Wycliffe Bible Translators, enabling them to do their missions work. And I also quite possible saved the life of a little baby boy. Was it worth it? You bet.