It is a strange story.
The battle to get Jennifer home
This may be the worst airport nightmare story I’ve heard. World Race participant, Jennifer Smith, who was in the remote village of San Juan
on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala when a call came to our office telling Jerry’s (her ex-husband) death.
Getting through to Jennifer in the first place was next to impossible. No one seemed to have their cell phone on there. Finally AIM staff member Gary Lengkeek said,
“I’ve got a friend who has a hardware store who has a friend in San Juan who lives across
the street from the hotel.”
We called the friend’s friend, a man named Francisco. He said, “Let me walk across the street to
the hotel.” He went there and gave the
phone to Hanna, who gave the phone to Jennifer.
I asked Jennifer to go in a quiet room and sit down so I could give her
some very hard news.
Although they’d been divorced, Jennifer and Jerry were still very close and their 16 year-old, Christopher, was living with
him. When she heard the news, the bottom
fell out of her life – she was beyond devastated and couldn’t talk.
One thing we all knew – she had to get back to Christopher as soon as possible.
The AIM team had swung into action on Jennifer’s
behalf. We had contacted WR leader
Clinton White, who was in Antigua, 2 hours
away. He was already en route to meet
her and two teammates and take her to Guatemala
City where she would catch a morning flight the next
After packing, Jennifer, Becca and Katie got in a boat to
cross the lake. For some reason the boat
didn’t go all the way. Then the next
boat would only take two of the three of them.
Finally, they met up with Clinton.
On the way to the airport, some man grabbed Jennifer’s bag
and took off running. She raced after
him, caught him, and reclaimed her bag, later saying, “There were almost two
deaths I had to deal with.”
Meanwhile, AIM staff member Mary Beth Swan got on a plane to
meet Jennifer in Dallas and take her to Louisville. She contacted the airport chaplain to meet
Jennifer at the gate and take her to Mary Beth.
She bought some clothes for her and got Mark and Carla Lindberg, AIM
staff in Dallas,
to buy other special things for her.
We had been praying that God would take care of Jennifer on
the flight from Guatemala City. Of course he was faithful – she sat next to
two missionaries who prayed for her and let her use their American cell phone.
As their plane approached the Dallas
airport, high winds made it impossible for their plane to land, so they
diverted to Austin,
causing Jennifer to miss her connecting flight.
Mary Beth was working like mad with the Dallas
agent to get them on the last flight out to Louisville.
The agent said, “It can’t happen, there are nine people in
front of you going standby and no one is canceling. We can get you out early tomorrow morning.”
Mary Beth said, “I serve a God who loves Jennifer and is
going to take care of her.”
All of a sudden the agent gasped at what she saw on the
screen, was overcome, and began to weep.
“I can’t believe this. All of a
sudden my computer began emptying seats that were double booked and there are
two of them left, and they are together.”
A few minutes later, an announcement came over the intercom,
“Because of high winds, the Dallas
airport is shut down.”
They diverted to El Paso where Jennifer stayed the night. She was up early to catch her flight. Then another setback: The plane needed a new
battery which they changed out. Finally, it was taking off and actually was in the air when a
flashing light came on the cockpit warning of tire pressure. The captain
aborted and landed the plane and returned to the terminal.
Finally, tires fixed, the plane took off for Dallas, where there were no more flights to Louisville. We were hoping for a flight to Atlanta. Jennifer’s friend in Florida, Erin, was
driving up to meet her and drive her the rest of the way.
Then at last our prayers were answered – American scheduled a flight to Louisville and put Jennifer on it.
At 5:30 or so, the plane landed in Louisville. Mary Beth was there waiting at the gate for her. When Jennifer saw, she hugged her for about five minutes. One can only imagine how Jennifer will feel as she and Christopher embrace.