Thursday, February 6, 2014

Journey to the Other Side (of the World)

We made it!  We are now in our new home in Malaybalay, Bukidnon in the Philippines!

It was a very long journey, but a miraculous one in many ways.  In the days leading up to our leaving, an arctic front pushed down causing snow and ice in Louisiana which is a rare happening.  Roads and bridges had to be closed down since we Cajuns are not equipped to drive in such conditions.

The forecast called for even worse conditions the day we were supposed to leave.  Our group of 23 decided to head to Houston a day earlier to avoid the possible road closures the next day.  We arrived safely on Monday night and watched as many of the flights out of Houston were cancelled throughout the next morning.  We prayed for enough sunshine to melt the ice on the runways by the time our flight was to leave that afternoon.  Miracle number one---our flight was not cancelled or delayed!

Since we were already in Houston, we decided to make our way to the airport early to try to get all 23 of us including 11 children through security in plenty of time to de-stress a little before getting on our 11 hour flight.  Another miracle---no crowds or lines at the airport!  Since most of the morning flights had been canceled, the usually packed airport was empty.  We walked right up to the counter to check in.

Have you ever seen the Houston
airport this empty?
When we got to the counter and the lady discovered that we were a group of missionaries traveling to the Philippines, we were treated like royalty.  The lady in charge allowed one person to go up and check us all in.  Another miracle---our luggage was not weighed and was all packed together in one crate to ensure that it all arrived together safely.  Next came the security check point area which again was EMPTY!  No lines.  We walked right up and went through extremely easily---another miracle.

Once we were through security and after we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for all the miracles, we were able to sit, lay, walk, and stretch out in an empty waiting area.  When our plane arrived, we were able to board first.  Again, the plane was empty which allowed us to move around after takeoff and stretch out for the long ride---another miracle!

The eleven hour ride was smooth and easy.    Each seat had it's own TV with tons of movies and games for the kids to watch and play.  The airline staff was amazing.  They learned the names of the kids and were very friendly.  The food wasn't too bad either.  And they had Dr. Pepper for Travis!  He considers this another miracle.

Last Dr. Pepper for a few months!

We landed in Moscow, Russia and had to exit the plane while it refueled and was restocked with food and drinks.  We got off stretched our legs a bit and then had to go through security once again.  This airport was very crowded and a bit intimidating, but again God blessed us with a quick and easy security check-in---miracle!  The line to board the plane this time was very long and crowded with people who just stared at our large American group.  But we were once again allowed to board first and get the kids situated and seated near us.

The next ride from Moscow to Singapore was about 10 hours.  The plane was packed, so there was no stretching out this time.  The kids and I slept a good bit of the way, so it didn't seem so long.  The food wasn't as good and there was no Dr. Pepper on this flight, but it was just as easy and smooth as the first one.  All eleven kids were very good and no one got sick---miracle especially since we had several kids that normally get car or air sick!

Our next stop was in Singapore on Wednesday!  We had a 6 hour layover at one of the world's largest and best airports in the world.  It was about 6:00 am Singapore time and 4:00 pm back home.  The kids found a Subway in the airport and had subs for breakfast/supper.  Travis and I found a McDonalds and had an American breakfast, sort of!  The airport had lots of indoor gardens, play areas for the kids, lots of shops and restaurants, and rest areas.  Miracle---another miraculously easy security checkin!

The flight from Singapore to Manila was four hours.  And again was a very easy one.  Miracle!  We arrived in the Philippines in Manila on Thursday afternoon.  Manila was crazy busy!  People were everywhere.  Everything was different; even the English sounded different. That's when it hit me---we were now foreigners in a foreign country!  We prayed hard for an easy customs check.  Another great miracle ---we walked through customs without a hitch, glitch, or hiccup.

We lost a day somewhere along the way and were exhausted.  We arrived at the hotel about 5:00 pm Manila time which would have been about 3:00 am our time.  We checked in and began taking showers so that we could go site seeing and grab some supper.  But each one of us fell asleep while waiting for the next person to shower, and we slept through supper.  Another small miracle---everyone slept through the night and awoke very refreshed the next morning for our fourth and final round.

We arrived at the Manila airport and once again we were allowed to check-in as a group.  The big worry was that our luggage would be over the weight for this smaller plane.  They weighed all the luggage together.  Miracle---we were under the allowed weight and were able to check in some of our carry-ons! This plane ride was a little bumpier, and Olivia got a little airsick and

a little homesick as reality began to set in, but it miraculously disappeared when we landed!  Another miracle--we landed on the island Mindanao in Cagayan de Ora safely and with new excitement.

We were greeted at the airport by Father Joe from Camguin island where four single missionaries will be living and serving and some of our new Filipino friends Kring and Ramone.  They had made a welcome home sign and leis for each of us.  It was so awesome to finally meet the people that we had heard so much about and had been talking to online for so long.  We loaded up into three SUVs/vans to head to  the Convent at the Cathedral in Cagayan for a few days of rest and retreat.

It was about a forty-five minute drive to the city from the airport.  It was a crazy ride!  There were motorcycles, motorellas, and jeepneys everywhere.  There were no stoplights, traffic signs, or traffic rules, yet there seemed to be no accidents and more importantly no road rage.  The drivers beeped the horns to let each other know where they are and when they are about to make a turn, and it all worked out as they let each other turn and pass.
Motorella:  Our main means of transportation
 23 Americans + 7 Filipinos = 1 packed Jeepney
Miracle---arriving at the Cathedral and convent safely!  After four days of traveling, it was nice to rest in Cagayan, yet it was hard not to finish the trip and head to our new home.

"Cajun" Chicken Salad
Filipino Root Beer

Mocha Coffee Cake

While in Cagayan, we were able to begin being inculturated while surrounded by lots of English speaking people that wanted to help us.  We were also able to celebrate Emily's 12th birthday on Saturday in an "American" way with a trip to the very American mall including lunch at TGIFriday's followed by a Filipino supper and some delicious Filipino cakes!

After spending three days in Cagayan de Ora, we were more than anxious to get to Malaybalay to see our new home.  We loaded up on a bus with the Leano family (Filipino friends) for our three hour bus ride up the mountains to our new home.  Think rollercoaster, tilt-a-world, and the scrambler all in one!  Up and down! All around!  Twisting and turning!  Emily got sick and vomited a few times, but eventually was able to enjoy the gorgeous scenery that we now call home---miracle!

There were many more miracles along the way both large and small---way too many to even begin to count or write about.  God was with us each and every step of the way.  I know it was mostly because of all of your prayers!  The first time I got on Facebook after landing and saw the hundreds of people praying for us and following our journey through my mom's posts, I cried!  It is only through your prayers and God's grace that we have made it to the other side of the world and are ready to begin this new life.

Please continue to pray for us as we continue to adjust.  We pray for you all daily!


  1. I don't know what was funnier -- the Dr. Pepper miracle (and yes, Travis, I know you! I KNOW that was your miracle!!!) or the 30 of y'all hanging out of that poor bus! I think reality has set in for me now too, "seeing" y'all way over there on the other side of the world... :( But this blog totally made me laugh! I love you guys SO much, and I look SO forward to hearing about all of your adventures and miracles all the way around the world! <3 Love and hugs, Megan :)

  2. Melissa, congrats on such a great post. Be blessed in Malaybalay. We are all praying for you. Where are you emailing from? do y'all have WiFi or even internet in your new home?

  3. Sounds like the 'jet lag' got to you along the way. Happy you got there in such fine style.