I can’t decide if I should call this post, “The Maiden Voyage,” or “The Voyage of the Maiden.” Either one works, as I recall my first overseas flight.
I was a mere 22-year-old maiden. The year was 1986, long before cell-phones or the internet or even fax machines. The Dark Ages, for most of you reading this, but we did have airplanes, and I was on one, heading for a two-year adventure in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. I was a newly-graduated French major, so I could actually say Côte d’Ivoire, and not fall flat on my face in a foreign language upon arrival.
But I wasn’t there yet. I had to get on the plane. Leaving my family behind in Nashville, I boarded with my pressed linen blouse, nice skirt and permed hair. Had no clue what sitting on a plane for twenty-four hours did to linen nor what humidity would do to my perm, but I looked good at the departure gate.
All went smoothly until I arrived in New York, and the pilot told us we could not go inside the airport because there had been a bomb threat. I laugh as I read my journal on this memory. I wrote at the time: “That bothered me somewhat.” Oh, how was I to know that would be just the beginning of life living on the edge? I’m glad I didn’t panic the first time, because it surely wouldn’t be the last.
Having survived New York, we crossed the ocean, landing in Senegal, where we had to get off the plane and then point at our luggage sitting on the tarmac, so it would be put back on for the rest of the flight. I remember the intense heat and humidity that hit me upon debarking. Africa made her mark.
Upon arrival in Ivory Coast, I followed the crowd into the terminal, where a porter came up to me and wanted my passport. I wouldn’t give it to him, so he took my bag, and I was forced to follow him. It was to my benefit, however, as I skipped an entire line of people and went straight to pick up my luggage. While waiting on the bags, I carried on a rough conversation in French with Daly, my porter. I was thrilled not to have to pay any customs, and hopefully Daly was tipped well by my waiting colleagues.
The recollection of that first overseas trip brings a smile to my face, and I’m so grateful for the Lord’s call to serve and the courage I had to obey. I knew so little, but went with great confidence, because I served a great God.
That maiden voyage marked a new beginning in my life of being willing to get outside my comfort zone for the sake of the gospel. I returned home, two years later, changed, for I’d seen, not just a different part of the world, but God’s ability to move among people vastly different from those I’d known. And it was good.
Have you experienced God’s work in the world? You don’t have to go around the globe to see it, but just be willing to travel outside your own comfort zone. It’s a voyage worth taking.
Grace and Peace