Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Best-Laid Plans ...

A Shipment Gone Astray

So you think you have it all figured out. You are sure you have found the perfect solution for a problem you face. You are feeling pretty good about it all, and then ...

I'm sure you get the idea of where this is going.

Back in March, I picked out my daughter's home school curriculum, and had it in my online shopping cart ready to complete the purchase. The next thing to consider was how to get the materials to us here in Indonesia. Shipping a book-intensive curriculum overseas is a fairly expensive and problem-filled undertaking. Besides shipping, there is the likelihood of customs charges, and the general hassle to liberate the boxes from customs before we could even use it.

Then a flash of inspiration hit me. The perfect plan! Of course! Friends in South Carolina were already planning on sending a couple donated laptops for the children's home where I work via a library ship that travels the world doing various kinds of outreach. This ship was scheduled to dock in Bali in August. If they could put the curriculum on the ship along with the laptops, I could pick it up in Bali. No expensive shipping. No high customs charges. The idea was perfect.

So that is what we did. My friend saw to it that the boxes got on the ship.  They even decorated the boxes with colorful dots all over so they would be easy to see. The ship embarked on its voyage. It was only a matter of time.

And then ...

The ship had to go into dry dock in the Philippines. The needed repairs took much longer than expected, and Bali was canceled from the itinerary.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

My perfect plan was shot to pieces. I think God must sometimes smile and shake His head when He sees us come up with our supposedly foolproof, perfect plans. We can plan, of course, but in the end, God has the last word.

We were already into the first week of September. School should have already started. If I asked the people on the ship to mail the boxes to me, I would have to delay the start of school for yet another month or so. I really didn't want to do that.

It became clear that the best option was to fly to the Philippines and bring the shipment back. Phyllis, a dear friend from Virginia wrote me to say, "Obviously, God wants you in Manila, so 'stay alert, look around you, and see where God is working.' " She was quoting Henry T. Blackaby's "Experiencing God".

She was right. Of course, I assumed that I had to be alert for some way to minister to someone else while there. I truly hope I did minister to someone along the way. What I know for sure, though, is that by sending me to the Philippines, God put me right in the path of a beautiful South Korean family who ministered to me.

A Welcoming Family

Over the last nineteen years, I have often traveled to new places. Sometimes the journey was made alone, and more recently with a small child in tow. I am no stranger to travel. Even so, I did not look forward to this trip. I only knew one person in the Philippines, but his family lived too far away to help me.

I pictured arriving at Clark Airport late Thursday night, having to find a hotel, find transport to the harbor and back in the morning, and then getting back to the airport early Saturday morning. I did not enjoy the prospect of making that kind of whirlwind trip on my own.

Then I remembered that several kids from my international church went to a school in Manila. It was a long shot, but I looked the school up online and gave them a call.

The family of God is truly amazing! I explained my situation as best I could over a poor phone connection. Apparently, Person A talked to Person B. Person B talked to Person C. As Person B was talking, a young woman named Boram overheard their conversation and offered to host me in her parents' home. She would meet me at the airport, take me to the harbor, and return me to the airport when it was time to leave.

Boram knew nothing about me. As a matter of fact, neither Person A nor Person B knew anything about me either. I could have been anyone. Even so, Boram and her family believed that they should just trust God because "this was God's work".

A Little Extra Blessing

On Friday, Boram, her mother, and I traveled to the harbor. We were given a brief tour of the ship. Even though it was rather chaotic with all the renovation and repairs going on, we got an idea of the scope of the ministry done by those who travel on it.

We got the boxes in the car, had lunch, took in a museum, and ate dinner. Back at Boram's house, I still had to repack the shipment into my suitcases so I'd at least have the books on wheels. I also wanted to put Rachel's name in each book in order to reassure customs officials that I really was not intending to resell them, and so shouldn't have to pay an import tax.

Boram gave me a bit of extra blessing. She helped me sort through all the books, label them, divide up the instructor's guides into the various weeks, and pack everything away. What would have been a huge job to do alone, we completed together in about an hour. Thanks to Boram, Rachel and I were ready to start school on Monday instead of later in the week.

As Phyllis said, obviously, God wanted me in the Philippines. I just didn't realize that He wanted me there to bless me. He may have had more reasons than that for the trip, but He certainly did pour on His blessings through my hosts.

Boram and her family taught me an important lesson about hospitality. Their openness, their generosity, and their delight in serving God by serving others challenges me to do the same. Maybe one day, I can bless someone else in a similar way as I realize that "this is God's work".

After all, God is the one who REALLY has the "best-laid plans".

(Photo from )


  1. HI Julie - What a joy to read your postings! Thank you for taking the time and effort to express yourself so beautifully. God bless!
    Donna Neff

    1. Thanks Donna. It is good to hear that people enjoy or are encouraged by these posts. God bless you, too. It's been a long time.


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