I am back from Guatemala and have much to share with you. But today I want to take a few minutes to honor a man who has inspired millions of us around the world. As I write these words, I have just finished watching the service honoring Billy Graham in the rotunda of our nation's capitol. In watching this, my mind drifted back to a couple of days before July 4th of 2014.
I was exhausted. After covering three countries and three projects, I wanted to get home. But I had a problem. I had used frequent flyer miles to book my flight home, and the itinerary was strange. I'd go from Guatemala to Miami, spend a short night in Miami, and then fly out to Charlotte, North Carolina, at 6am the next morning. After a five hour layover in Charlotte, I'd fly directly to KC and get home late on July 3rd.
Going to the airport in Guatemala, I was so sure that I could get on a standby flight to get home more directly from Miami in one day. I'd done it before on other trips. But this day it didn't work. No one with the airline would let me change anything! At least not without a sizable fee.
So after spending the night in Miami, I got my cheapskate self on that 6am flight to Charlotte. When the stewardess asked me what I wanted to drink, I asked for my usual tomato juice. When I set it on my tray, I glanced out the window. Unknowingly, my tray table was bent downward a bit, and my tomato juice began to slide. I turned my head just in time to see it tip right into my lap! Aaaargh! What a mess! Worse than anything was the location! I spent about 30 minutes in the bathroom trying to dab it up and minimize the visual effects.
When I got to Charlotte, I looked on the board and noticed two earlier flights to Kansas City. "Let's try this one more time," I told myself. Walking up to the customer service counter, I handed the agent my ticket and made my pitch. "I'm heading to Kansas City. Can I get on an earlier flight?"
After a few clicks on the computer, my cheerful airline helper said, "Sure! We can get you on."
"Great!" I proclaimed, fist pumping.
"The change will only be $75," they continued. Immediately my countenance dropped. Calculating in my head, I realized I'd only get to KC two hours earlier, and considering my last paint job, $75 for a couple hours of work was something I couldn't sneeze at! So I thanked them for their trouble and declined the offer.
"What am I going to do for 5 hours?" I muttered as I walked away. Then, going down one of the halls, I noticed a sign with a picture of Billy Graham. "Hmmm, what is this?"
"Billy Graham Library, 5 minutes away," the sign read. "Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm." I looked at my watch and it was 9:00am. I walked straight out to a cab. Fifteen minutes later I was in the library!
Immediately on arrival, I felt the caring of the volunteer staff there. I must have been a sight. I had my travel backpack still strapped on my back. My clothes were all wrinkled from travel. My pants were still a bit discolored by my tomato juice. When one of the staff asked me what brought me to the library, I told them of coming home from a mission trip and having been stuck in Charlotte and seeing the sign in the airport. They seemed so excited about me being there and helped me map out my way through the exhibits. After a couple of hours of browsing and watching multiple video presentations of various aspects of the life and ministry of Billy Graham, I felt rejuvenated. The bonus came at the end when one of the staff pulled me aside to pray for me and encourage me in my missionary work.
One of the most impressive things about being at the library was not about how great Billy Graham was, but more importantly, how great God is and how great His message of salvation is.
For me it was like finding an unexpected oasis. My layover became a three hour spiritual retreat. By the time I got back to the airport, I was rejuvenated! As I boarded my plane to Kansas City, I now knew why I had to go through Charlotte. And I shuddered, because I could have missed God's blessing.
Soon, Billy's body will be buried next to his wife Ruth there on the grounds of the library.
And in the coming days, I may just need to figure out how I can get "stuck" in Charlotte to be blessed again by the inspirational life and message of Billy Graham. But the next time I go, I will be more careful when I ask for tomato juice!
Thank you for your continued prayers. I look forward to sharing more from this last trip.