# Early Departure - Gillian
I’m not sure how I would have coped or if the small ones would have understood why I had stopped greeting them with a great big hug
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1 v 9
Life for us all has changed dramatically in the last wee while. Things that we did before without thinking we now cannot do, for example, giving someone a simple hug! When I arrived in Kenya at the beginning of March, I had so many wee arms round me and smiling faces.
What a welcome, and though l miss them terribly since leaving, I’m not sure how I would have coped or if the small ones would have understood why I had stopped greeting them with a great big hug. There are many things we as adults don’t understand but a child coming from a background of rejection or abuse seeing me withhold the arm around the shoulder I once gave and being too young to understand I was doing it for their own welfare, it must be very confusing. Maybe even that feeling of rejection all over again and there is nothing I could do about it. Heart breaking, and this is only one example.
The verse above from Joshua 1 is a verse that is close to my heart. It was the confirmation of God’s leading me to Kenya in the first place and as this story of my miracle journey back to Northern Ireland will show, it is God’s confirmation that He keeps His promises and is very much still with us in all the drama this world throws at us.
It was so good to be back and see our kids again. They seemed to have missed me!! I had missed them. We laughed, played, talked, sang (well they did the singing!), visited the older children at polytechnic, the car broke down, problem with solar electricity, an unwelcome visit from an awfully long snake etc etc. Just the usual first week but that is where normal ended.
My visit of two months ended up being just over three weeks. With the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nairobi confirmed the government acted quickly and closed schools. Our older kids at secondary school and polytech returned home to us and we immediately started to put in place measures to keep everyone safe. Isolating the homes, no visitors, restricting travel to essentials (food etc) purchasing gloves, sanitisers etc. This meant that I was not able to see our children in our other two homes as travelling to them was not an option.
In all this preparation, hearing news of how the situation in Northern Ireland was moving fast, knowing Kenya had already stopped foreign travel in to the country around the same time as they closed the schools, I never once thought I’d need to make a decision about leaving. Naïve or just busy? I do not know, but when I heard that Kenya were going to close the airport in three days I was left with a dilemma and not much time to solve it. Should I stay or go? I spent the next few hours walking around the Home, praying about it. If it were right for me to leave, God would make a way. The next three days were tough but as I look back, it was in these days that I felt the Lord renew His promise to be with me wherever I go.
I went to town in search of Wifi the next morning to see if I could change my flight. Wifi was a bit slow and intermittent but worked. However, I could neither change my flight online, contact the airline or even book a separate new flight as there were none available in the days left before the airport closed. Next, I tried British Embassy Nairobi office. A few numbers were out of service but eventually I got through. They took my details and said they would contact me the next day. This was a problem, because if they contacted me the next day and said, we have a flight going in two hours’ time, it would have been no good to me because I was nearly six hours away by car. I would not make it. I had no choice but to pack and head for the airport early the next morning in faith that I would get a flight. This had all happened so quickly the kids did not know I was leaving until that morning. It was so emotional, and just the beginning of a very emotional day.
Two hours into the journey I received a message telling me of something that happened after I left. I very nearly turned in the road and returned to our kids. But I had to go on and trust them to God as well as the decision to go to the airport. I arrived at the airport just before 3pm. In the carpark as I was getting my bags the phone rang. The girl from the Embassy asked where I was and then told me that there were still no flights to Belfast or Dublin available. I went on into the airport to check with various airlines. Quite a few had already stopped flights. I nearly ended up in quarantine at this point before airport security realised, I had come from Northern Kenya and not just arrived on a plane! This was when I met the first person that God put in my path. I was with this lady for nearly 5 hours that afternoon. She worked with a travel agency at the airport and set about looking for any available flights before the airport closed the next day. She could find none. This was an exceedingly difficult moment, as I was now at the airport and potentially at risk of picking up coronavirus I could not return to the children without a period of isolation if I did not get a flight. And then, I heard a shout from the office. I have a flight! A flight from Nairobi-Doha-London-Dublin the next day, one hour before the airport closed. a few minutes later I received a phone call from the British Embassy telling me she was sorry but there were still no flights available before the airport closed! A miracle. On one hand I was being told there are no flights and on the other, here I was with a flight. The next issue was paying for it. My bank card did not work. Long story cut short, the flight was paid for but with my bank card blocked, little cash left and me being absolutely exhausted and an emotional wreck who had hardly eaten anything all day I was planning on finding a spot in the airport for the night as my flight wasn’t until 11pm the next day.
This was when the second person that God put in my path appeared. I was curled up with my bags on a hard chair crying to myself when a commotion started at one of the check-in desks. There were people being turned away from a flight. I got chatting to this guy, airport staff I presumed. He explained to me what was going on and told me people were being sent to a hotel for the night as their flights were being rearranged for the next day. He insisted I go to the desk and check on mine. As usual, being a bit backward and at this point, wiped out, I was hanging around at the back of the group of people when he came up to me again and insisted I go forward to the desk and enquire. The result being, I got a hotel room for the night and was able to get on the flight the next day well rested and fed. A flight that I could not get checked in online and that was not even listed on the departure board right up to take off. And that was not all. As well as getting near the last flight out of Nairobi, when I got to Dublin, I got the last bus to Enniskillen. That service was being temporarily stopped the next day.
Incredible, God had made a way and given me the strength to make the journey and deal with all the obstacles that appeared. Now that I am back in Northern Ireland and struggling at times with leaving the children in such a difficult time I still need to look to Joshua 1 v 9 “……Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” We trust and pray continually that God will be with the children and with us as we do what we can from NI to help them.
Give thanks for the God incidents on Gillian's way home