In a recent monthly update we posted a schedule for the winter, or summer for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere. That schedule included 3 teams of two weeks each spread over three months. It also included visits by Sam & Rosina - two of my siblings, Joe & Angie - another brother and his wife, Sally Seefried - the director of AIMI, Judd Pietcsh - a good friend of ours from college, and Allison & Wendy - two young ladies who will be helping here for a month. So you can see our travel schedule will be kind of booked for the next few months.
The first visitors to arrive were Sam & Rosina. They had spent about 3 weeks in China visiting Joe & Angie, then traveled on to South Africa for a couple months with us here. Normally teams coming from the US arrive about 5:00 in the afternoon, giving us ample time to drive to the airport and fetch them. Unfortunately, people traveling from the East via Hong Kong tend to arrive about 7:00am, meaning one must leave The Pines about 4:00am or spend the night in Johannesburg in order to arrive at the airport on time. For this particular pick-up we chose the latter. It worked out nicely for Brian Niehoff as well. His grandfather had become quite ill and Brian was able to hitch a ride with us to make a quick trip back to the US. He brought Liam along with him and was able to get back to Iowa a couple days before his grandfather passed away. The timing turned out to be a blessing so their family was able to be together at that time.
Normally we are able to get a very nice hotel for very cheap through a bidding website. This time however that was unavailable so we stayed in a budget hotel close to the airport. Since Amber and the kids had been ill recently they went to bed about 7:30. I stayed up watching The Bourne Identity on our laptop. When we had arrived to check in we were given the handicapped room because they told us all the other rooms had been booked. We, of course, bought that excuse, as the alternative was that the lady at reception did actually think one of us was handicapped. About 8:30 I heard a group arrive at the hotel. It was obviously a bunch of young people from the amount of noise filtering through the door.
After a minute or two it occurred to me that all the voices were American. The typical accent around here, at least for white people, falls somewhere between British and Austrailian, with occasional German "hoch-ing" thrown in. It was clear that these folks were speaking our language. Then as I was thinking about this I heard someone start singing an old Sunday School song. It was at that point that I started putting pieces together like a regular Sherlock Holmes.
1. Hotel is completely booked up. This indicates a large group all together. The frivolities outside served to confirm this suspicion.
2. Accent. Clearly American, likely mid-western or Sacramento, CA.
3. Young people. Probably college aged. Obviously not people with young children or they likely would have considered making less noise.
4. Sunday School song. That indicates at least one of this group has been exposed to church from a young age.
5. Budget Hotel. That confirms it. I knew where these people were from.
After putting all the peices together like a 52 piece jigsaw puzzle, I arrived at the conclusion that I may actually know these people. The only problem was that I didn't want to wake Amber by getting out of bed and leaving the room. Fortunately, about that time she rolled over and asked what all the commotion in the hall might be attributed to. I told her that I had a sneaking suspicion that we knew said people and she encouraged me, nay demanded that I investigate.
I slid Meredith out of the way (we placed her mattress strategically in front of the door so in the event of attempted break-in we would quickly know -very clever on our part) and stepped into the hall. Since we have now been out of college for 6 years, I didn't fully recognize anyone right away. The first few faces looked familiar but I wasn't exactly sure. The way they looked at me confirmed they were thinking the same thing. "I think we know this guy. The shirt he is wearing is from our college..."
It wasn't until I saw the cousin of my best friend that I knew for sure that this was indeed a missions group from Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny. Turns out that one of the leaders of this team was Brenda Hendrickson, a close friend and former co-worker of Amber. She quickly came running down the hall laughing at this strange serendipitous event. Seeing her coming I poked my head back into our room and told Amber. She then proceeded to wake our two children to show them off. Meredith & Drake were not impressed and made it clear they intended to promptly return to a nice REM sleep.
So while we intended to get to bed early we ended up staying awake for the next several hours, recounting recent events with Brenda. We squeezed in a couple hours of sleep before it was time to get up and head to the airport for the arrival of two of my siblings. We had been looking forward to their visit since my other family members departed in early February. Meredith in particular had been filled with anticipation of their arrival. For the last several months she has been counting down the days and finally it seemed the time had arrived. The wait was excruciating for her, as you can see in the photo. Finally, she was rewarded to see them dragging their weary carcasses down through the terminal. The reunion was quite enjoyable. For anyone that knows my sister you'll be happy to learn that it remained relatively dry, with only a few tears shed. This time, unlike my wedding day, she didn't cause me to start sobbing like a schoolgirl. I'm sure you'll hear tales of their adventures at another time.
As a quick post-script, about two weeks later we were back at the airport dropping off Judd and picking up Brian & Liam and Allison & Wendy. While waiting at the airport we saw a family browsing through a Christian bookstore. Putting my Sherlock skills to use again, I deduced that this family was probably missionaries. With my extensive experience as a homeschooler growing up in a big family, I also suspected that this family was likely large and probably homeschooled their children. After a bit of prompting, my brother Sam, serving as Watson to my Holmes, approached this family and struck up a conversation. Not only were our suspicions confirmed regarding the missions work (church planting and discipleship up north), size of family (11 children), and choice of schooling (of course), but it turns out the husband/father, Jerry Wilhite, grew up in Iowa. They said I'd probably never heard of the town Russell. However, our pastor, Don Michaelsen, had spent several years pastoring at the church in Russell. Like a regular name dropper I mentioned his name and what do you know but 20 or so years ago they had known each other. Small world.