And so it began. On Friday August 21, we headed to Nepal to do “psycho-social” work – counseling women and children who had been traumatized by the earthquakes. I say earthquakes because they had two major quakes and almost 400 aftershocks measuring 4.0 and higher. Thousands of people died. Homes made of mud and bricks crumbled. Landslides devastated crops. Thousands of livestock were killed. Everything the people held dear had been taken from them: family, community, and security were all gone. So six of us went to join a multitude of volunteers and career servants from Nepal and all over the world to try to restore health to a people in need of more than physical things. The men and women who had gone before us in the weeks prior to our trip had done an amazing job building temporary homes for the people and ministering to spiritual needs, but we were the first American team to go into Nepal for the purpose of dealing with their emotional needs. Several Nepali teams had paved the way in this area, and many other teams will come behind us, but we were blessed to be the first from our country to aid BGR in their relief efforts to restore the emotional well-being to the hurting people of Nepal.
That picture would change over the next 10 days, and I would like to share our story with you this week.
Day 1 – we left Nashville on an American Eagle flight to Chicago, the Windy City.
It was a great flight, and our brief layover was uneventful. We took pictures and explored O’hare for the few hours we were there. Around 9 p.m., we started boarding our flight to Abu Dhabi. It was a Boeing 777 flown by an international crew from Etihad. Let me say that this was the most professional, hospitable group of flight attendants I have ever been around. They were exotic, classy, friendly, and very efficient. Words cannot express fully the service these people delivered. Every two hours over the next 12 hours would find them delivering meals, snacks, drinks, and friendly smiles. I have never seen anything like it. We slept, watched movies, and viewed our flight path all the way to Abu Dhabi. What a treat.
We were in an old, run-down part of the airport. Little did we know what the main airport was truly like. More on that later. A bus transported us from our plain to this part of the terminal where we waited for a couple of hours. It would have been enough time for coffee and pastries, but the Muslim shopkeepers could not make coffee or heat the Danish because it was their holy day. So Sonya got a cold pastry – but Mark did some exploring and actually found a McDonald’s in the airport. He bought coffee – but only for himself. We eventually forgave him, but we still are going to give him a hard time at least for a little while.
Interestingly, the terminal had quite a few people waiting – some heading to Kathmandu like us. Others going to Cairo, Egypt. The Cairo flight left before ours, and it was fun to watch the process. The gate attendants started calling for the people to board. Most left their seats and went to the bus that would take them to their plane. Then began the process of “final call for Cairo.” There were at least 20 of these. Each time the “final call” was announced, someone would get out of their seat and amble to the bus, or a sheikh would come down the hall leading his wives to the gate. It was fun to watch, but the Etihad gate attendants never lost their cool. They just kept calling for the final boarding of the plane – over and over again.
Finally, it was our turn. Kathmandu awaited, and we were ready to go.