Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Adventure Begins!!

The Adventure Begins!!

We left the MTC at 12:30 PM on Wednesday August 27.  Our flight to Chicago left SLC an hour late. The flight attendant told us that the plane was late because the pilot made an unscheduled sight-seeing trip around Antelope Island and some other places because some of the passengers had not seen mountains before!? We had to run across the terminal in Chicago to make our connection. Sister Draper was gasping for air, pushing her pile of wheeled luggage while Elder Draper did the same. Several young adults trying to make the same connection encouraged us with a few hand-claps and some cries of “c’mon you can make it!” as they left us in the dust. They congratulated us and so did we when we made it just on time.
     We enjoyed a cramped, mostly sleepless Atlantic crossing to London, arriving about 9 AM Thursday. We were scheduled to leave there for Jo-burg about 7 PM. We left at 9 PM.
     The reason for the delay was that the gangways had mechanical problems which had to be fixed before we could board. We landed in Johannesburg with 10 minutes to connect to our flight. Again the gangway had problems. It was a double-decker plane and of course we were at the back on the top deck. They said because of the gangway problems that there would only be one exit via the lower deck. Not much chance that we were ever going to make our connection. 

     We tried anyway by running all the way to the other end of the terminal being in need of boarding passes from South African Airlines (we also needed to find our luggage).  The man said: “That flight is gone.” and then just stood there as if to say, “Next.” Neil asked what he could do to help us. The man told us to ask British Airways, which was three chairs down, because it was not his fault. Neil asked and he told us that the next flight was not until Sunday (it was then Friday AM). So we went to British Airways and told our plight. The girl got on the phone and said the line was busy and did this several times. There was a flight in 1/2 an hour on another airline to Lubumbashi. We asked if she was trying to get us on that flight. The answer was, “No I can’t do that. I’m just trying to find someone to help you because I am not authorized to do anything for you.” She told us to try the main ticket office because they would be able to help. Meanwhile, Neil was trying to phone mission travel for help.  We found four young missionaries on their way to Mozambique trying to do the same thing.  We found a pay phone.  It didn’t take money, you had to have a special calling card.  They said you could buy one at the Post Office.
     We went to find our luggage that we needed to pick up and reboard on the next plane.  There was nothing on the carousel!  We went to lost luggage and to our surprise we discovered our luggage had been checked all the way through to Lubumbashi.  We wondered how it could be checked through but we couldn’t.  At least we didn’t have to haul our luggage of 7 suit cases and two carry-ons with us all day throughout the airport.  That was a tender mercy.
     We got upstairs to the main ticket counter and they told us that they do this down stairs and not here.  We had just come from down stairs.  We did determine that there is a special agent* that could help us take care of these things but he was, of course, on the other end of the terminal!!  (good grief)  We hurried over to where we were directed excited we would finally find someone who would help us.  He told us that because the last leg of our flight was not with British Airways, but with South African Airlines, that they were not responsible to help us find a new flight, give us accommodations or ANYTHING! He told us where there was a hotel and said there was another flight the next day with another airline that we could pay for or wait until Sunday but we would need to look after our own accommodations.  We decided it was time to find the Post Office to get a calling card.  We thought we should call the Mission Office in Lubumbashi to let them know not to pick us up because we weren’t there.  We also wanted to call Missionary Travel SLC to see what they could do to help us from their end.  (Maybe we could hang out with the Area Presidency in Jo-burg for the weekend.)
     We found the Post Office.  It was a short line up.  Oe man was in front of Neil.  He had three small packages to mail. We watched the girl lick stamps one by one to put on the three packages for over 1/2 hour.  (seriously?)  When we finally got to the window and asked to buy a calling card she blankly stared back at us and said,  “We don’t sell those anymore.”  “Where can we get one?”  “I don’t know”.  We said thank you and were on our way to where?  … We didn’t know.  
     We found a cell phone company and rented a SIMM card for the day.  We got our cell phone up and running and then our numbers didn’t work.  When we dialed the Salt Lake number the recording said that the number did not exist.  The mission office would ring three times and then go dead.  So we looked at each other for awhile.  At this point we didn’t know what to do next. We stopped and prayed for help.  
     We then took the phone back to the phone store to see if they could help us get the phone to work.  We were missing the right prefix for the States so we did get through to the Travel Office.  Thank goodness they answer 24/7 because it was about 4 am Salt Lake time by now.  She was aware that we missed our flight and couldn’t see that they rebooked us anywhere.  She could put us up until Sunday but Neil asked if there was any point in pushing a little harder for British Airways to help us further.  She said they should be on the hook because the delay was mechanical.  Back we went to the other end of the terminal to see the agent* again.  We were praying harder at this point.  He again said there was nothing he could do, that the airline would not help us.  Neil pointed out it was BA’s fault because of mechanical problems and he just said they won’t help.  Neil said, “You’ve been hired to help us and you’re not, so who can?”  He told us there was a web site we could go to. (unbelievable!)  We told him we didn’t have access to the internet.  He told us he thought there would be a manager on site about three o’clock who we could talk to.  (3 PM??)  We suggested that maybe he could call someone himself right then.  He agreed and called, told them the issue, and had a surprised look on his face.  He hung up the phone and said, “I’ll definitely be able to help you.”  That was absolutely an answer to prayer.  He got us lunch and dinner, a hotel room for the day and tickets to get us to Lubumbashi the next day not having to wait until Sunday.  He could get us on a flight at midnight that would take us on a five hour flight to Nairobi, Kenya, with a three hour lay-over, and then on to the last three hour flight to Lubumbashi.  (The flight we missed was only 2 1/2 hours to Lubumbashi.) So he was now getting us there in 12 hours.  
     We thanked him.  Neil said, “we came grouchy and we’re going away with smiles so you’ve done a good job for us. Thank you."
     Keep in mind that at this point we are still in the airport for our flight to Kenya so the story may not be over yet.  It is 11:40 pm.  For amusement sake, get out a map and draw a line from London, England to Johannesburg, South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya and to Lubumbashi, DR Congo.  We understand that a plane sometimes has to circle before landing at an airport but this is ridiculous. We are circling the whole continent.  We must be tired because we are laughing hysterically right now.

We decided to comfort ourselves with chocolate.

This is a photo of the Dove Chocolate wrappers.

     As we left Johannesburg, going through the check for our carry-ons which this time had a limit of 10 kgs per case.  Neil’s weighed 13 kgs.  She said it was too heavy.  We suggested she weigh Glenda’s case so we could maybe switch something to the other case but it was 10 kg exactly.  She look at her co-worker and quietly said, “It’s okay.”  We thanked her an moved along quickly.  
     Then we headed for Naiirobi  just after midnight.  The flight was about 4 hours.  Upon disembarking we felt like we were back in the 60’s when we discovered that we had to carry our suitcases down some portable stairs that were mounted on a truck from the plane door, walk across the tarmac to the airport and climb what felt like the pyramids but in reality were long long concrete stairs, about 3 flights worth in one run, into the terminal. 
     There we waited for our next flight.  As we went through the baggage check they opened one suitcase to inspect our fingernail clippers which they let go by.  
     We boarded the plane over 1/2 hour before the plane was scheduled to leave.  We thought we were going to be able to leave early but we sat in the plane for over 1 hour WAITING for all the passengers to arrive.  We were told we were waiting for all the passengers to arrive.  If they had done that in Johannesburg for us we would have been on our original flight.  

This isn't a great picture but we caught this glimpse of Mount Kilamanjaro peeking through
                                                          the clouds.

     We then discovered that the last leg of our journey was NOT directly to Lubumbashi but had a stop over in Ndola, Zambia which gave us the privilege of flying past Lubumbashi for the third time.  We waited there for over 45 minutes to take on new passengers.  The real last leg of the flight was just up and then right back down again, about 25 minutes.  
As we waited for the plane doors to open we knew we were in the Congo because the portable stairs were pushed over by hand, by four men.  These stairs were very rickety and we weren't sure they would hold us.  Our suitcases didn’t roll very well across the tarmac because the surface was not smooth AT ALL.  
     The terminal was very old and small.  It would have been built by the Belgians before 1960 and it didn’t look like any repairs had been made since then.  
     When we walked into the room they checked everyone’s temperatures with an infrared gun.  We were in this little room lined up to go through customs.  There were officials all over.  Every now and then the officials would come and take a group of people, march them right past the customs and let them go by.  We didn’t know what was happening.  One man complained that he was a teacher.  He was waiting in line while others who were behind were escorted through.  He was a little upset about it and again said he was a teacher.  We’re not sure why that mattered but an agent then came back and escorted him through as well.  He was all smiles as he walked past us.  
     We got up to the customs agent and she was asking where we were going to be living.  We didn’t have an address to give but she asked to see Neil’s name badge and that must have been enough for her.  She let us through with no problems.  We took about three steps and had to show our passports again to someone else when another lady stepped forward and wanted to check our yellow fever cards.  
     As we waited to go through the next door an agent came forward with about 6 or 7 passports in his hand to hand back to people. He didn’t know whose was whose and it almost looked like he was selling them but no money ever changed hands.  
     While waiting there the door through to the outside opened every now and then where we could see a young man with a big smile waving his hands reassuring us and mouthing the words “It’s okay".  We knew he was sent from the mission office to get us through. We noticed he was wearing a yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” vest.  It was a wonderful sight to behold!!!  His name is Tommy.  He then led us through to the outside where we met the Thomas’ and the Davis’.  When Carolyn saw us and came forward Glenda felt such relief.  We finally had made it!  From the time we left the MTC to the time we arrived at our apartment was 65 hours.  
     Driving in Lubumbashi is a story for another day needing pictures to illustrate.
     We feel so grateful to know we were watched over and protected throughout the whole adventure.  We’ve been truly blessed.  

PS:  By the way, they have lost all of our checked luggage!! 


  1. Oh boy!! What an adventure. I suppose the good news is it can only get better!

  2. Glad you made it. Thank goodness for prayer.

  3. Boy oh boy!!!! I can't believe this whole ordeal! Yup....I'd be in tears!! So glad your safe and we will pray for your luggage!

  4. I have a feeling it could actually get worse...I think the Lord is just breaking you in gently;) Still I hope not and I'll pray for the speedy recovery of your luggage!

  5. Nevermind...I just read on the Clawson's blog that you got your luggage! Yay! Disaster averted:)