Gate A10 Please
"Here I sit in America in my comfy house with electricity, running water, climate-controlled air, coffee on demand, shelter over my head, keys to a couple nice cars, money in my pocket, food in my fridge and I don't even have to go to the market. Tomorrow we're leaving for a third world country we know nothing about except for the pain of many. Hopelessness, depression, rejection and probably thoughts of "how can I do this". I know why we are going but I don't know what we're actually going to do, or how we'll do it. Don't really know what to expect, yet we are expecting. I just know we're going and we're willing to be used to show God's love and advance God's Kingdom in some way.
Nervous, no. Scared, no. Wondering, yeah. Excited, yeah."
That was the post I made on Social Media on Sunday August 7th, 2016 the day before we were to leave for our first mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in fact it was our first trip ever out of the country. By the way, when you live in Michigan, Canada does not count as a foreign country. Up to this point we had already seen so much of God's favor and we knew without a doubt that His mighty hand was in on what we were doing through our ministry Haven of Hope. After all, He is the one who orchestrated the plan and designed us for it. Now, we could look back as far as 2013 to see His finger print on it through a prophetic word that was giving to us sharing this plan very clearly, though at the time we didn't have a clue what it was. That however is another testimony that I will write in the weeks to come.
We woke up at 6 AM on the morning of August 8th to get ready to leave for the airport at 8 AM but quickly discovered some news that would significantly impact our travels. Apparently, all Delta flights were delayed and or canceled due to a power outage in the datacenter at the main hub in Atlanta, Georgia. All the Delta computers were down, and absolutely no flights were going out across the country for safety reasons. It was unclear as to what happened but there were stories that alluded to a cyber terrorist attack, network data servers being compromised or virus exposure that quickly surfaced on the news and social media. Despite the reports that the news gave and the warnings of people calling us telling us we might as well stay home, we decided to go to the airport believing that flights would resume. After all, this was our Father's design and who can come against Him?
Around 7 AM our close friend Phil Janes showed up with his truck to take us and all our baggage to the airport. However, before leaving he showed us the Google maps on his phone informing us that our travel route on I-94 was all red, indicating that our drive to the airport was going to be extremely slow and we should consider a different route. Rachelle and I held firm to our faith that one way or another everything was going to work out and that we would not stress. With that being said, we decided to continue with our plan and take I-94 anyway. The interesting part here is, when we finally left and were driving on I-94, it was the fastest, most uninterrupted travel to the airport that we have ever experienced. We did not slow down once and the Monday morning traffic that I have seen so many times for work on this same freeway, didn't take place. It was literally smooth sailing all the way there.
Upon our arrival at the Detroit Metro airport, we looked for a FIDS (flight information display system) board and it showed our flight still was still scheduled for normal departure at 10:30 AM. This gave us more confidence in our belief that we would still depart today regardless of what we were hearing and or seeing. We proceeded to check our bags and they gave us no issue, nor a question despite the weight and unusual content of our heavy bags. We paid a normal and expected fee for the supplies we were bringing on the trip. Truthfully, we thought they might have given us a problem bringing almost 300 lbs. of supplies, 50 lbs. being metal washers for a project our team would make in the Congo. We had tremendous favor and even struck up a conversation with the ticket agent about water straws (filters) that the he sells to African nations. Additionally, we did not run into any of the anticipated TSA checks, it was almost as if they knew our purpose and we waltzed through rather quickly.
As we made our way to our gate to become familiar with its location before grabbing some coffee, we discovered that our flight status changed from scheduled to delayed. This wasn’t a huge surprise and we decided to make a date of the morning/afternoon while waiting for the new departure time. We had confidence that they would work through whatever issue they had with the outage and gave no attention to the news and mass media broadcasts of this unusual issue Delta was experiencing. As we walked through the large McNamara international terminal, we grabbed coffee, browsed the shops and had a good time. It did however become increasingly difficult to ignore the upset people and the long lines in the Delta resolution centers. You know, that dreadful area you go when you're trying to scramble for a new flight once you missed yours or after a cancellation. Numerous people throughout the morning kept calling and messaging us to get an update on whether or not we would be going. We just asked them to pray because we really wanted to show up on time and it was very important to my wife that we land on International Women's Day in South Africa where we were meeting up with additional team members before heading to Congo.
We continued to make the most of our time together on our impromptu date. We ate lunch at a nice restaurant and afterwards made our way to the FIDS board again to see if there was a time update. Our hearts sank as we saw our flight was now cancelled. We now made our way, what felt like the walk of defeat, to the Delta resolution center and got in line behind the numerous people waiting to reschedule their flights. Once it was our turn on the phone with the Delta agent, we still had the expectation that they could do something. We refrained from becoming angry, upset or discouraged in our situation and it helped that the agent working for me us was quite pleasant. She said she would search their flights, other carrier flights and optional paths to get us there after I explained the importance of arriving on time and the reason for our travels. A bit of time had gone by and she returned from searching. She informed me that the best thing they could do was fly us to Atlanta that evening around 5 PM, they would put us up in a hotel at their cost and get us out the next day as their flight to South Africa only left once a day. This would mean we would miss the arrival on National Women’s Day and be a whole day behind on our entire trip. We weren’t happy but there was nothing we or she could do, so we accepted the resolution given to us. Well, we had much time on our hands as it was still early in the afternoon. We continued to enjoy our time together, holding hands, having some laughs and talking about our excitement in going.
I couldn't tell you what time it was, but we were walking back and forth through the terminal killing time until our evening flight and "suddenly" a voice over the loud speaker throughout the terminal said, "Will a Mr. and Mrs. Randall Garretson please report to Gate A10 please". Without a word my wife and I looked at each other as if to say "did you hear that too"! I ask my wife, "Did they just call our name?" "Yes, I think so" she replied. We had to locate where we were in the airport and when we did, we found we were standing right under Gate A10. The entire gate section was darkened and empty. There was no one in it as we looked aimlessly through it until we saw a gate agent standing behind the gate desk. He looked up at us and our eyes caught each other in amazement and he said surprisingly "Mr. Garretson?" "Yes" I replied. He returned with a "Wow, that's pretty weird. Hey, come on over here, we have a flight for you!" The agent proceeded to tell us that he had a different flight route for us and instead of going from Detroit down to Atlanta, then on to Johannesburg, South Africa, we went from Detroit over to Amsterdam then all the way down to Johannesburg, SA. When it was all said and done we would arrive there only 4 hours later than our original time. In a perplexed state of mind, I asked "how are you able to do this when we were told there was absolutely nothing they could do for us?" His reply was simply "I have my special ways of doing things". We flew the long Amsterdam route to South Africa thanking and praising God in our heads throughout the trip for His amazing favor.
The photo above was taken the following year during our 2017 mission trip departure, it holds a special memory in our hearts and always brings a tremendous amount of joy when seeing it. What's kind of cool is the number ten is one of my favorite numbers, our God is so good like that. He pays attention to the smallest of details that have meaning to us. Don't you love God's suddenly moments? Was that an angel or a miracle of God? Either way, nothing surprises us anymore. Never be discouraged when you are faced with the odds against you. Our God is mighty, and He has a good end to the troubles we face. God is good all the time and a wise man once told me, "if it ain't good, it ain’t over yet. God's not done with it." My personal advice is to always be expecting great things when faced with challenging situations. I certainly can't say that I am perfect at it but when I look back on testimonies like this and remember what we did in them, we held on to our faith and our high expectations that God is the God of the impossible. Keep your child like faith, hold on to His promises, speak good words and feed on heaven and not on the atmosphere of darkness. Don't complain and watch your words, what you speak is what you are calling forth into your life. Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.