Rope’s End

It was 1 AM on Tuesday, June 6th at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Baggage Carousel Number Eight, when we came to our rope’s end.

Our family of six had just been traveling over a gruelling, 36-hour cross-Pacific Ocean trip from Malang, Indonesia to New Orleans, Louisiana (via Surabaya, via Hong Kong, via Los Angeles, via Dallas Ft. Worth) and our exhausted, jet-lagging bodies were looking forward to a refreshing night’s sleep a hotel near the airport. The next morning my parents were going to pick us up in their car, and I would rent an extra car to get us and all our baggage to their house in Mississippi two hours away.
That was Plan A.
Plan B started when we got to the airport and learned that my parents could not pick us up the next day because my dad was ill. My aunt, who lives in Louisiana, would be picking us up instead. I felt bad for my inconvenienced Aunt, my sick dad and the delayed reunion with my parents, but more worrisome for me was that my mom would not be able to bring us our new bank cards. Our old ones, I learned en route, no longer worked as our bank had changed over and we didn't receive the notice. So I was holding in my wallet worthless cards and a depleted supply of U.S. cash.
No problem. The hotel had free shuttle service so hopefully they would let me check in without a credit card, since they already had my number on file, and my aunt would pick us up the next day. We would borrow some money from her to pay for our stay, use her credit card for the rental car, and then pay her back once we got to Mississippi and were reunited with my folks and our new cards.
That was Plan B.
Plan C started when we got to Baggage Carousel Number Eight, and while waiting for our suitcases to wind there way to us, I learned on a courtesy phone that the hotel we had booked doesn't offer shuttle service past midnight. It was now 12:30 AM (yes, that would have been helpful information to know ahead of time).  We set up camp at some benches in front of the carousel with our ten large suitcases and six carry-ons and four spent children while mom and dad made a plan. My wife suggested I go back to the courtesy phones and look for another hotel that offered 24 hour shuttle service. Surely there would be one.
That was Plan C.
Plan D started when I could find no room in the inn, at least an inn with 24-hour-shuttle service. I made my way slowly back to base camp, dreading the response of my near-delirium family. The reality was slowly seeping into my mind that we were going to have to settle down for the night right here in this metallic baggage claim area.  While I shuffled back to them I kicked myself for not exchanging more Indonesian rupiah into U.S. dollars in Hong Kong. In one last desperate attempt at transportation before I delivered the bad news, I swung by a row of waiting taxis.
“Can you give my family a lift to the Comfort Suites hotel?” I asked a bored taxi driver.
“Sure thing.”
“Well, here’s the problem. I have a new credit card and the number, but I just don’t have it on me. But it’s really me.”   Even as the words were leaving my mouth I knew how absurd and seedy that sounded. “I have the little CSC number too and can prove my address.”
The taxi driver looked at me like a man who has just been offered a Rolex watch from shady man in a trench coat. He waved me off.
By the time I got back to base camp, the two younger kids were trying in vain to sleep on the benches and the two older kids were walking up and down the deserted corridor.  I'm not sure what they were doing—maybe checking for leftover coins in pay phone change slots.   Ana looked at me sweetly and joked, “Dad, we will beg for money.”
“No,” I answered and quoted from Psalms. “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread…and I'm not going to start now!”
This was the testing moment. I could see it in both Caleb and Ana’s eyes. Even though they are good sports and we were all sort of joking, they were watching my response to this stressful situation.  How is dad going to respond to us being broke and abandoned at the New Orleans airport? And I had to answer those eyes. Am I going to have an emotional temper tantrum, maybe get into a fight with my wife while deflecting the blame? Or will I put my trust in God?
I decided right then and there that I was clutching on to Jesus. “Guys, you’ve heard me say this before, but God always makes a way where there is no way. We’ve seen him do it a thousand times. Jesus is not going to abandon us at the airport.”   I wasn’t entirely sure if I believed it in this case but the conviction at least came through in my voice.
I got back to Stephanie and she was taking it like a seasoned trooper. She made another suggestion to get on-line to see if we could find more hotels that offer free shuttle service. We could put our new credit card number in their system and maybe that would be enough to get over the second hurdle of checking in without the actual card.
That was Plan D.

Plan E started when our laptop could find no Wi-Fi signal at the airport (come on, this is supposed to be high-tech America??!!). At 1 AM I marched back to the courtesy phones and decided to call every single hotel in the provided phone list, even the ones that didn't advertise shuttle service. One lonely night auditor named Dave answered the phone at the Quality Inn. I explained my situation, praying under my breath the whole time.
He answered slowly. “Well, I’m the only one on duty and I’m really not supposed to leave the property…” More desperate prayers through bated breath. “…but I guess I could lock up the lobby and pick you guys up in the van.”
Exhale breath. Take one more deeper one.
“Thanks so much, Dave. But there’s just one more thing. Can we check in with a credit card number and then tomorrow pay with a different card. We just traveled form overseas and we don’t have our new card yet.”
“Yeah, that would be fine.”
Exhale again, this time with joy. “You are a life saver Dave.”
I delivered the glad tidings to the clan and we set up a new base camp at the waiting bay for hotel shuttles. The airport was almost completely empty by then. The only sound was our our giddy family celebrating the success of Plan E by putting our last remaining American dollars into the vending machines to purchase cokes and Doritos.
Dave the Life Saver picked us up in the hotel van and we checked in at the Quality Inn at 1:30 AM without a credit card. We slept like only people with caffeine and Doritos and joy and jet lag in their systems can—very well.
God once again made a way for us O’s where there was no way.