For two weeks before our flight, we self-isolated in our home in Thailand so we would have the best chance of being healthy for the flight. We knew that if we were sick with COVID-19 we would not be able to fly (nor would we want to because it would endanger others). Our original itinerary to fly back home included a layover in Milan, Italy. When COVID-19 hit there, we decided to change our flights to avoid Milan. That involved 4 hours of waiting on hold until an agent could help us, and we had to pay quite a bit to make the change. No problem, we did what we had to.
Then there was talk of airports and airlines closing down. We were flying on Emirates Airlines, and the government of United Arab Emirates was beginning to ban people flying in from one country after another. Thailand was not on the list, but we were holding our breath because we could not be stranded in Thailand. Our visas were near expiring, and we would not qualify to extend the visa in country. We had to get back to the States to get a new visa. If we stayed illegally, we could be arrested, put in jail, fined, deported, and worse of all, blacklisted from coming back to Thailand this year. This would have been disastrous for us. We did all that we could do: we prayed and asked others to pray for us too.
The day came when we were to fly and we receive an email from Emirates that we could check-in online, which made us happy. We could finally get our boarding passes and know we can get home. But when we attempted to check-in online, the app said that we could not check-in because we had not yet paid for the tickets (and we had actually paid for them TWICE). So we before calling Emirates, I tried to use our bank's website to get proof that we paid for our tickets, but our bank's website was down for the day. So we had to call Emirates, with no way to prove that we actually paid for the tickets. After over 4 hours of waiting, an Emirates agent helped us. He could not assign us seats and give a boarding pass. He said they would take care of that when we arrived at the airport. We were not really convinced we actually had tickets. He could not send us a ticket confirmation by email. It all just felt wrong, and a bit scary.
So we arrived at the airport almost 4 hours early wearing surgical masks and using alcohol gel every time we touched anything (we went through several small bottles in just two days). When we went to check-in, the agent looked at her screen and a look of concern came upon her and she said she needed to contact her supervisor. The supervisor came, and after a long time was able to give us a boarding pass to fly to Dubai but could not give us the boarding pass to fly from Dubai to JFK airport in New York City. She also informed us that our luggage would not go directly to JFK airport since our layover in Dubai was longer than 24 hours. We would have to pick up our luggage in Dubai. But, in order to pick up our luggage in Dubai, we would have to enter the country through Immigration Control, and we did not have the medical clearances to allow us to enter Dubai. So we checked in our luggage, thinking that we might not see it again.
The flight was a bit nerve-wracking. Almost everyone had a masks on, and most of the other passengers were like us, using sanitizing gel like it was going out of style. When we arrived in Dubai, we went to the Emirates Airlines help counter to try to get a boarding pass for our next flight and to see what could be done about our luggage. The agent was very helpful with our luggage, typing information into the computer so our luggage would be found and then sent to America. But he said we had to wait another 12 hours before we could get a boarding pass for the next flight.
So we boarded the flight, and there was never a better flight. We always feel great joy at flying home to the States, but this time was different. We were felt incredibly blessed and happy to come home. When we arrived at JFK airport, everything went smoothly. We went through Passport Control quickly and we waited at the luggage carousel, wondering if our luggage would actually arrive. God answered our prayers and both of our bags arrived!
We booked a one-way car rental and drove that night to a hotel in Queens. We were thoroughly exhausted and fell asleep on the way down to the pillow. The next morning we drove all the way home to Campbellsville, Kentucky. Good friends had come and prepared our house for us, cleaning the place and stocking our kitchen with food, knowing we would need to self-isolate for at least 14 days (looks like it will be considerably longer).
Our prayers extend to all of you, as we all hunker down to fight COVID-19. We pray that this time of isolation is a time that you can use in some positive way. Do things you enjoy that you usually don't have time to do. Get tasks done that you have not been able to get to (Last night Sherri mentioned the first "Honey-Do" chore for me, painting shelves in the bathroom.)
Although we and our Thai team are isolated in our homes, in Thailand and Kentucky, we now have time to focus exclusively on creating curriculum, both books and videos. We use Zoom to have meetings now, and it has actually made us quite productive.
Thailand Now missionaries, Allie and David Houle are taking care of the Blessing Home kids at all three centers, making sure they are fed and well nourished while they are isolating at home. Here is the link to read their latest blog > https://davidandallieinthailand.blogspot.com/2020/03/covid-19.html
Thailand Now missionaries, Carol Fare and Vicki Brown are hunkering down, making specialized furnishings for special needs children.
We know this is a tough time for all, emotionally and financially. Please remember to pray for the missionaries and ministries of Thailand Now. We will continue to feed and help Blessing Home kids and pay salaries to our Thai team members.
If the Lord leads you to give, you can give online at our website >https://thailandnow.org/donate/
OR send a check to:
P.O. Box 56
Mannsville, KY 42758