The First Step Closer

My feet clamor for release almost as loudly as my backside cries for relief from its suppression.

Last weekend was supposed to be simple: move out of my apartment, retrieve my sister from the airport, then fly to Atlanta for a predeparture orientation. What fun would it be if everything went to plan?

Friday morning, as I packed my car and prepared to depart for KCI to get my sister, a winter storm blew in. Storm-ologists knew it as Winter Storm Decima. Those traveling knew it as the reason roads and airports across Missouri were shut down. The rest of us hunkered down and wondered if hell was freezing yet. I had already handed over my apartment keys, so I was trapped in Maryville without a bed. Fortunately, my good friend Tom offered to let me crash at his place overnight, then I would hopefully be on my way on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as many have learned over the years, the effects of a Friday night can linger around the next day, and like a crippling hangover the storm continued to blanket the state with its icy “blessing.” Worse yet, the storm brought with it a cold wave of air, and as if someone hit the thermostat, temperatures plunged into the negatives, which Tom and I felt keenly due to the lack of central heating in his apartment.

I tell you this not to elict sympathy, but as a long-winded excuse for my next admission: I didn’t change socks for the next four days.  I had packed all of my clothes into my car, and there was no way I was unpacking everything to just get a change of clothes. Besides, with the cold, I didn’t feel like I needed to change on Saturday.

By Sunday morning, the skies had cleared and although the temperatures were still low enough to draw an involuntary scoff at the mention of going outside, I knew I had to journey outwards to catch my flight. Due to the number of first impressions I would make that day, it seemed a good time to change clothes, shave, and comb my hair. An hour later, feeling like a competent adult once more, I set out for the airport. To some it may seem incomprehensible to forget to change socks, but this is me we’re talking about. More importantly, I didn’t discover this for some time, but onward with the story!

After two delays and an hour later than planned I arrived in ATL at 10:15 local time. I’m going to delay the story for a second to mention how awesome of an airport it is. I’ve been to many airports, but ATL is extraordinarily well laid-out and for an airport of its size is very easy to navigate. Okay, before this turns into an airport review blog, back to the weekend.

I know parents are forever emphasizing the dangers of strangers in vans, but within ten minutes of touching down in the deep south I was diving headfirst into a dark blue minivan. Inside, my Globalscope coordinator greeted three other study abroad interns and I to the city “where players play.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more comfortable couch bed than the one that greeted me in the apartment where we were overnighting, even with its lack of sheets. As I prepared to crash, though, I finally discovered my earlier error, and unholy waft floating to my nose once my feet found their freedom. Much like noticing you don’t have your house keys after locking the door behind you, this realization sent a shock of horror through my system, and electrified, I went to work attempting to amend the issue. An intelligent traveler would have brought extra socks. I didn’t. Without many options, I decided to bury them underneath my backpack.

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The “Canada corner”
Monday morning we set out for the Christian Campus Fellowship of Georgia Tech to begin our training. I discovered three major things: (1) the CCF house is really cool, (2) putting sticks on the ground is harder than it appears, and (3) we’re all vastly under qualified to do this but God can use us anyway. From nine to five we listened, laughed, and looked forward to the next five months with a mixture of terror and excitement.

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Future study abroad interns chatting after the orientation!
Fifteen students were present, three of us headed for Spain, two of whom speak Spanish (the third is me). One of the missionaries from Salamanca was even there and spoke to us, giving us a good idea of what our job there would be. It was exciting to see others passionate about the Gospel and willing to sacrifice some of their time and freedom abroad to help share it with the world. When one of the students marveled at how well we had gotten along, I wondered if our unifying purpose had provided the glue to bind our group together.

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I may have gotten distracted during the session.
After the event, most of the students went to get pizza from a local chain. Many laughs later, we completed the modern task of adding each other on the various social media, then parted ways, with some of the local students giving those of us with flights to catch a ride to the airport. We passed through security and each to our gates. My flight won’t arrive in KC until 10:40, meaning my ETA at home is 1:00 am, Tuesday morning. My back and backside ache for the moment the journey ends. Before long, they will ache to escape the eight-hour flight from Chicago to Madrid.

 

 


Writing this post on the flight back, I reflected that the experience taught me several lessons: first, while following God can sometimes feel like a lonely walk, sometimes that is because we are so focused on our own path that we don’t see the others walking alongside and ahead of us. Second, the power of the Gospel can bring together diverse personalities and characters to serve the kingdom, and provide the common aspiration which allows and even compels us to get over our personal differences. Finally, always pack extra socks.

Seriously, I’m sorry to anyone who suffered from that scent.

 

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