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This Day in History

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If you Google© “This Day in History”, fascinating facts emerge from the page. Scientific breakthroughs, athletic accomplishments, and ingenious inventions from around the globe—and down through the ages—stand to capture one’s attention.

But I awoke today with the realization of my own personal This Day in History. Mine will not make the news, and it will not reach the printed page, but the reality is every bit written on my heart. Today, February 20th, 1977, I landed on a new continent that I would, for 33 years, call home.

In preparing to follow God’s supernatural call on our lives, (How Could You?!), Larry, our seventeen-month-old daughter, and I packed and left a land and family we loved dearly.  No turning back….Details of our deep feelings remain fresh.

The dramatic days leading up to our farewell in 1977 were tense and emotional ones for our families. Grasping at each chance to make the most of our minutes, we attended a livestock show, a rodeo, and a church Valentine’s party. The clock ticked as we struggled to shove everything into our eleven pieces of luggage. 

Our day of departure dawned, and a somber attitude surrounded the inevitable drive to the airport—last hugs and last words ensued. At the moment of letting go, Larry and I steeled our emotions, turned, and walked away. Leaving the gate area, we could only wonder when we would see these loved ones again. Only God knew.

That journey down the jet way took us from the familiar into the unknown. Global communication in the 70’s did not include Face Time or Skype, and international post took endless days.

I remember pretending to be brave.

As planned, we stayed overnight in New York, and the next day, on Saturday the 19th of February, dear friends drove us to JFK airport. Their son and our daughter were the same age, crib buddies we called them. This departure was also saturated with goodbyes. Again the stark reality confronted us: we were leaving; they were staying. On the curb, we stood and waved as their van pulled away.

For the transatlantic journey, our little girl wore a blue and red outfit complete with white lace socks and lace up shoes. We placed her on the check-in counter, and made a photo with the TWA Airline logo in the background.

Finally alone, a unique sweetness enveloped us; we were a family, and we made a team. Moreover, God was in this and God was with us. His marvelous, supernatural grace kicked in.

Airline personnel assigned us two seats on a three-person bulkhead row for the overnight flight to Vienna, Austria. Larry had the aisle, and I sat in the middle. Our toddler alternated between our laps. The stranger on our row, a Swiss businessman in the window seat to my right, was going home. He could hardly wait to be reunited with his wife and girls. The irony of the situation struck me—he was returning home and we were leaving home. This thought stayed with me the whole of the long transatlantic flight.

Our scheduled stopover in Switzerland was brief, and we proceeded in the air to Vienna. Now it was Sunday morning February 20th, 1977. Exhausted and not knowing any better, we put our toddler on the floor so that all three of us could nap. This made the flight attendant irate. Her scolding awoke us abruptly,  “You must take her seriously! You must take her seriously!” (She was right. We were just young, inexperienced, and desperately tired. Our 33 year journey had only just begun.)

With the rising of the early morning sun, our aircraft touched down in Vienna. Clad in brand new, warm down-filled coats, (Larry’s was royal blue, mine was burnt orange, and our daughter’s was bright yellow), we walked off the plane and into a marvelous, grace-filled life. Shirley Hinkson, with her children Jon and Joi, met us with enthusiastic waves and a bouquet of coral roses.

Ed and Coralee Murray and their family of four welcomed us into their home for our first few weeks. They introduced us to the spectacular new habit of drinking rich Viennese coffee from freshly ground beans.

A chiming coo-coo clock and hearty meals around their red checked Austrian table marked our initial days. Within just a brief few weeks we would make our first foray by train to the world behind the Iron Curtain. Soon, that Cold War world would become our world, our home. 

But those are other days in history. This is about just one: This Day in History…February 20, 1977.

Thank you, God. You were every bit Present. Though I dwell on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast (Psalm 139:9-10).

Living With Eternal Intentionality

When is the last time you paused to remember This Day in History from your own life?

How does this reflection highlight the goodness of God to you?