Lucas Moncada, Kevin Thorne and I left from Pineville to New Orleans where we will catch an early flight tomorrow to Atlanta and then to Bogotá. Patrick Calhoun (CSC President) left on Friday, 2/15 to go to Iquitos, Peru to install a new film team and spend some time with the CSC country coordinator for Peru, Marco Alva.
Lucas, Kevin and I met up at the New Orleans airport with “Doc” Louiviere and his wife Pat. Doc and Pat have an incredible testimony of coming from outlaw motorcycle gangs and drug dealing to a life-transforming experience with Jesus. We got to know them better on our trip from New Orleans to Atlanta and then on to Bogotá. They are directors of Circuit Riders Ministry, a motorcycle ministry and they also work with CSC placing film teams in Mexico and Belize. They had the vision for the Amazon film ministry several years ago and were instrumental in getting it started. They’ve gone down every year for the past 6 years to bring supplies to the ministry and gifts to the villages the CSC ministry visits.
Fabian Bedoya, the CSC country coordinator for Colombia, met us in the Bogota airport. He had arranged for a pastor with a large van to pick us up and take us to the hotel across from the American embassy. We have many suitcases and they are all full with all the supplies and gifts. I also have Patrick’s suitcase allowing him to travel light to Peru. The hotel is plain but there is a lot of security as Colombian military heavily patrol this area because of the US Embassy.
After a nice breakfast at the hotel Lucas, Kevin and I headed across the street to register at the American Embassy. In all my travels to Central and South America I’ve never registered with an American Embassy but since the US State Department does recommend it and since this is Colombia (the most dangerous country in the world for Americans, according to the State Dept’s website) we decided to do it. Doc and Pat preferred to not register. We were impressed with the security procedures to get into the Embassy. Once past the multiple security guards and 2 X-ray machines we easily registered our info and returned to the hotel. On the way out we tried to thank the US Marines standing guard behind bulletproof glass but they were very business-like and didn’t interact with us.
Fabian had contacted the airport and found out the flight from Bogotá to Leticia was delayed because of bad weather in Leticia so we stayed at the hotel a little longer and enjoyed lunch. We finally checked out and headed to the airport, boarded the Aero Republic plane and headed for Leticia. As we did for all 6 flights on this trip, we laid hands on the plane before boarding, praying for our safety.
Patrick had been in Peru since Saturday and had hoped to be able to fly on a small Peruvian Air Force seaplane from Iquitos to Leticia. The Peruvian Air Force allows civilians to fly if seats are available but the plane was broken down so Patrick and Marco had to take a 12 hour boat ride from Iquitos to Santa Rosa, Peru, across the Amazon River from Leticia. On the way to the pastor’s house where we would be based out of they saw our plane coming in for a landing. They dropped their things off at Pastor Carlos’ house and headed to the airport to pick us up.
We came through a very colorful luggage retrieval area, paid the mandatory airport tax and walked into the darkness of the night delighted to see the smiling faces of Patrick, Marco, Jovino Mozombite, our CSC missionary on the Amazon, Pastor Carlos and several others. We loaded up in various small taxis and headed to Pastor Carlos’ house that is upstairs of the church he serves. They have built several rooms behind the church to house missions groups and we were delighted with their hospitality.
We arrived to find that Wednesday night church was about to begin so we quickly got freshened up and headed to church. It was an exciting night of praise and testimony and the group got to greet the church. Doc preached with Fabian interpreting and we had some great fellowship with the enthusiastic church members before heading off to bed (after more fellowshipping with Patrick and Marco!).
We woke up fairly early and after breakfast headed into town to buy a few last minute supplies (mosquito nets, hats, backpacks, etc) for our trip on the river. Leticia is a nice sized town, probably 30,000-40,000 strong. It is located on the southern most tip of Colombia on the tiny sliver of Colombian soil that slices between Peru and Brazil to the Amazon River. The only way to get to Leticia is by air or by boat as there are no roads through the rain forest. But it is quite a progressive town with concrete construction and many paved roads. Everything has to be transported in (mainly by ship). There were a surprising number of cars but there are tons of motorcycles! The town is pretty progressive with it’s own electrical power plant and even a Coca Cola bottling plant that supplies much of this part of the Amazon river. They’ve got a huge satellite in the middle of town that makes communications with the rest of the world possible. There’s also a large military base on the outskirts of town with lots of military activity because of the civil war and drug war ravaging Colombia.
We met back at the church, loaded up our gear and headed down to the river to board the boat that would be our transportation for the next four days. It was a nice-sized fiberglass boat with a hard top that would hold some of our luggage and supplies. We had intended to go downriver into Brazil but were not able to. I don’t understand exactly why. I think we would have had to pay more money than we had budgeted for the trip for an extra insurance policy on the boat or for some specific permit. Nevertheless we decided to go upriver into Colombia and hopefully get to visit Peru.
Our first stop was at a village of the Yagua people. The village was on a backwater of the main Amazon river. We had to hack our way with machetes through thick water growth. We were helped by a Yagua couple in their tiny canoes made from hollowed out logs. They helped clear a path for us through the heavy growth of water lilies.
got to the village and stepped back in time. Many of the Yagua people
still paint their faces with red dye and some wear native dress from
shredded palm leaves. Some of the women (especially the older women) were
topless but most of the younger people wore clothes that had been donated
on previous trips by Doc & Pat or other ministries.
The big hit was when Lucas brought out his rechargeable hair clippers. He gave the chief & two others a haircut and many gathered around gawking and laughing. Lucas really cut up with them and they loved it. He would have done more but the batteries needed recharging. The chief said it had been many years since he had had a haircut; that his wife either plucked it or cut it the best she could.
Doc & Pat gave out March for Jesus t-shirts to all and bras to the women. They had promised to bring bras to the women last year and the ladies were very happy and grateful to receive them.
I found the children to be very quiet and shy as we waited by the boat. They were curious but didn’t interact with me much. But they all loved my pictures of Lori and the girls.
We loaded back up to head for Macedonia. About 30-35 years ago someone brought the gospel to this village and the whole village turned to Jesus. They changed the name of their village to Macedonia. There are no bars or houses of ill repute in the village and only one church. We didn’t show a film this night but instead participated in their regular service and Bro. Fabian preached a powerful sermon on the Peace of God. There were 4 ladies from Brazil who had been traveling up and down the river inviting Christian women to a ladies’ conference Tabatinga, Brazil (right next to Leticia, Colombia). I was impressed with their courage and vision.
I had gotten some type of cramp in my hip while at the Yagua village and it continued to bother me for a couple of days. Then when I got out of the boat in Macedonia I stepped onto a board that was laying across a canoe which shifted with my weight and I fell very hard. So I was not feeling well and decided to stay in our quarters and not go to church. But once church started I could hear the singing and couldn’t stay away, so I went to the service. I’m so glad I did because it was refreshing to be in service with the Macedonian believers.
That night all the guys slept on the wooden floor in a borrowed room under mosquito nets. It was very hot and my leg was bothering me quite a bit so I had a hard time falling asleep and then woke up often to roosters, dogs or animal sounds. I don’t think any of the guys got a good night’s sleep.
This morning we got up around 6:00AM and ate breakfast from our provisions. That had been supper the night before as well. Nothing like Spam for breakfast! Bro. Fabian arranged for us to do a presentation at the school to all the children of the village. And there were a LOT of children. Lucas and I did another puppet show and then we all passed out toys and candy. (You can see two videos of the puppet show. The first is 1 minute-9 megs and the second is 30 seconds-5 megs.) The children were very orderly right up until the end. It was impressive to see them line up in rows by grades and then by height.
Lucas got his trimmer out again and this time hooked it up to the generator. He cut quite a few heads of hair and then showed Jovino how to use the trimmer. He’s going to give them to Jovino for future use in the ministry. What a neat way to draw a crowd. Meanwhile Kevin found a group of guys who were building an addition to the school and jumped right in. He's a builder by trade and enjoyed working with the crew, in spite of the language barrier.
The rest of the group decided to hike up around the village to a neat lookout over the river. My leg was bothering me so I stayed in the boat. An hour later they returned pretty wore out. I was glad I stayed back.
As we headed upriver I thought about the effect of the gospel on a village like Macedonia. In contrast to the Yagua village it was very neat and clean. It was obvious that the school was very disciplined. The children were clean and well dressed. Even though it’s a “government school” the children and all the teachers are Christian so it’s essentially a Christian school. Even though this is a common stopping point on the river for travelers, there are no bars or brothels. Every Saturday all the men in the village are required to help clean the village, cut grass, make repairs, etc. The effects of the gospel on this community are very evident.
After the presentation at the school we set out for Puerto Nariño. The river is amazing. It’s huge and full of trash it has picked up from the river banks as it rises during the rainy season. Alonso, our boat captain, was very careful to avoid the larger trees and stuff but he couldn’t avoid everything because there’s so much stuff in the river. But he’s a good pilot. He made sure we all had life vests with us. A couple of times he had us all put them on as we passed Coast Guard or army check points.
The size of the river is incredible. It’s hard to describe how big it is. Even though we’re hundreds of miles away from where it lets out into the Atlantic Ocean, it’s as big as the Mississippi River is in New Orleans. Ocean-going vessels are common sites as they transport their wares even further upriver. It takes 22 days for these huge ships to get to where we are from the ocean.
Coming into Puerto Nariño there was a small army base where we had to stop and get out while they searched the boat. The civil war is pretty intense and the government is trying to hang onto as much territory as it can. Lucas’ army belt and canteens raised a little concern with the soldiers but it really wasn’t a problem. Doc kidded around with the soldiers, taking pictures, telling jokes and stuff. Then we headed into Puerto Nariño as the soldiers checked out another boat that arrived right behind us. I noticed most boats (including ours) carried two or three flags - those of Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Just as we arrived one of the large canoes arrive with about 40 people on board. This was a "school bus" that was carrying students either to or from school. Obviously water transportation is extremely important and there are "boat taxis" that run routes up and down the river or the tributaries giving rides for pay.
This is a decent sized little town where a nice sized tributary comes into the Amazon. It must be a fairly major stopping point because there are at least 2 small hotels and another under construction. “Hotel” is a loose term. They are very rudimentary but at least they have beds and bathrooms, even though the showers don’t have showerheads – just plastic pipe coming from a large tank of rainwater collected from the roof. But the room is pretty, very nice wood on the windows and ceilings. (The windows are wooden shutters, no glass.) The ceiling actually looks like a European chalet with exposed beams. This is also the only building I have ever seen in Latin America with three-tab shingles. It also has a screened-in room on the second floor with 5 hammocks that we enjoyed after lunch. To top it off there is a 10X10 “lookout” on top of the hotel, essentially the third floor. It has a couple of chairs and an awesome view of the village, the river and the tributary. It was very nice to sit up there and feel the slight breeze.
During the afternoon Doc, Kevin, Patrick and Lucas went to find a swimming hole just outside the village. I stayed back to rest my leg and to write in this journal. In fact, I’m sitting on the floor of our room as it is the coolest place in the room. The city’s generator just turned on so the circular fan mounted on the ceiling fighting against the merciless heat. But it can do nothing against the humidity.
After the guys returned from swimming everyone had a shower and then we waited out a rainstorm to head over to the church, right across from the hotel. It looked like it was going to be rained out but it finally cleared up and the tiny church packed out as did the street outside, as it usually does whenever a CSC team shows a film anywhere in Latin America. There were no decisions for Christ but the film (Jesus) planted a seed in many and encouraged the believers in that town.
After church we went to a small outdoor restaurant and had a great meal with a few caveats. The small restaurant (which is essentially a patio in front of someone’s home) ran out of food and out of gas to cook what little food they had. Then the town’s generator turned off leaving us to eat in the dark. But it was a lot better then Spam and potted meat!!!
That night we had a great night’s sleep in the hotel. It was wonderful because we were sleeping on mattresses instead of a hard floor! We talked and laughed until the wee hours of the night. Then we slept the sleep of angels.
This morning we woke up early and had a great breakfast at the same small restaurant. They really appeared to enjoy hosting us. They had great tropical juices and perfectly cooked eggs. We’ve really enjoyed the friendliness of (most of) the people. There have been some people who are a little standoffish but we’re an odd-looking bunch! Between Doc and his long hair and beard and Lucas with his military looking outfit and me with my fair complexion and city-slicker look we definitely don’t blend in!
We loaded up the boat and headed inland away from the Amazon up the tributary. As we were loading up Fabian and I heard a radio report about the plane that had supposedly been shot down with 4 Americans and 1 Colombian on board. The guerillas killed the Colombian and 1 American and held the other 3 Americans hostage. They were making demands of the government and the situation seemed to be escalating. However we didn’t feel an immediate threat as the happenings were quite some distance away through the jungle so we continued on our way.
We stopped in a large lake and spent some time looking for the famous “pink dolphins”. We saw several and hopefully got pictures of them (although I haven’t seen any that came out). They aren’t completely pink – sort of dark grey or brown but with pink snouts and light bellies. It was exciting, though, to see something in nature you can only see in this part of the world. The major crops for this area are fishing and bananas. We saw a canoe so loaded down with bananas that it looked like it was about to capsize. We also saw some pretty interesting looking fish.
We continued inland towards a new community called Puerto Rico. On the way we stopped at a neat little village named San Juan de Socó. The chief welcomed us warmly and invited us to visit. We shared gifts with the children – toothpaste, balloons, toys, etc. – and MFJ t-shirts with the adults. Then Lucas and I did a puppet show for the children. They all prayed along with the puppet who “accepted Jesus”. There were a couple of women who stayed distant and aloof. One said that Doc looked like “the Beast”. But all in all we were warming received. As we left the chief took my bag and walked in front of me with my hand on his shoulder as we walked down the rickety wooden stairway back down to the boat. What an act of selflessness on his part – he probably only weighed 90 pounds and I weigh a little more! I gave him a digital watch and he was ecstatic.
We all got back in the boat and headed upriver to Puerto Rico. We transported a lady and her children with us who had gone from Puerto Rico to San Juan seeking medical attention for her young son and daughter. She was waiting for any boat headed upriver so we were happy to help. On the backwaters people travel any way they can and hitch rides whenever they can. The river plays a huge part in people's lives and they are very comfortable with it. It was not uncommon to see young children out in canoes by themselves or handling canoes while their dad fished (or napped!).
Puerto Rico is a new community that the government has relocated in the past year or so because of flooding in their former area. The majority of the residents are Christians and once again we were warmly received. Some of the folks helped us get our luggage to the small Public Health building that was newly constructed. (The government would send medical workers from time to time. The community was hoping for a permanently installed medical worker.) We were to spend the night there. We toured their new school building and saw the beginnings of construction of a room the children could eat lunch in while attending school. We also saw construction of a bridge that would join two parts of the village together that were separated when the river rose during rainy season. They were very proud of their facilities.
Most of the people lived in wooden houses with thatch or tin roofs. As most places the majority of the houses were built on stilts to protect them from the high waters of rainy season. Some of the houses had a slight European influence. We learned that the “Anchor Association”, which is based in Switzerland, had helped with some of the construction of this new village. They were also building sanitary outhouses for the school and digging a well for the community. (The bridge and lunchroom were also Anchor Association projects.)
The captain of our boat (Alonso) was the Anchor Association representative overseeing the work. He had once worked with Christians Sharing Christ but through a communications breakdown he had been set aside and was somewhat resentful against CSC. We didn’t know any of this at the time. We treated him like part of the family and found out later the Lord used this trip and the way we treated him to bring healing to his heart. We have a new friend!
Kevin and Lucas started playing volleyball with some of the young men. Kevin played for hours and really bonded with several of them. Later they all raced down to the river to swim with the piranhas. (We’ve learned that piranha attacks are rare and they usually only attack when they smell blood in the water.) There wasn't any real danger in this area because the people bathe and swim in the area so much that most predators are scared off. Like any place in the world the children loved to swim and play in the water!
Jovino pulled out the hair clippers and started giving haircuts. I think he gave somewhere between 20-30 haircuts. I even got to give one! I explained that some of the indigenous people in our country wore their hair in a Mohawk and found a volunteer to let me try it. He decided he'd rather be bald so I shaved it all off! It’s amazing how much of a blessing something as simple as a haircut is. Puerto Rico does not have an electrical generator so we used our small power plant to power the clippers.
We got set up for the film presentation as nightfall approached. The whole village gathered around and we showed “Heaven’s Gates and Hells Flames”. There were no decisions as the majority of the village is Christian. The people asked if we would show another film. We gladly showed “Jesus”, the only other film we had brought with us on this trip. While the second film was shown most of the team sat on the floor of the Public Health building and ate Spam, Vienna sausages, tuna fish and other packaged food we had brought with us. We drank water from the plastic bags of water we had bought in Leticia for the trip. (We bought 10 cases of water and used about 7.)
We had already set up our mosquito nets while it was still light outside. During the film someone saw a snake in the crowd. It was a red and black snake about 18” long that they said was poisonous. One of the men stomped it to death with his rubber boot. It didn’t seem to upset the crowd at all. We also saw some interesting frogs that tried to come into the building to get the bugs that were attracted to our flashlights or the light from the generator. Lucas captured them wearing his rubber gloves. He posed for pictures with them. Later the guys saw a huge spider that had them all jumping. I was safely tucked away in my mosquito netting!
We finally turned in around midnight after everyone dispersed but we were so tired it took awhile for the fatigue-induced laughter to settle down. But once I fell asleep I slept wonderfully on the concrete floor under my pink mosquito net.
Kevin had picked up the nickname “Pink Dolphin” because of his color (he turned pretty red while playing volleyball) and his willingness to swim in the river. He'd even go out further than the villagers normally went. He got weird looks from some guys who went by on a boat while he floated on his blue air mattress out in the deep. He talked Patrick and Lucas into swimming with him this morning in the rain but they only went in ankle deep. I can’t say anything because I just watched from the top of the hill! (And took pictures!)
We gathered for a church service around 9:00AM in the schoolhouse. We sang and then Lucas and I did another puppet skit. I preached a brief message of encouragement and then we taught them some English songs and they taught us some songs in their native language, Ticuna.
We had packed our stuff early and Alonso took it all down to the boat while we ate a specially prepared chicken soup provided by the village. It was a bittersweet parting because we made many friends and really bonded with them. Kevin is thinking of helping them build their church building and maybe even bringing down a couple of his employees to do some of the work. What a blessing to worship with our brothers and sisters in the backwaters of the Amazon!
We headed back down the river, past the military check point and back onto the main Amazon river. It was easier traveling with the current but it seemed there was even more trash on the river than when we went upriver. We had to stop about ½ way to Leticia to get more gas. We stopped at a floating gas station where we bought gas for $2/gallon out of large plastic tanks. They also had a small store and we bought some refreshments. We also passed a dangerously loaded canoe with 39 people aboard. One man was standing at the front of the canoe motioning for other boats to slow down as the wakes from fast moving boats would capsize their boat and leave them all stranded in the middle of the Amazon. Makes our public transportation seem very safe in comparison!
We arrived back in Leticia a little ahead of schedule, around 2:30 or so. We went by to see the original CSC boat (a 40’ canoe that had been hollowed out of a tree). It had been taken out of commission due to wood rot and been replaced by a smaller aluminum boat. We would have taken it on this trip but it wouldn't have accommodated our entire group. But it does well for Jovino and the equipment. When we got back to the docks we loaded all the bags in a couple of tiny taxis for the ride to the church. Patrick, Kevin, Lucas, Fabian and Alonso walked because there was no room in the taxis.
After arriving back at the pastor’s house we visited awhile and then took cold showers. (We haven’t had hot water since Bogotá.) It was the most wonderful shower of my entire life! I could have stayed in that shower forever!
We cleaned up and visited more before service. Patrick, Doc, Fabian, the pastor and I met right up until time for service, ironing out some details of the local ministry. Then we went downstairs to the church for the Sunday evening service. It was an awesome time of exciting praise and tender worship. Our whole team was invited to bring a greeting to the church and then I preached. My sermon was on the heart of God and how He has been searching for “Adam” from the beginning. The sermon had two goals, one to call the sinner to turn to Christ in answer to God’s desire for fellowship and relationship. The second was to call the Christian whose walk had grown cold to return to the God who was still seeking him out. There were five 1st time decisions for Christ and the majority of the congregation responded to the 2nd part. It was a wonderful service.
After service we checked email. Patrick received one from Monica urging caution regarding the developing situation here in Colombia with the downed plane and the 3 kidnapped Americans. She included an AP article with info on how things were developing. We all read the info and prayed about the situation. We continued meeting with the pastor after church and enjoyed a scrumptious meal by his wife, Laidy. We have eaten some great meals and had some absolutely delicious and refreshing juices on this trip. We finally turned in after 1:00AM (starting to sound like a broken record!).
We got up around 6:00AM to begin our final day on the Amazon. After another great breakfast by Sister Laidy we headed into Leticia to buy some souvenirs. As is my custom I found an Internet café where I could try to read and write some email. The internet café had about a dozen computers sharing a connection to the Internet. It cost $1 per hour to use a computer. The connection was via a satellite phone so it was excruciatingly slow. After my hour was up I met up with some of the group and bought a few souvenirs and we all headed back to the church for our final meeting with the Colombian team. On all of these trips we usually end up having last minute meetings covering things we’ve seen, discussing ministry issues, etc. It was a very productive meeting with Jovino, Pastor Carlos, Doc, Patrick, Fabian and me present.
After the meeting we ate lunch. They had prepared a huge fish (about 2 feet long!) and bananas grilled over open coals. The fish had teeth like human teeth. They laid the whole fish on the table, peeled back the blackened skin and we took portions from the fish along with rice and a tomato/avocado salad. It was GREAT! And there were more wonderful juices.
It was finally time to load up to head to the airport. We loaded everything up in the back of a flatbed pickup truck with wooden stakes on the sides. At the airport several Colombians met us to say goodbye: Pastor Carlos & his wife Laidy, Alonso, Jovino & his wife and some people from the church came to see us off. It’s been a great week but we’re also looking forward to returning home. Thank God for the opportunity to see the CSC work in the Amazons and to be used in a small way to encourage our brothers and sisters down here. What a privilege!
Something interesting happened in the airport. After checking in we encountered a couple of US Border Patrol agents who were down in Colombia doing pro-active drug and alien interdictions. They were returning from the Amazon where they had stopped 25 illegal oriental aliens on their way to the states. They had also captured over $1,000,000 worth of drugs and money. They were being accompanied by a reporter and cameraman from Univision (one of Latin America’s largest television networks) who were doing a documentary on their work. They asked if they could interview me and I agreed. They asked how I felt knowing the Border Patrol was working so far from the US; if I felt safer knowing the Border Patrol was acting proactively; how I felt knowing these men had left their families behind and were putting their life on the line to protect us. It was interesting. One of the guys (Jeffrey?) was married to a girl who graduated from McAllen High School in 1983 (where my wife would have graduated if she hadn’t gone to a Christian school during high school). He and his wife now live in Harlingen, TX, half an hour from my wife’s hometown. It was pretty neat to meet these guys so far from home. They were being called home because of the imminent war with Iraq.
When we got to the airport in Bogotá Lucas was very concerned for our safety because of the unrest and the information we had received regarding the kidnapped Americans. He wanted to stay in the airport rather than go to the hotel. We encouraged him to not split from the group but he insisted on staying. Kevin decided to stay in the airport with him to not leave him alone. Doc & Pat, Patrick and I all felt peace about going to the hotel. We don’t want the team to split up but we respect Lucas’ desire to take whatever measures he feels necessary to insure his safety. Each one of us has to trust the Lord for our safety and act according to the peace of God that we each have in our hearts.
The pastor who had transported us in Bogotá when we arrived from Atlanta was there waiting on us again so we loaded up to head for the hotel. Fabian’s wife, Adriana, had traveled by bus from their home in Ibague to meet us in Bogotá. It was wonderful to see their joy at seeing each other again! We picked up Adriana and headed for an exquisite supper of roasted chicken at a place called Multipollo (translated = Multichicken).
After supper we went back to the hotel where Patrick and I visited with Fabian and Adriana until around 1:00AM. We discussed some future plans for them and their safety. They have received specific death threats to them personally and would like to leave Colombia for a season until the situation has calmed down. We prayed with them and discussed various ideas for them to go to the states for awhile. Patrick and also I got to talk with our wives by phone, which we really enjoyed.
After a refreshing night’s sleep we headed back to the airport. The city had a stronger police presence than the previous week and is actually felt more secure or safe. The police have roadblocks set up and are inspecting all luggage at the major transportation centers of the city. I was thankful we came on to the hotel and had a shower and rested. Sweet sleep!
We got to the airport around 6:40 AM and couldn’t find Kevin or Lucas. We discovered they had already checked their luggage in and had gone on to the boarding gate. We paid our airport taxes and then I headed to another Internet café while Patrick visited the Dunkin Donut shop! We picked up a few last minute souvenirs and headed towards the gate area.
It’s amazing the number of security checkpoints we went through. I think there were 7 or 8, I lost track. Patrick’s bag was hand searched at least two separate occasions in addition to the x-rays, face-recognition software and other security measures. The security is incredible but it really makes you feel safe. I can see why Lucas would want to stay at the airport. As an aside, one of the Border Patrol agents we had met the day before in Leticia told me that the US had been asked to take over security at the airport and in the last 2 months over 250 suspected terrorists had been detained in the Bogotá airport trying to get into the US. He said we wouldn't hear this on the news in the US but that our government was working hard to keep terrorism at bay. I later saw a news report in Spanish on the Univision website that stated essentially the same information but I’m surprised I’ve not seen this on US news outlets. Thank God for all the safety workers and for all those who are working to make the USA safe.
We finally found Lucas and Kevin at the boarding gate. They had indeed spent the night at the airport and unfortunately had both gotten ill after eating a hamburger at the McDonald’s in the airport. (Of all places!) But finally we were all boarding the plane to head home! It felt pretty good to be on the Delta plane. I don’t know if it’s sovereign American soil but it sure was nice to hear English spoken with a southern accent. (The crew was based out of Atlanta and was very polite.)
On the flight home Lucas got to feeling quite a bit worse. There was a doctor on board and he checked Lucas out real well. Seems he took twice as much Imodium AD as he should have and that caused him to be light-headed and made him drowsy. The attendants got him some fluids and had him lie down across three seats. The sleep did him well because by the time we got to Atlanta he was feeling much better. The flight crew had paramedics meet us in Atlanta just to make sure he was ok and we got special treatment to get us through customs and immigration. Lucas got stronger and stronger and when we finally got to New Orleans he actually had an appetite!
We arrived at New Orleans and bid goodbye to Doc and Pat. Those of us from Cenla retrieved our cars and met at a local "hole-in-the-wall" for a taste of down-home food. Those New Orleans style Po-Boys were excellent! We reminisced about the trip together over our meal and then split up for the drive back to Central Louisiana. We were tired but glad to be home. Another successful trip and another privilege to be a part of the Christians Sharing Christ team bringing the light and love of Jesus to those in dark places!
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