Volcano of ProblemsAdd Comment
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An Icelandic volcano ruined my plans. My friends Varvara, Danielle, and I were stuck. Instead of spending our last day of spring vacation in Dublin, Ireland, we were trapped in Edinburgh, Scotland. Add Comment
“A volcano blew up and stopped almost all flights in Europe, especially the U.K.,” Danielle said after conversing with her mother on the phone.
“How can a volcano in Iceland stop the airlines here?” I queried, confused.
“I don’t know exactly, something about dust in the air getting into the engines of the planes. My mom says we should call the airport.”
The scramble to find a way back to school in France began when we discovered our flight was canceled. After hours of searching, the keys on the computer we had borrowed began to wear down. We finally found a night bus to take us from Edinburgh to London. However, once we reached London we would have no transportation back to school. Clicking keys began to grate on me as I continued the frustrating search until 10 minutes before we left for the bus station. Determined to find a solution, I hastily searched for buses throughout Europe.
“I found one!” I exclaimed, leaping off the couch.
“Really? Buy it!” my friends urged.
One bus remained from London, England, to Geneva, Switzerland, the next morning (the school I attended in France lies just across the Swiss-French border, very close to Geneva). Carefully filling out the forms with my name and credit card information, I pushed Submit.
We’re sorry; your request cannot be processed. This bus is full.
“No!” Wide-eyed, I nearly wept in horror as I read the screen. Hope slipped through my fingers. An organizational fanatic, I disliked traveling without a ticket in my hand. I spent hours planning for trips, searching out the best deals, convenient time schedules, and places to visit for fun. Now I was expected to travel with no plan. I grabbed my bag, and we left for the bus station.
I shifted restlessly on the bus. Between the uncomfortable seat and my whirling thoughts, sleep was nearly impossible. My mind examined the various options and pitfalls. Are there buses to Geneva left? Will we tramp all over London looking for a train station? Will the people who let us stay with them last week in London let us stay with them again? My head hurt.
Take us to Geneva
I jolted awake as the bus halted in London. The crowded bus station looked like a haven for a thousand stranded travelers. Every seat was taken, some people propping their heads on luggage while they slept. We joined the massive horde of people forming a never-ending line. My back ached from carrying my backpack. Sweat dripped down my face, and the constant chatter was deafening. An hour later we reached the ticket booth.
“We need three tickets to Geneva or Paris,” I said anxiously.
Hitting a few keys, the man scanned his computer screen.
“We can’t get you to either place until Thursday.”
My heart sank. It was Sunday. We stepped out of line, dejected. Now what? My mind began compiling alternate possibilities.
“Anyone want to buy tickets to Paris?” The woman’s voice shattered my thoughts. We could get back to school from Paris! Is it safe to buy tickets from a random person? Desperate, we took the tickets for £50 (about 75 to 80 U.S. dollars) each. We boarded the bus without any trouble; the tickets were legitimate.
The Presence in the station
Icy wind blasted through the open door as I huddled beneath a blanket between my two friends. My eyelids fluttered as I struggled to stay awake. The empty seats around us in La Gare de Lyon (the Lyon train station) in Paris, France, reminded me of the late hour. Save a few homeless people buried in their sleeping bags, several people I suspected to be French thugs, and the occasional security guard, we were alone.
“Voulez-vous un Coca-Cola?” (“Do you want a Coke?”)
The voice of the security guard interrupted my slumber. The clock read 2:00 a.m. as I walked to a pay phone and dialed my parents’ number. At home in Canada it was 7:00 p.m. the night before.
“I’m stuck in Paris. There are no train tickets left,” I said.
“How is that possible?” inquired my father.
“Well, besides the travel chaos, the French train drivers are on strike again.” French train workers always seemed to be on strike.
“Can you rent a car?”
“I’m not 21.”
My parents and I brainstormed for possibilities, arriving at nothing.
“Go look again for a ticket,” my mother insisted.
I hung up the phone, trudged to the ticket machine, and punched in the information. There would be no ticket. I knew it. Yet I prayed, Dear God, please let there be a ticket. I pushed Enter. One ticket popped onto the screen. My eyes grew to the size of saucers. Impossible! It’s the middle of the night, and we’ve been looking for hours. I purchased the ticket, rushed over to the pay phone, and called my parents.
“There was one ticket!” I exclaimed, “But my friends still don’t have tickets.”
My mother’s voice calmed my excitement.
“We prayed for you. Go back. Pray. Look again.”
The three of us bowed our heads beside the ticket machine. Closing my eyes, I prayed.
“Dear God, You know that my friends need to get back with me. Please provide us with tickets for them.”
Carefully I punched the information onto the touch screen and pushed Enter. Two tickets at 6:00 a.m., a half hour before mine, popped onto the screen. As my friends bought the tickets, I called my mother once more. “We prayed again,” she told me.
Whence comes my help
Three hours later I bid goodbye to my friends and then paced the train station platform for 30 minutes until I boarded my train. Dragging my backpack with me into the train car, I threw it onto the shelf and collapsed into the seat. Most people are still stranded. I never came up with a solution on my own. How did we find a way back so quickly? I closed my eyes, finally at peace, and slept.
Often I doubt God when I think He takes too long to answer my prayers. I search for solutions to my problems that will bring the result I want and answer my doubts and questions, but a deeper trust is needed to let God lead. Throughout the travel chaos in Europe, I tried to get us home. Nothing worked; I failed. God doesn’t fail.
“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, GW).*
My doubts can blind me, but God leads me back from my lack of trust in His plan for my life. He will develop a friendship with me so that I don’t just believe in the idea of His presence but always trust an all-knowing, present, loving God.
*Scripture quotations credited to GW are taken from God’s Word. Copyright 1995 God’s Word to the Nations. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
Brittany Harwood, who writes from Quebec, has a B.A. in communication and French. She enjoys photography, writing, and traveling.
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