The following formula is true, at least for today.
5 am + 5 minutes + 5 tram rides + 5 smiles = better than before
The city of Budapest glows on the Danube.
We awoke this morning at 5am to begin the long journey, across 7 time zones, home to Texas. Budapest’s castles and monuments glowed in the dark just-before-dawn sky. The Malev flight was peaceful – and late. We watched as the arrival time on the in-flight monitor ticked further away. 9:45. 9:49. 9:51. 9:58.
Each minute lost felt like another domino stacked precariously in a haphazard design. Our flight to the United States departed at 10:35. One slight bump and all those dominos would fall.
Our flight landed in Frankfurt at 10:04, and the team began a fast trot to another terminal to catch the American Airlines flight that would fly us across the ocean – to home.
Tram ride. Passport control. Up stairs. Down stairs. Security check. Gate.
The plane was there. But we weren’t on it. Five minutes separated us from an open door. I heard the “clink” of the dominos as we watched it pull away. We asked the courtesy agent where the ticket counter was – he said it was in another terminal.
The team on the tram. We laughed that it was like riding the rides at Disney - over and over again.
Tram ride. Passport control. Up stairs. Downstairs. Wandering. Different courtesy agent. Different answer. Tram ride. Up stairs. Down stairs.
Finally, the American Airlines ticket counter was in our sight. A smiling gate agent told us good news. Malev had confirmed flights for us. And we were told to go to their ticket counter to receive paperwork.
Lovely self-portrait on yet another tram ride.
Tram ride. Up stairs. Down stairs. Wondering. Wandering.New ticket counter. The dominos continued to fall.
We received our paperwork from a smiling ticket agent, and were told to rush to the United gate to officially trade in that paperwork for tickets. We had 15 minutes to make it back to the other terminal before check-in closed.
Tram ride. Up stairs. Down stairs. Passport control. Security check.
The security guard joked with us as we threw our bags on the screening table, and assured us it would all be OK. Paperwork was replaced with real tickets by a smiling gate agent. The promise of a trip home was replaced with real seats on a real plane crossing the Atlantic. And best of all, the plane wasn’t full. There was even space to stretch out and sleep. A smiling neighbor in the row in front of me said I must be living right. I laughed and said I had divine connections.
I looked back at the pattern the fallen dominos had made. It was the shape of a cross. Had we not gotten up at 5, missed our plane by 5 minutes, taken 5 tram rides, and encountered 5 smiling people, I would have missed out on a better flight. What could have been seen as bad had, in fact, become a beautiful gift from the Lord. Certainly, I could have kept from looking at the shape of the dominoes, and focused on the inconvenience of delayed flights and late arrival times. But there was a far better picture to be seen in it all.
On the plane. Going home.
The Lord reminded me today there are formulas infinitely more significant than my “better than before.”
I’ve seen each of them in action in Romania this week, in Ovidiu and Adina Petric and the others who are working diligently in the lives of teens in 31 rural villages. From teaching and preaching each week to counseling, prayer meetings, and even financial support for those who want their hearts to be changed by Christ and their lives to be used to change their country, the Petrics and their team are living examples of God’s unique and mysterious Kingdom economy. Yes, they could focus on the struggles of serving so many teenagers in so many rural areas. They could complain about long hours and limited resources. They could hunger to live in a comfortable place with family and friends nearby. They could long for better weather and faster results and a more convenient life. But they’ve seen the patterns in the dominos, and those patterns have faces and names and smiles.
Ovidiu in front of the House of Joy in Susani, Romania. Construction will start again in the spring.
The Petrics understand the beauty in God’s economy. They cling to His rules:
last = first Matthew 19:29-30 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.
least=greatest Luke 9:48 Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalfwelcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me also welcomes My Father who sent Me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
lead = serve Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection,and take delight in honoring each other.
love > fear 1 John 4:18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
give >receive Acts 20: 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
least of these = Jesus Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I’m thankful for organizations like Red Page Ministries that let me be part of the journey in Romania. I’m thankful for churches like Pioneer Drive Baptist for understanding the value of Kingdom economy. I’m thankful for a family that encourages me to be a free agent for the discarded. And I’m thankful for a God who loves me enough to reveal beautiful attributes of His nature- even in 5+5+5+5 days.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about ministry to the poor in rural Romania, check out Red Page Ministries. Better yet, join a mission trip and serve alongside people like Ovidiu and Adina Petric.