G.O. 2005: Namibia (pt. 4)
Do you know my story from the start?...
July 1st finally arrived. The dance side of the team was, for the most part, coming from a different direction, and so the plan was for the entire team to assemble in the airport terminal. The Christ’s Church part of the team met in the pre-dawn darkness to share a bus ride into the airport. I looked around the bus. These were the right people for this team. This was the right chemistry. I realized that I was sitting amidst an answer to prayer.
Checking that large a group in at the airport provided us with the first of what would be dozens of delays and frustrations in airports on this trip. All the while, very nervous looking moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends stood off to the side waiting to say goodbye. A few of our moms had already demonstrated that they could shed tears, so I anticipated we were in for a deluge. There were a few handshakes and hugs for our team leaders and me from dance parents, as we tried to reassure them all that we’d see them in a couple of weeks. And off we went; their kids with some church folks they had only just gotten to know, headed to the other side of the world. I was walking along amidst another answer to prayer.
Now, if chapters would be needed to describe how the team came together, volumes would be required to record all of the happenings of the actual journey to Namibia. Two experiences stand out to me that I cannot neglect here in this report.
The first, the Atlanta International Airport and an Austrian man named Florian. What was intended to be a nominal layover in Atlanta gave way to a 9-hour odyssey; airplane changes, gate changes, meals we hadn’t planned on buying, and a large group, very tired of being in Atlanta. I prayed for a lift for our group. We decided to gather the team, break out guitars and sing. As we did, a man approached and asked if he could ‘sit in’ with us. Florian joined us, with his accordion for a couple of our songs and then taught us one that he had written. Before we were done, a small crowd of strangers had encircled us, many of them video-taping or clapping along. Our team’s brief encounter with Florian is forever captured on our videos and his melody is etched upon our hearts. I looked around, laughter and smiles had returned to our team.
The second experience to share was of a different vane than our merry melody making with Florian. Three flights, three continents and more than 24 hours into the journey, many on our team were encountering sleeping problems. A couple of our team had been physically sick during our last layover as a result of being overtired. As I have on previous trips, I let it be known that I had sleeping medicine with me. In what is the one moment I wish that I could retrieve, I handed the sleep medicine off to some on our team, and a few of the dancers took the sleep-aid. Within just a few moments of take-off one of our leaders alerted me that one of the dancers was acting strangely. When I got to Stephanie’s seat her eyes seemed to look through me and she was confused. I was told she had taken one of the pills. A physician from England sitting nearby identified himself. He read the information on the medicine and assured us that everything was going to be okay, but urged us to try and encourage Stephanie to sleep. He went on to say, “One of two things will happen: she will either have a good night’s sleep, or she will become violently ill if she remains awake.” As our team leaders moved some folks around to get Steph a seating arrangement that would help her sleep, someone said, “What’s up with Michelle?” Michelle had also taken a pill and she began to panic, concerned for her friend Stephanie, she too was becoming very confused and scared. Again, we moved people around to assist the two girls in getting some rest. At the point where Steph and Michelle were falling asleep, a third dancer, Adria began to go downhill. With Adria, there was no comforting her to sleep. She went the other way. For the next six hours of this flight, Adria was violently ill. For many of those hours I sat with Michelle and Stephanie trying to keep them comfortable and asleep, Adria and those of our team who were caring for her sat directly behind me. Three of my team members had gotten sick… because of me. As the doctor had predicted, Steph and Michelle got a good night’s sleep. Adria endured about 10 hours of living hell before she started to feel better. 24 hours later everyone had pretty much forgotten about it, but me. The experience continues to haunt me. It’s one of those moments in life you revisit often in your memory and plead for a chance to do it differently. Thankfully, the only reminders now are the occasional sleeping pill jokes that find their way to me.
All this excitement, and we're still a full day's travel from Namibia.