I don’t know how to do this! I’m completely clueless!! Those were my thoughts when our associate pastor turned in his resignation and handed me a packet with the information he used to lead short-term mission teams to Mexico. There was no conflict when he left the church; he was just ready for new experiences. On his way out of town, he gave me the responsibility to lead future teams.
Un momento Señor! I no-a-speeka no Spanish!
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’ll do just fine.”
I hate it when people say that……….
He had more faith in me than I had in myself. I’m just an average guy with no formal training. Then again, what were the disciples, college professors?
That was 11 years ago. It has gotten easier with each trip, but I continue to learn new things. One thing that has become glaringly obvious: No matter how hard you prepare, unexpected situations arise, and when they do, you just have to roll with them.
Case in point – the summer of 2011. Our current associate pastor had just moved to town; he, his wife, and one of their children were part of the 17 member team I was leading that year. You always want to impress a new staff member …….. heh, heh ….. especially when his family is along for the ride.
When our flight landed in Cancun, I called my friend Gaby to let him know we had arrived and were waiting outside the airport. He said he was there but couldn’t see us. Then he asked an unexpected question, “Which airport are you at?” When I told him Cancun, his response was, “Oh no, oh no, oh no……… I’m sorry Mister Bill, I thought you were flying directly to Merida!” In other words he wasn’t outside the Cancun airport, he was waiting at the airport in Merida, four hours away. Somewhere in our planning, he had misunderstood our flight plans.
There was no way this was going to be easy but we had to make the best of it. I scratched my head, “Now how am I going to keep 17 people occupied for the next four hours?”
I looked over at the buses parked in rows and asked if any of them went to the hotel zone, the only area of Cancun that I was familiar with. They assured me, “Yes.” So we loaded onto a bus, thinking we would get off at a mall and spend the afternoon shopping. Only the bus didn’t go to the hotel zone, it took us to the bus depot in downtown Cancun. I asked the driver if we would be leaving soon for the hotel zone to which he replied, “This bus doesn’t go to the hotel zone, none of these buses do.”
Well shucks and whazoo!! Now what?!
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know anything about the downtown area. I asked again at the station counter where we could board a bus that went to the hotel zone. They pointed to a busy street with heavy traffic and said, “Walk down that street there and go about three blocks and you’ll come to a pick up location where a bus will be along shortly.” Not what I had in mind. It didn’t seem like a safe option.
My son, who was also on the team, suggested that we look for a place close by to wait for Gaby. Behind the bus station was The Hotel Plaza Caribe. So we went inside, walked up to the reception desk and explained our situation. We asked if it would be okay for us to spend the afternoon lounging around the hotel property. They were more than gracious and hospitable. They gave us a room to store all of our luggage and kept it locked for us. They had a really nice outdoor restaurant where we ate lunch. Just beyond that were the gardens where we rested, played ball, and interacting with some parrots. What could have been disastrous was actually a very pleasant afternoon at a beautiful location. God did not desert us. And kudos to our team; not one of them complained even once!
25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
I offered repeatedly to pay the hotel for their services, but they absolutely refused. They insisted on us simply being their guests. When Gaby arrived with our transportation, the hotel porters helped us carry out our luggage and load everything up as if we were paying guests who had just completed a week’s stay. I was the last one out of the hotel. As I was walking down the sidewalk to join the others, one of the porters waved to us and yelled out in Spanish, “Nos vemos próxima año!” which means, “We’ll see you next year!”
Oh, I hope not …………. I sincerely hope not.