Deliverance Ministry on the Bus by Karen

Last week, after telling a friend about something that happened during our travels back to the States, she said, "You should write a blog about this!"  So, here I am.  Since these extraordinary moments happened inside the context of totally ordinary activities, it didn't occur to me to snap any photos.  To be honest, I was exhausted and the day just kept taking me by surprise.  I found a few pictures of our family, but the majority of the images I used in this blog are generic photos I found on the Internet.  I'm hoping they can help you imagine what happened.

Our kids finished Faith Camp on a Friday evening in mid-July.  Immediately following the closing activities I grabbed their bags full of filthy clothes and rushed to a nearby FMC house to begin a marathon laundering session.  We had planned to leave FMC first thing Saturday morning to begin our 14+ hour drive from Louisiana to Florida, but things don't always go as planned.  Anna, Jack, and Michael got invited to a pool party on Saturday morning that they really, really wanted to attend. Before even asking permission to go, they devised an alternative itinerary that ensured our arrival at the Orlando International airport "in plenty of time" to catch our flight back to Costa Rica early Sunday morning.  Considering all the times we've asked our kids to do crazy things in the name of fun with friends, how could we refuse?  

They swam, I packed... and repacked and continued repacking until I was finally able to squeeze every last thing into our suitcases.  When it came time to put all of our bags into the rental car we realized it wasn't designed with this trip in mind.  We had one duffle bag that weighed 100 pounds, along with several others that were bursting at the seams with Days for Girls kits, bibles, books in English for our kids, and so much more.  As we pulled away from FMC I realized just how exhausted I was from four straight weeks of totally insane busyness.  I leaned my head on Anna's shoulder and closed my eyes to rest when all of a sudden I remembered that we were supposed to "stop along the way" to buy Jack a pair of dark brown dress shoes which are a required part of our kids' school uniform.  Before the school year began, back in February, we searched all over Costa Rica, but it seems there aren't many Costa Ricans with a size 15 shoe.

Finally, around 5pm we were officially on our way to Florida.  Chris and I took turns driving through the night, stopping as needed for coffee and bathroom breaks.  We pulled into a Cracker Barrel in Orlando moments before they opened, and took our time eating because we were on schedule to arrive at the airport 3 hours before our flight even boarded, just like our kids predicted!  😁

Little did we know that hundreds of people were already in line waiting to check their bags for flights that left around the same time as ours.  We followed the line through the corridor, around the corner, down a hallway of sorts, and around another corner before we finally found the end.  In all the traveling I've done, I've never seen lines that long.  Anyhow, I got in line while Chris headed out in search of a place closer to the front where we might be able to leave our bags (which collectively weighed hundreds of pounds) so we didn't have to inch through the line with all of them.  

As I was standing there it occurred to me that I should pray, but I wasn't sure what to pray for.  I couldn't possibly ask the Lord to miraculously move us to the front of the line because I'm all too aware that "the last will be first and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16).  Everyone in that line was going somewhere and presumably hoped to arrive on time.  I too wanted them to make their flights and decided to start by praying that the Lord would fill each of their hearts with peace as they waited.  Maybe I could pray that, despite any delays or setbacks, we'd arrive home in time for our kids to attend school the next morning.  Anna had an important Chemistry test that she'd studied hard for and Monday would be the only opportunity for her to take that midterm exam.  As I thought about Anna's test, I looked around at the sea of people who, I assumed, also had plans for the coming days.  "Jesus' plan for each of our lives is so much bigger and so much better than anything that any of us could even fathom," I remember saying to myself.  "If it's the Lord's will that we arrive in Santa Rosa in time for the kids to go to school tomorrow morning, that's wonderful.  If not, I'm sure He has something else in store for us that's even more wonderful."  I felt relaxed and content but still wanted to pray.  "Lord, I'm still not sure how to pray right now.  I want what You want.  I want Your will to be done...."  Ah-ha!  That's it!!  I needed to pray for docility; that my family and I would be attentive to the subtle movements of the Holy Spirit so that we could recognize any and all opportunities that arose to be instruments of God's will.  "Lord, give us Your eyes; that amidst the crowds we can see the individual(s) that You desire for us to encounter.  I ask for  wisdom to know what each person needs to take that next step closer to You, and Lord, please give us the courage to say 'yes' to whatever comes about, so that we can be clay in the hands of the potter."  With that, I crossed myself and took a deep breath.  Chris arrived shortly thereafter to tell me that he had piled our bags close to the entrance of the switchback waiting corral near the front entrance and asked that I go wait there with Anna and Michael.  I walked through the sea of people to where our bags sat trying to refocus my eyes to see individuals, but still, I just saw an overcrowded airport full of frustrated travelers.           

I waited and watched; watched and waited.  As I looked around, I noticed a sign at the entrance of another switchback waiting line, which was strangely set apart from all of the chaos, that invited travelers who met the listed criteria to check in "hassle-free".  Of the six requirements listed, our family met only one of them.  Clearly, this was not the line for us, and yet there was a woman at the end of the counter who captured my attention.  I felt inspired to approach her in between customers simply to ask for guidance on how best to check-in given our mountain of overweight / oversized luggage, our international destination, and underage travel companions.  I said nothing about being missionaries or the purpose of our travels.  Bernique smiled angelically and then tenderly grabbed my forearm as to pull me closer, and whispered "Just bring your family and all of your bags here to my counter and I'll take care of you."  I was in shock, but knew to act fast.  Rushing back to Mt. Luggage, I instructed Anna to go get Chris and Jack out of the mile-long line.  Michael needed to start dragging bags over to the angel in disguise.  As  Bernique began receiving our bags, it seemed that the 100 lb bag that I had weighed multiple times was somehow now 109 lbs.  At 109 lb it would have to be shipped as cargo, which was cost prohibitive.  Our angel just smiled and encouraged us to relax.  She asked if I would mind opening the extra large bag so that she could see how we might redistribute some of our items as to maximize our space without exceeding the weight limits.  When I unzipped the duffle she saw our bibles, gross quantities of medicine, sacrament prep materials, Days for Girls kits, and such.  "We're missionaries.  That's why we have all this stuff."  I simply said.  Bernique's eyes twinkled as she gazed upon the box of bibles.  "I would offer you a bible, but they're all in Spanish,"  I said.  "I speak Spanish," she replied.  "I'm sorry for assuming otherwise.  Would you like a bible?"  I asked.  "I sure would," she said.  

As I opened the box I remembered that I still had the St. Benedict medal in my purse that I had intended to send to our daughter, Katelyn, before we left the States.  I got that out along with one of the comfort crosses that I had on hand.  Despite the endless line of customers, I felt like I was supposed to explain the significance of the St. Benedict medal and dispel any misconceptions she might have about Catholics worshiping saints.  I gave her a comfort cross and shared a bit about how she could use it to help her feel the Lord's loving presence.  When I asked Bernique if I could pray with her she said, "I would love that!"  As I was praying I had my head bowed, but for some reason kept my eyes open which allowed me to notice the tears that were silently dropping onto the carpet beneath us.  As I squeezed Bernique I too started to cry.  Surely this is the person that I was supposed to encounter during our journey back to Costa Rica.  Before parting ways I gave Bernique a hug and quietly thanked the Lord for allowing our paths to cross.  

This is not the woman who was sitting
next to me on the plane, but she looks 
similar enough that you can imagine.
We made it to our gate in plenty of time and boarded the plane uneventfully.  I secretly hoped that the empty seat next to me would remain unoccupied, not because I needed to stretch out, but because I didn't have the energy to talk with anyone... or so I thought.  Moments later a cheerful young woman arrived in the aisle next to our row motioning toward the empty space by the window.  Jack and I got up and let her in.  I quickly learned that she's a truck driver who hadn't taken a vacation since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic back in 2020.  She was traveling to Costa Rica with a coworker and some friends.  I was hoping to talk about her work or perhaps her travel plans because that would have been be easy, but no.  She wanted to hear all about the work we do as missionaries.  She wanted to learn about how we help people to grow in their faith.  She was curious about why we feel so compelled to seek out the marginalized and seemed amazed to hear me say that God's love is a gift, not something that has to be earned.  She didn't appear interested in sharing much about her own story, and when asked she just said that she had never stepped foot in a "real" church.  Almost four hours later, as we bid each other farewell, I silently thanked the Lord for giving me the grace to be amiable and also for anything that He'd do in this young woman's heart in the days, months, and years to come.  

Now, it was time to move mountains, or at least one mountain - Mt. Luggage.  

This is not Ayana.  It's a random
photo of an Ethiopian woman.
However, it looks similar enough that
you can imagine what she looks like.
As we were waiting for the bags our kids began talking with a young woman from Ethiopia, who I'll call Ayana, that has been living in the United States for the last 15 years or so.  She was just in Washington D.C. meeting with various politicians and foreign diplomats to discuss ways that the U.S. government might be able to help end the genocide in Ethiopia which continues to claim the lives of her family members and fellow tribesmen.  She came to Costa Rica to meet up with some friends for a handful of days, but the friends had already gotten settled into the hotel several hours away, and she wasn't quite sure what to do.  Ayana inquired about taxis and rental cars, but it was obvious that she was going to get grossly taken advantage of because she doesn't speak Spanish and appears to be financially comfortable.  As we talked we realized that she was headed to a town close to our own.  If she wanted to have lunch with us, she could then go with us to the bus station and we'd be able to accompany her most of the way.  All this was a huge relief to her.  After lunch, we walked to the bus terminal.  As our bus was pulling in I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom because there is no bathroom on the bus, nor is there the opportunity to get off the bus to use any sort of restroom along the way.  When I was done I ran to the bus and made my way to the back where the rest of my family was sitting.  I had hoped to snuggle with one of my family members and go to sleep, but that wouldn't be possible because the seat that had been saved for me was right next to our new Ethiopian friend.  It's not that I wouldn't want to talk with Ayana on any other occasion.  She was really, really sweet; it's just that I was so exhausted that I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give.  As I slid into my seat it took everything I had not to show my disappointment.  I explained that we'd be traveling through the mountains and that the road is so windy in certain parts that it's nauseating.  Because of this, my family and I always take motion sickness pills.  I dug through my bag, got the pills, and started passing them out to my family members.  Then, I popped two in my mouth and apologized in advance for not being very good company because I'd surely be asleep within 15 minutes.  Ayana confessed to getting motion sick and asked if she too could take the pills.  I was delighted for all the wrong reasons.  I wish that I could say that I prayed and asked the Lord for the grace I'd need to make the most of the time that we had together and such, but that is definitely not the case.  I was really struggling.  Our small talk somehow took a turn and before we even made it out of San Jose we were discussing very personal issues related to the challenges of living in a culture that is not our own.  Ayana and her family moved from Ethiopia to the United States when she was an adolescent, which makes her a Third Culture Kid.  Everything that my family and I have learned to help our own kids cope with the difficulties of living cross-continentally applied directly to her experience.  In fact, at one point, Ayana said, "I feel like everything you're saying describes my life experiences exactly.  It's been so hard!"  Both of our eyelids began to get droopy from the medicine we had taken, but it seemed like there was something bigger at work here.  Ayana's father is Muslim, and her mother is Christian, which adds a whole other layer of complexity to her situation.  Ayana told me that her father left a couple years ago to return to Ethiopia for a vacation, or so he said.  After a couple of months, he called her mom to say that he had married another (younger) woman and would be staying in Ethiopia to start a family with her.  He was unapologetic and assured her that he'd send sufficient funds for them to live comfortably.  He ended the call by saying that there was no reason for any of them to contact him unless of course, the mom decided to convert to Islam and she wished to return to Ethiopia with the kids.  Ayana has called her dad several times since then, but he's never answered.  Ayana continued by telling me about the failed relationships that she's had which she believes to be directly related to her cross-cultural upbringing as well as her father's oppressive nature.  

Driving through the mountains in a bus
can be really nauseating.
As she continued sharing she began experiencing some really intense emotions which seemed to segue into physical discomfort: pain in her head, nausea, a stomach ache.  I assumed that this was nothing more than motion sickness and suggested that she open the window a bit further in case she had to vomit.  She got a bag and started wrenching, although nothing came out.  She was mumbling and crying, but I couldn't tell what she was saying because of the wind coming from the wide-open window.  I asked her if I could pray over her.  She agreed.  I asked if I could lay my hands on her.  She agreed.  My intention was to humbly ask the Lord to take her motion sickness away.  I began by praying to the Holy Spirit, that He would come in power to heal this woman of whatever it was that was causing her so much pain and agony.  Little did I know that this prayer would propel us into what some would call deliverance ministry; prayers that help to cleanse people of the evil spirits which oppress them and cause problems in their lives.  I prayed and she trembled.  I prayed and she wretched.  I prayed and she cried and yelled.  I prayed and she clenched her fists and hit her legs.  I prayed and she pulled her hair so hard that I thought she was going to pull it out.  I prayed and she collapsed in her seat.  (Do you remember that we were on the bus this whole time?)  I wasn't quite sure what had just happened, but it seemed to be over.  I offered some last prayers of thanksgiving and hugged Ayana as she wept.  About ten minutes later she straightened up a bit, opened her eyes, which were glistening with tears, and said in a completely calm voice, "I'm free.  I'm free to love.  I'm free to be a Christian."  At that, she relaxed back into my embrace.  A short while later she began talking about how excited she is to learn about Christianity and to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We talked about the importance of reading the bible each day, attending religious services, and joining a community of faith-filled believers.  She said that she believes she's supposed to take a break from all romantic relationships and just focus on becoming the woman that God created her to be.  As the bus pulled into the terminal, she said that she's confident that Jesus will guide her to a wonderful, Christian man when the time is right.  I was in awe of all that had happened during our ride and really didn't know what to say.  I gave Ayana a big hug and promised to pray for her.  

After we got our luggage out of the hold we found Ayana's next bus, made sure she had enough money for the passage, and asked a local if he'd make sure she got off at the right stop.  Moments after boarding our next bus I fell fast asleep.

Over the years I've been warned against praying certain prayers unless I felt that I was spiritually strong enough to handle whatever may come about as a result.  When I stood in line at the Orlando airport a couple of weeks ago I was exhausted and certainly not looking for any challenges.  I asked the Lord for docility, wisdom, and courage because it truly is my desire to do His will inside of each moment.  After I met Bernique I was sure that she was the person I was supposed to encounter during our travels.  After chatting with the truck driver in the airplane I felt confident that the Lord was at work in ways that I'm incapable of understanding.  My time with Ayana confirmed that the Lord desires to use each one of us to help build His glorious kingdom and that He'll always give us what we need to do that which He's called us to - we simply need to make ourselves available.  We arrived home in time for our kids to attend school the following day and Anna did fantastic on her Chemistry exam.  I pray that the other folks in line at the airport had equally successful journeys. 

I encourage you to pray inside of each moment.  When you're not sure what to say or how to pray, just be honest and tell Jesus what's on your mind.  I'm positive that He delights in our desire, and I imagine that He enjoys transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. 

God bless you, Karen

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving those in need, please visit:

or call Family Missions Company at 
(337) 893 - 6111.

Thank you and may God bless you and all those 
you hold dear to your heart!

Our 10 Most Popular Blog Posts of All time