Category Archives: News and Notes

March 27 – The Longest Flight

July, 2007.

I had made the trip fifteen or more times already. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  With good connections you could make it in around 24  hours: leave the church and arrive at the airport two or three hours early; an hour and a half from Pittsburgh to JFK; two-hour lay-over at JFK; ten hours to Sao Paulo; another two or three hour layover; and then  the hour plus flight into Belo Horizonte; immigration, customs, and Belo Horizonte traffic – finally to IPJA.

The unexpected happened early.  Oh, we boarded the flight from Pittsburgh to New York just fine, but then we sat on the tarmac in Pittsburgh for well over an hour as we waited for thunderstorms to pass over JFK.  By the time we made it to the American Airlines international check-in counter at JFK, the flight had boarded and our seats had been given to standby passengers.

Add 24 hours.

At least they gave us hotel vouchers.

We checked in for the next day flight with plenty of time. Boarding was smooth and the flight departed right on time. Settle in for the long overnight flight.  We were probably 35,000 feet over Cuba when my daughter Alanna woke me up, “Dad, they say we’re turning around.”  Long story short – a radar station in the middle of the Amazon had gone down. No ground control for all of South America and every plane in route to every city in South America had to find a safe place to land as soon as possible.  San Juan, Puerto Rico, Miami, and other Florida airports filled up quickly with planes crossing the Atlantic and running low on fuel.  We had plenty of gas to get back to JFK. The place looked familiar.

We were wondering about a flight back to Pittsburgh.

American decided they’d still fly our plane to Sao Paulo, but the original crew had timed out, so it would be a few hours until they could round up some pilots and flight attendants.

Add 20 hours.

We left late afternoon and the radar in the Amazon was up and running.  Apparently some number of our fellow passengers had returned to Omaha or Buffalo or wherever.  There was plenty of room to stretch out.  But we arrived in Sao Paulo at some unknown hour of the very early morning.  They told us to come to the rebooking desk when it opened in the morning.  Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro later that afternoon. Long layover. An hour and a half from Rio to Belo Horizonte.

Add 12 hours.

It began with an unexpected thunderstorm.  80 hours later we had made it to our destination.

There were times during those 80 hours, especially during the second trip to JFK, when I thought we just wouldn’t make it. Not this year. Not this trip.  A couple of our team members were a little anxious, but their friends were just the kind of friend you need when 24 becomes 80 just like that.

No one knows where we are on this journey with Coronavirus.  Maybe we’re at 35,000 feet over Cuba.  Maybe we’re growing really tired of the American Airlines terminal at JFK.  Maybe we’re on approach for a very early morning landing in Sao Paulo.  We don’t know.

It turned out to be a great mission trip despite our lost 60 hours.  And, after all, the point of the trip was the mission, not our convenience.

See you when we get there.

March 20 – Our Life-Sustaining Business

For reasons of his own, the governor has deemed the church a life-sustaining business. I have no idea what he had in mind, but I think he got this one right. So, we are allowed to keep the building open, which we will on a very limited basis.  Office hours will be random, but we’ll be around to accept food donations for the Deacons’ Pantry and baby supplies for ChoiceOne. Oh, and offering envelopes filled with your tithes and gifts.

In fact, of course, while the building will be mostly closed and the calendar has been cleared, the life-sustaining business of the church continues.  But not very much at the building.

It has been a week like no other. Still sermons to write and lessons to plan (see you online!). Still people to contact by phone and text and email.  But more than that, it has been such a good week to see the life-sustaining work of LPC as we reach out to one another and share the hope and the faith and the love that is ours in Christ.  Frankly, at this point we have more people willing to offer practical help – running an errand, providing a ride, that kind of thing – than we have people asking for help. That may change. Continue reading

March 13 – Here We Stand…But We May Do Other

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

My thanks to the LPC elder who reminded me of these words yesterday.  The counsel she had offered as a medical professional was wise and good.  The words she shared as a sister in Christ were better.

Christians are people filled with hope and joy.  We need not let our current anxiety-provoking situation drain from our lives the gift God has given.

“Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too,” reads the headline of a column in yesterday’s New York Times.  Pray that our compassion – and our hope and our joy – are not victims of the virus. Continue reading

March 6 – Notes from a Pious Hand Washer

First, apologies to those who find nothing funny about the coronavirus. Neither do I, but, let’s face it, we are a funny species and humor is a gift that we need not neglect even in times such as these.

The Centers for Disease Control is doing its best to help us cope with virus. In addition to crawling into our caves, the CDC has told us to learn to cough and sneeze into our elbows and wash our hands for as long and as often as we can. Apparently, we are taking the hand washing advice seriously since we are buying soap by the case full and hand sanitizer by the gallon. I know a dark alley where you can score a bar of Ivory or a jar of Germ-X.

Assuming you have access to soap, you are supposed to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds every time you think you may have touched the wrong surface, shook the wrong hand, or whatever.

My guess is that someone at the CDC must have signed up for a prayer vigil at their church. They know how long 20 seconds can be. Continue reading

February 27 – Thanks, Jim, I hardly knew you

I suppose it’s what you do when you’re getting ready to retire. You look back even as you look forward to the good things yet to come.

So, I was thinking about things and for some reason Jim came to mind. I hardly knew him, really, but he was a friend. Jim may have had a decade or so on me age-wise. I was in my early thirties and Jim was somewhere in his forties. I was on staff at the church and Jim – well, I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he was good at it, and when Jim and his family moved to town they bought a really nice house on the lake. The lake was Oswego Lake in a suburb of Portland Oregon. The lake is two and a half miles long and runs west to east. Jim’s house was at the far western end of the lake and on a clear day as you sat on their dock you could see Mount Hood to the east.  It was a really nice house.

Jim and his family didn’t stay very long in our church or in our town. I think they moved on to some new challenge, some new success. By the time they left, Jim had been made an elder in our church. Jim didn’t talk much about his faith, but he was successful and had that really nice house on the lake. You never can tell why some churches make some people elders.

Our house was only about a mile from the lake, and not as nice as Jim’s. But the rent was cheap and we were happy there. Continue reading