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Disclaimer:  The Original travel journal entry is written in italics. Addenda and clarified thoughts are written in regular print.

Today we come home. I’m looking forward to seeing the kitty cats and being in my own home but I’m so happy I came.

I took a sleeping pill last night and slept in until 9am or so. Hopefully I won’t have too much jet lag.

We’re heading out at 12pm. I hope I feel better by then. My stomach has been upset.

At the airport in Santiago, there was a little bit of drama. Aurelie and Aidan were both subject to special security questions and Mark had to have his carry on inspected. But Andy C’s name was paged by security. He, Andy T and Mark brought power tools and machetes with them for the work they were to do. Andy dutifully and carefully packed his machetes in a checked bag. The bag got flagged and he was called in for questioning. At the time, it was quite suspenseful because he was gone for about twenty minutes. Finally, he reappeared to a visibly relieved Amy, and told us that his machetes were the subject of special interest. The security guys didn’t seem fussed that he had them, they wanted to know if they were for sale (they weren’t) and where they could buy them!

Our flight to Miami was uneventful – just like a flight should be. My luggage was noticeably lighter and Mark was kind enough to stash my rum in his checked luggage.

We arrived in Miami 30 minutes early, but were unable to proceed to the gate. Miami was experiencing some weather so the planes at the gate were not allowed to take off. Our layover was tight to begin with, considering we had to go through Customs and Immigration, and by the time we got off the plane, we only had about an hour left to catch our ride to Nashville.

Customs and Immigration were not properly prepared for the scores of people attempting to go through. (Our plane was one of many that had been held up). We were invited to download an app that promised faster lines, but I couldn’t download it and Aurelie couldn’t either, so we decided to stick together and hope for the best. We somehow managed to get in a fast line, but I had lost sight of most of the group. I saw Aidan eventually, and was texting with Amy, but Aurelie and I still had to go through Immigration, find the terminal and board our flight to Nashville. And the clock was ticking.

Aidan eventually joined us and I spied Lucas and Andy C behind us. Amy was waiting for us at the checked luggage pick up on the other side of Immigration and presumably the rest of the group was ahead of her.

Aidan, Aurelie and I finally got through Immigration, only to run through Miami Airport to catch our connecting flight. It was awful, anxiety ridden, frustrating and nerve wracking. Aidan ran ahead of us but we were too late ~ our flight had left without us.

Because Aidan reached the counter first, he was secured a seat on the next flight to Nashville, departing at 10.40pm. Aurelie and I were assigned standby status. Both of us were visibly upset but I was determined to get Aurelie home, even if I had to stay. Andy C, Amy and Lucas finally caught up with us, and our tired, stressed out, slightly grumpy group grabbed dinner, which for me was the first time I ate anything since breakfast, more than 12 hours earlier. Amy was on the phone with Father Chris and American Airlines to see what could be done as everyone, except Aidan, was on standby status for the next flight. I am sure an irate priest and mission team leader was too much for American Airlines to deal with so I’m happy to say that all six of us were able to board the flight. We were finally on our way home.

Mark, who had given me a ride to the airport when we left, was able to make the original flight with his daughter Anna and the rest of the group. He was extremely kind to offer to pick me up when I landed to take me home. In the end, Father Chris picked us up and shuttled us home, but I’m so grateful for Mark’s selflessness and generosity to come and get me.

We arrived safely to Nashville in a plane that wasn’t even fully booked, so I don’t understand why we weren’t given seats on it in the first place. (I never want to fly American Airlines again and certainly don’t want to fly out of Miami Airport again). As I live in Nashville, and everyone else was traveling to Murfreesboro, I got dropped off first. Andy C and Father Chris walked me to my door and made sure I got in OK (thanks, guys!). Eleanor and Elliot didn’t understand what was going on in the middle of the night, but when Eleanor realized I was home, she came running up to me and started snuggling. (Of the two, Elliot is much more snuggly and social, while Eleanor is reserved and demands to be admired from afar. It was nice to see that she missed me.

It was 1.30am by the time I finally got home. But I was home and quickly feel asleep with the two best cats in the world and a heart overflowing with love.

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I participated on this mission trip because I wanted to be a blessing to someone else. I wanted to change someone’s life, even in a small way for a small amount of time. But I’m the one that reaped the blessings. I feel closer to members of my Church – not only those who attended the mission trip with me, but also with those who stayed home and prayed for us continuously. I was able to do something that I never dreamed of doing and I hope I can participate in more mission trips in the future. I have a better understanding of Community and Family. I have a better understanding of Grace and Humility. I saw God at work through everyone I encountered – Jr, Carlos, Tata, the children, our team, the parents – the list goes on and on. I saw some of the most beautiful things in the world. I knew Charlie was with me. I made new friends. God is so good and I am so thankful for this experience. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me next!

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