Archives For Travel

India – Part V

Jeff Scurlock —  April 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

Air-India-Boeing-747-412-2

 

Please Read Parts 1 – 4 First

Boarding an Air India 747 was quite an experience.  Smoking was allowed on these flights so we made sure to purchase seats in the non-smoking area.  Three things stand out in my memory about boarding the aircraft. The sights; mostly Indian people who seemed to be right at home on this airplane. The sounds; chatter in the Hindi language, some english and The smell: not to be disrespectful but one thing I’ve learned about Indian people is that they love to cook with strong smelling spices and the aroma of those spices stay with them, on their breath, in their clothes.

We found our seats just three rows from the very back of the aircraft. I would be in seat A which was by a window. Felicia was in B the middle seat and in the isle seat was a young Indian who was a student at New York University. His name was Naresh.

It was late and our decent would be into the dark skies over the Atlantic ocean. I couldn’t help but think about the TWA flight that had gone down over these same waters at about this same time of night. I was still a bit nervous about flying and to make it worse I was on an Air Indian flight, leaving New York in the dark for a thirteen hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  I knew the flight would go by fast because I was exhausted and ready for some sleep.

Something wasn’t right. I could smell cigarette smoke. I looked around the cabin and there were several passengers who lit up as soon as the no smoking light was extinguished.  This can’t be right because we purchased seats in the non smoking area.  I was not very happy when I discovered that not only were we in the smoking area but we were in the rear of the aircraft, the place where passengers from non-smoking came to smoke.

My eyes searched the cabin as far as I could see. Looking for empty seats. Somewhere Felicia and I could move to escape the stifling smoke that had already formed a  thick cloud.  No luck. This 747 is packed. I didn’t see an empty seat anywhere.  I asked the flight attendant who was not compassionate about our situation. “There are no other seats,” she said.

This flight would be long.  Thirteen hours to London with a short layover.  Ten hours from London to Bombay (now Mumbai) with a short lay over.  Two and a half hours from Bombay to Bangalore for a total  time including flying from Pensacola to JFK with layovers  of nearly fifty hours.  The seat was tight the smoke was thick and there was a long way to go. Felicia and I agreed the best thing to do was try and relax and get some sleep.

India – Part IV

Jeff Scurlock —  March 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

InsideAircraft

I looked at Felicia and she looked a bit concerned too but as I looked around the cabin no one else seemed to notice the popping noise at all.  There was a gentleman across the isle from me, dressed in a suit and tie. He was reading the sports page of the Pensacola News Journal. He never looked away from his paper.  Apparently Felicia and I were the only ones who seemed to be concerned.  I felt pretty stupid when it dawned on me that the sound I was hearing was the landing gear.  We were approaching the Atlanta airport. The aircraft sped up and then slowed again. Faster, then slower as the pilot lined up for a landing. Moments later we were taxing to our gate.

Looking out the window it was much different than Pensacola. At the Pensacola airport there were only four aircraft parked at the one concourse. In Atlanta there were hundreds parked at many concourses.

We didn’t have to change concourses in Atlanta and there was about an hour in between arriving and leaving for New York’s JFK Airport.  Felicia and I found a snack bar and had a diet coke. It was all new to us. We were tired but excited.

Our flight from Atlanta to New York followed the East Coast.  It took two hours but it seemed like moments and we were landing at JFK.  We were in New York City. Well at least at a New York Airport. I must admit to you that I never saw even the skyline of Manhattan but it was still New York.

It wasn’t even lunch time yet and we were in for a long wait for our nine o’clock flight. To make things harder we had to keep up with our four large suitcases and our carry on bags during the wait.  With the load there was no need to try and leave the airport so we found seats in our departure concourse and waited.  I don’t remember much about that time except it was long.  We had a nine hour wait which would be followed by nearly thirty hours of flying and layovers before landing in Bangalore.  I do remember having my first Nathan’s New York Hotdog for lunch. It was pretty good.

After a long wait the Air India ticket counter finally opened. It was so nice to finally get rid of those four large bags for a while.

Arvind had given me the dress code for preaching in India. “Suits! All Suits!”  he said.   I’m not sure that was the custom as much as that’s how Arvind wanted me to dress.  Having never flow commercial and having heard horror stories about lost luggage I prepared for the worst.  Most of my clothes, including all of my suits and a pair of dress shoes were framed into a roll up garment bag that I was using as carry on luggage.  If our luggage was lost I’d still have suits.

Just a little over a decade before our trip an Air India 747 went down in the Atlantic ocean because of a bomb detonation at 31,000 feet. Not long before our trip TWA Flight 800 went down just off the coast of New York because of an explosion.   The security at the gate of our flight was extremely tense and thorough.  Every cary on bag was being searched.  I didn’t know this was going to be the case or I wound not have so overpacked my roll up garment bag.  When  the poor lady unzipped it, Well lets just say, we had a mess on our hands.  It took me a while to get everything back in place and force the zippers but it was done and we waited in a large waiting room to board.

We were already lonely.  At least ninety percent of those waiting with us were of some eastern decent.  They all appeared to be Indian.  We hadn’t left New York yet but we were already in India.  It sure would have been nice to have had Arvind with us.  Even the promise of an American missionary waiting in Bangalore would have brought some level of comfort.  We were about to fly over eight thousand miles to a foreign country where there would be no familiar faces.  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now but it was then.  We were leaving the country for the first time in our lives, alone.

 

India, Part III

Jeff Scurlock —  March 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

aircraft md80

This is Part III in the India series. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.

The preparation was completed and the time arrived that we would actually fly to the other side of the planet.  The morning of departure started extremely early.  An international flight starting in Pensacola required an early arrival.  The flight from Pensacola to Atlanta would depart at seven which meant we had to be there by six.  I’ve never made it a practice to be anywhere right on time. I had to be early so we were there by five thirty.  Felicia was already tired and now aggravated at me because we were the first people in the airport that morning. The ticket agents were not even on the job yet.

I had never flown commercial so even the simple task of checking in with the ticket agent was nerve racking to me. I didn’t want to look green, even though I was.  I managed to check the four large suitcases and get our boarding passes without any unbearable embarrassment.  It was just a little after six in the morning but because of a late night to bed, less than good sleep, an early alarm, a forty minute drive to the airport and the stress of getting checked in we were already exhausted. I had no idea that it would be nearly forty hours before I would get another moment of sleep.  I guess in some cases it’s good to not know the future.

We said bye to our family members who had come to see us off and our kids.  I don’t think the kids really understood what was going on but they seemed sad. Felicia and I were extremely nervous and excited about our trip be we too were a bit sad knowing that it would be fifteen days before we saw them again.  I can’t imagine the emotions that military parents deal with leaving their children for such long times.  I also think of the early days of world missionaries, especially the “One Way” missionaries who packed their belongings into coffins, leaving family and friends behind knowing they would never see them again.  All for the sake of the Gospel.

The Delta MD-80 was not a huge aircraft but fairly large coming out of the small Pensacola airport.  Every seat was occupied and my seat was more than occupied.

I have always been a lover of thrill rides so takeoff was exhilarating for me. I had been in the air many times in small private aircraft but had never felt the G-Force of a jet takeoff.  As I said, exhilarating.

The flight to Atlanta was to take less than an hour. Just long enough for the flight attendants to serve beverages and then pick up the trash.  I had managed to relax and enjoy the view outside the window until I heard a loud popping noise and then felt the aircraft slow dramatically.  To say I was concerned would be an understatement.

India – Part II

Jeff Scurlock —  March 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

travel-luggage-clipart-graphicsfairy004

 

This is part two of the India series. Please make sure you have read part one first.

 

 

We lived at least fifteen minutes from the nearest restaurant and Sunday lunches in one of them were not the norm. Felicia was home long before me that Sunday preparing lunch.  I must have had a look of shock on my face because she immediately knew something was up. When she asked I told her that Betty had given us a donation for our trip to India.

“How much is it?”  I handed her the check.  She looked at it for what seemed like eternity then looked up at me and said with a twinkle in her eyes, “we’re going to India.”

We needed three thousand dollars for the tickets and the check as you have already guessed by now was three thousand dollars.

I stayed in a state of shock and awe for several hours.  Where did Betty get that much money?  My shock and awe was followed by shame. I hadn’t really trusted that God would provide. He did it in spite of my lack of faith.  Why is it so hard to believe that God will make a way? Not only did God make a way for us to get the tickets purchase He used the most unlikely source.  There were people in our church who had lived well and planned well. They drove luxury vehicles and lived in nice homes.   It wasn’t them. It was Betty, the widow who lived in the small house and drove an old car.  It taught be a valuable lesson. A lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. I keep forgetting but God keeps reminding me that He chooses who He will use and it’s not usually the one with the most money, talent or pedigree.  God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise.

The date was set, the airline tickets with Air India purchased and preparation was in full swing.  There was so much to do. We would be gone for fifteen days. We had to make arrangements for our kids. That was the easy part. Our moms agreed to take turns staying with them at our house so they wouldn’t miss school.  There was more money to raise the cost of the airline tickets was half of what we needed for the trip.  I had faith now. I knew God had provided for the tickets. Now I was sure everything else would be ok.

Everything was not okay.  Arvind came by to see me one day to inform me that he would not be going to India with us. “Pastor Scurlock,” he said. “God has something else for me to do. I will not be going to India with you but there will be people who will greet you and take you to places to preach.”

“Hold on just one minute. You invited us to go to India with you. We have spent three thousand dollars on tickets, made plans and now your telling me this?”

“It will be fine pastor Scurlock. You don’t need me. God will go with you.”

In the years since going to India I have traveled and made many missions trips. Now I know how it works. You hook up with an American missionary. He or she makes your arrangements in country and you spend your time with them.  That would not be the case on our first trip out of the country.  We would arrive in Bangalore India at 3 am local  be greeted by an Indian man whom we had never met, and he would take us to our hotel. After that we were to be greeted by T.c. George who was the General Superintendent of the southern India Assemblies of God.  He would make our preaching arrangements. It brought some comfort that an Assembly of God brother would be with us but it was still our first trip out of the country and it was India and we had no American contacts there.

In the 90’s  you could check in two large suitcases per passenger and take a carry on bag.  Arvind asked us to smuggle some Christmas decorations in to some of his family. “Smuggle?” I asked.

“Pastor Scurlock the authorities will frown upon you if they find you have these decorations but it will be fine because God will get you through customs.”  Ok, now I’m worried.  This man of God is suggesting to me that I do something that would be frowned upon and that I should trust that God would get me through.

India – Part I

Jeff Scurlock —  March 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

India

It was the late 90’s. We were serving a church in North West Florida as their pastor.  It was a church of less than 200 people in a small community near Pensacola. The salary was modest.  We had three small children, a dog and one car.

Felicia and I had never even flown on a commercial flight much less left the country.  We were pretty much home bodies, so when our Indian friend Arvind suggested that we should go to India with him to preach the gospel we didn’t really take it seriously.

Some time passed by, we were hosting Arvind and Susan in our home, he was cooking Indian food, helping Adam with his math and chasing our little girls around the house to the sound of squeals in a game of hide and seek.  Our children loved Arvind.  The food was awesome and they loved the way he loved to play.  In a moment of stillness he looked into my eyes and said with his perfect English but with a heavy Indian accent,  “pastor Scurlock you and Felicia should go to India with me to preach.”

“Ok,” I said and he smiled.  While the smile was still large and his eyes sparkled with happiness I’m already having a personal conversation with myself inwardly.   “Jeffrey! What are you thinking? India?”

I was certainly no missionary. As a matter of fact I entered the ministry with the hope and expectation that God would never call me to a foreign country.” I encouraged my church to give to support missionaries, we gave to all kinds of missions endeavors and the monkey was off my back,. I thought.

Arvind immediately began putting the wheels in motion for our trip.  Before I could say “now wait a minute and slow down,” the date was set.  A few days later the phone rang and when I said hello I was greeted with Arvind’s usual telephone greeting,  “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.”  Then he pushed us another step closer to India with,  “I have reserved your airline tickets and I need $3000 to pay for them.”

“I don’t have three thousand dollars right now.”

“Pastor Scurlock, God will provide.”

I knew God was a miracle worker but three thousand dollars to me might as well been three hundred thousand.  I agreed with Arvind vocally, “Amen, God will provide,” but I had major doubts. After all I am human and three thousand dollars to fly to India seemed a little extravagant for me.

My congregation knew I was planning a trip to India. What they didn’t know is how little faith I had that it would ever actually happen.

A couple of days later it was Sunday.  Sunday’s are stressful for most pastors. I’m one of those. I’ve often said that my least favorite time of the week is Sunday morning before service begins.  Most Sunday mornings were spent dealing with the anticipation of what the day would bring, some stress usually accompanied by an upset stomach and coffee with men from the church.  The morning rocked along, pretty much normal.  The morning service must not have been anything special because I have absolutely no memory of it.  What I do remember is Betty walking to greet me at the pulpit when the service ended.  She was a middle-aged widow. Her husband had been killed a couple of years earlier in an accident.  She lived a simple life, a small home and old car, a couple of dogs on her front porch and her kids, mostly grown by now. “God told me to help you with your trip to India,” she said while reaching out to me with a folded check in her hand.  I immediately began having one of those personal conversations in my head.  As I’m reaching out to receive the check the conversation in my head goes something like this. “She’s a widow lady! What could she do? I know Betty doesn’t have much so Jeffrey don’t let your expectations of what that check amount is exceed common sense because you might be setting your self up for disappointment.”   As the conversation in my head continued I reasoned in myself that Betty could probably donate a hundred dollars and that would be extravagant for her.

Now with the check in my hand I embrace Betty to say think you and then she walks away.  I didn’t want to seem to eager so I waited until she had exited the building.