“We need to purchase our airline tickets to fly from Wewak to Port Moresby,” Orion said the morning after we arrived in Wewak from the village.
“Yes, we do!” I agreed as Orion began loading the website of the local airline.
“What day do we need to fly?” he asked.
“Thursday, April 5,” I replied.
“This Internet connection is so slow!” Orion complained. “I have had to reload the page twice, and it is taking a long time for everything to show up.” Finally, the tickets were purchased, and we received a confirmation e-mail.
On Thursday, we arrived at the airport two hours before our flight. “I am sorry, these tickets aren’t for today,” the desk agent said. “If you talk with my supervisor, there may be something she can do.”
We looked at our tickets. Sure enough, the purchase date was listed as the flight date! Orion went into the supervisor’s office, and she tried to get permission for us to pay a change fee and fly on this plane. She sent e-mails and text messages and made phone calls, all to no avail. The people in the main office were on their lunch break. Finally, Orion volunteered to purchase new tickets to go on today’s plane. The Supervisor said, “All right, then you can get your money back on these tickets in Port Moresby.”
Four days later, a printout of our tickets in hand, I walked into the airline’s main office. “I would like to get these tickets refunded or change the dates,” I told Margaret, the agent at the desk. She sent me to where I could pay the change fee and use the tickets for our return trip to Wewak.
As I left, I felt a powerful urge to thank Margaret and to chat with her. “I am from the Sepik River area, too, near Pagwi,” she said, referring to the tiny town where the road from Wewak ends on the bank of the Sepik River and where we load our canoe at the beginning of the all-day trip upriver to our house. “My village is about an hour downriver. It is close to where the first Adventist missionaries to PNG worked, and we are proud of our church.”
My ears perked up in surprise at the word “our.” “Are you an Adventist?” I asked.
She leaned in close and whispered softly, “I am a backslider. I have been watching what is happening in the world around me, and I think it is time for me to return to the Adventist Church.”
With each racing beat of my heart, I sent up a prayer that my words would be from God. “I agree, there are many problems in this world. The only sure way to have peace is in a relationship with God. I am glad that the Holy Spirit is calling you back into the Adventist Church.”
As we continued whispering together, her shy smile told me that she had found a friend in me, someone she could trust with the secrets of her heart.
Before we parted, I asked to pray with her. In soft whispers, our heads close together as we leaned over the counter, I asked God for His blessing and leading in Margaret’s life.
As I walked out of that huge air-conditioned building back into the steamy New Guinea morning, I thanked God for using the slow Internet in Wewak to arrange this appointment for me to meet Margaret.