The God who orders all things arranged a very fun surprise for my brother and his family on July 23rd. That was the day they flew from Phoenix to Uganda via London for a two week missions trip. But no, the trip was not what surprised them on July 23rd. They had been praying and planning for the trip for months. And packing. They were going to minister to orphans at the Otina Waa Children's Village, operated by our friends Bob and Carol Higgins.
When we met them in the 1980s, Bob and Carol were just an ordinary Christian couple raising their sons in Bend, Oregon. But they were available to God--even if it meant being available to leave their grandkids and travel halfway around the world to train pastors for a couple weeks, as they did in the late 1990s. The trip changed their lives. They gradually began spending more and more of their time in Uganda and less and less in Bend (now they spend about 10 months of the year in Uganda). The pastor training program flourished under their care... and so did a medical outreach... water sanitation projects... the Children's Village (which now provides care for over 200 orphans) and a church which grew up around the orphanage and now averages 600 in attendance each Sunday. You can learn more about the Higgins' work at their ministry web site.
But no, it wasn't Bob and Carol that surprised my brother and his family on July 23rd.
They arrived at the Phoenix airport three hours early (just to be safe) and checked 16 bags, weighing 50 pounds each. (I did say that they had been packing, didn't I?) And that didn't include another 300 pounds of carry-on luggage. It was truly amazing how many things God had provided for them to take to the orphans. For example, a seed supplier donated 5000 packets of seeds. Other friends donated wrist watches and digital cameras so that they could teach the orphans about photography and telling time. But no, it was not even these thoughtful gifts that surprised them at Sky Harbor International Airport that Friday afternoon.
They all lined up for a group photo before heading up the escalator to the security check-in. But wait, who was this dashing up to snap a picture alongside their cameraman? It was... me! But I live 90 miles away... what was I doing there?
So about 3:45 P.M. I left the convention to hop on the light rail. But I arrived just in time to wait for the next train, and then just in time to wait for the shuttle from the train to the airport. In between having wonderful fellowship with a man who had come from Illinois for the Gideons national convention, I was frantically texting back and forth with Heather, who was the only one who knew I was coming, hoping that my brother would not go through the security checkpoint before my arrival. When I finally arrived, I texted her “Where are you?” She replied, “We are in the middle of the aisle in front of the British Air baggage check.” I looked—and that was where I was standing! But where were they?
Well, it turned out that the British Air baggage check was very long… so I eventually saw them in the distance. As I drew nearer, I saw them all looking toward me and smiling. I thought, “Oh no, they have already seen me and the surprise is up!” Then I realized they were looking at a man taking their picture, not at me. So I ran up and snapped a picture next to him!
After spending a delightful hour visiting with them, I had the same waiting game getting back to the convention center. When I boarded the train, I found the car full of partying young people headed to the Diamondbacks game. This guy in the center (who smelled like a fish although he didn’t sound like one yet) saw my camera and immediately asked me to take his picture.
Pray for him. His name is Joey. I was blessed to get to share Jesus with him a bit, until he got upset and walked away.