Since moving to Phoenix, Jeremiah has been a working fiend. In fact, he loves to work, partly because he enjoys physical labor, but likely more so for the end result of his labor…cash. He has quickly discovered that having money means freedom to do and have more “things.” So along with homeschooling, he has been mowing lawns, chopping down trees, organizing sheds, making towel racks, demolishing small structures, cleaning, etc. After saving for some time, he came to Heather and me and said he wanted to use some of his money to fly to Rochester to see some of his friends prior to leaving for Kenya. As a father, I wanted to reward him for all his hard work, so I used some of my miles on Northwest to secure a free ticket. However, he had to pay the fee that Northwest charges for traveling as an unaccompanied minor, and he was agreeable to this.
The day of his departure came, and he very excitedly packed his bag. I took him to the airport, checked him in with the ticket agent, and ushered him through security. Because he was traveling as a minor, he was made to wear a pinkish-colored wrist band identifying him as such, which he was NOT particularly fond of. He was convinced he could travel alone, and now he had to wear a wrist band with pretty patterns and bold lettering for all to see. I was able to go with him directly to the gate, and we sat down together, waiting for him to board the plane. When his name was called over the loudspeaker to come to the gate counter, I figured they were going to allow him to board the airplane early, before everyone else. But as we approached the counter, in perfect airline fashion, without a shred of compassion, the gate agent announced loudly that Jeremiah would not be flying today. Confused, I asked “Why?” “The weather service is predicting thunderstorms in Minneapolis this afternoon and when this occurs, unaccompanied minor ticket reservations are canceled. You’ll need to go back to the ticket counter and rebook his ticket for tomorrow,” she said. I wonder what my face looked like at that time, because in my mind I had this overwhelming sense of absurdity. Firstly, there are thunderstorms predicted every afternoon in the Midwest on warm days. Second, NWA never mentioned random cancellation as a possibility on their website, although it was clear that if a plane was re-routed due to weather, the minor would be provided a hotel, meals etc., and the thought of this was exciting to Jeremiah.
At first, I felt like putting up a fight, but thankfully, my spiritual higher cortex took over, convincing my fleshly emotional limbic system, that a) a fight with an airline employee would be a futile attempt, and b) it would not be a good example to Jeremiah of patience and trust in God. So instead, I turned to Jeremiah, and said, “why don’t you just pray and see what God does.” I must admit, I had my doubts. His eyes were already welled with tears, and he said, rather matter-of-factly, “Dad, I already have.” We made our way back through security to the ticket counter. I wanted to speak directly with the ticket agent who originally checked us in, primarily because the gate agent told me a hold was placed on Jeremiah’s ticket, supposedly preventing check-in, long before we even arrived at the airport. I thought I would try to make her feel a little bad. She saw us approach the counter, and had a rather ashamed look on her face, so I decided (thankfully) to let it go. Jeremiah was mostly concerned that this mishap was cutting into his precious time of freedom and friendship in Rochester. So I asked the lady if she would extend his ticket a day. Happy to have something to offer as penitence, she heartily agreed, and found a return flight a day later and at a much better time than was originally booked.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face. I turned to see a former Mayo Clinic resident I had done a rotation with as an intern, five years ago. We had kept casual contact throughout our residencies, he in anesthesia, and me in orthopedics, and we periodically worked together in the OR. “What are you doing in Phoenix?,” I asked. My wife and I just finished our oral anesthesia boards in Scottsdale and we are flying back to Rochester. At first, I did not make the connection, but the penitent ticket agent said rather excitedly, “you know, if they would agree to travel with Jeremiah, he could fly out today, and you could get a refund on his unaccompanied minor fee!” My friend and his wife had a puzzled look on their faces, but after the agent explained the situation, they both said “sure, no problem. In fact, we can just drive him to wherever he needs to go once we get into Rochester!”
At that moment, we all had a sense that we had just played a part in something that was miraculous. Afterwards, the couple just said, “That was weird.” I was compelled to explain to them that God had just divinely arranged our meeting, and how amazing it was to witness that firsthand. The ticket agent was joyously redeemed from her corporate iniquity as she issued Jeremiah’s refund for the minor fee. Jeremiah just immediately ripped off the wrist band! I then grabbed his face and told him, “Jeremiah, God answered your prayer and gave you a very special gift.” And, I think, possibly for the first time, he believed it for himself. As I drove away from the airport, I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe and gratitude that God would do this for my 11-year old son. For I have been praying that God would build faith in him and all our children, that He would become real to them, and that they would somehow sense their calling to missions. Then God reminded me that he loves Jeremiah far more than I do, and that he is building faith in his life for Christ’s glory. Amazing…as a father, there was no other place I would have rather been that day.
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