Thursday, July 2

The passport saga - Florida and back

So the story behind the mysterious passport loss is so odd I thought I'd share more detail in case you're interested. It's like news of the weird!

I was driving down the Florida turnpike to go meet a pastor for a meeting. Then I would spend the night with IMM alumni friends, flying out very early the next morning.

I got a phone call from a Walmart in St. Cloud from customer service saying I'd left my suitcase in their parking lot. The kind woman had to spend several minutes convincing me this wasn't fraud of some kind. I knew for a fact my suitcases were in the trunk of my car and that the temporary cellphone I was speaking on wasn't associated with the suitcase in question.

She convinced me that she had called a phone number on the bag and they had given me the cell number. (They'd called the IMM office!)  I said I'd call back. By now, I was three hours away. I immediately trying to make a plan in my mind but was a bit blank and shocked. But THANK YOU Walmart customer service for going above and beyond the call of duty!

As I arrived at the church it dawned on me that I had two small bags in the trunk and one crazy large one. My backpack had checks, passport, snacks, power chords, my ipod... I threw open the trunk shaking and yes, Walmart had not lied. But they only had one bag. The overnight bag for the one night. Where was the backpack?! Gone too.

I had to go into my meeting shaking all over. I called the bank to stop payment on the checks. I tried to think of a way to go back and get my bag but I had to be at the airport at 5:30 am and it was already 6pm.

My beautiful IMM friends, the Monzons took me in their home and helped me report the theft, print new travel documents, call Walmart, etc. Then they took me to eat Cuban food and buy new toiletries. The woman at the department store gave me a bunch of free samples when she found out my toiletries had been stolen! THANK YOU!

I tried to lie down and sleep but every time I did I thought of another thing in the bag. The check from the church. I'd get up and send another email to someone. Finally I slept a few hours, drove to the airport with two less bags and a little less money from expenses.

My friends made the 6 hour journey to retrieve the one bag as they were going to meet me at the next conference event in Atlanta a couple days later. THANK YOU!

I went directly to the State Department in Atlanta for a new passport. It was bureaucratic but in the end they could get me a replacement the same day so I could fly home in 5 days to Spain. ($210 later) It was time consuming and at 3 pm they lock the doors so no one more can enter, but you also can't leave and come back in. My passport with a dreadful I didn't sleep all night photo was  finally ready in my possession. I sighed relief but I had missed one meeting with a church and was late for another. I was feeling stressed.

My rental car had a boot parking penalty on it when I came out. I'd exceeded the parking I'd paid by 20 minutes! So then I started crying. It was just the final straw in my stress filled 24 hours. I didn't feel particularly welcomed by my first 3 hours in Atlanta!

The pastors were all very gracious to reschedule meetings because of my challenges. THANK YOU!

I got my clothes and shoes back at the conference from the Monzons. They prayed I'd get all my important stuff back as did another pastor. I was past emotions at that point.

Then I came back to Spain. I kept picturing a vagrant eating my snacks, playing my ipod, and trying to figure out how to change foreign money. I'd had some Euros but also a woman had given me a 10,000 Dinar Iraqi bill from their former currency which isn't worth a lot at the moment. I got an appointment to get a new drivers license and started my bureaucratic red tape on this side.

Then I got an email saying the wallet had been found with the currencies, the passport, the drivers license, all in tact. What a strange thing!? What a miraculous thing. The leather wallet could have been sold. The passport could go on the blackmarket for a lot of money.

Kerry said he'd prayed for conviction to come on this person and he felt seeing a check for a missionary in that wallet had really made the thief shaken up and they'd left the wallet in the car wash. I keep thinking about that vagrant reading my vague personal entries in my thankfulness journal and wondering if that person thought I was crazy or would recognize that I tried to acknowledge God's working in my life. I don't suppose we'll ever know the whole story.