Seven days ago, I did not know I would be flying to Peru. By Monday the 14th, I had booked tickets for my departure on the 21st. Still more amazing? The lady leading the trip hadn’t known she was headed to Peru until the day before.
It all started with a bag of clothes. My family was cleaning house, emptying our basement of ten years’ accumulated detritus. The friend who came to help us dislodge the furniture offered to drop our clothes off with a friend of his from church. She was accepting accepting donations for her upcoming trip to an orphanage in Peru. Yes, he agreed upon further questioning, she was accepting travel companions, too.
The next morning Erika explained the trip’s miraculous provenance over the phone. She had returned from Peru less than a month ago, not expecting to visit again until perhaps Christmas. “You’ll be back soon,” the head of the orphanage’s pre-school had insisted. “I don’t know about that, Santita,” Erika cautioned her. “No, no, you’ll be back soon! I will pray, and you’ll see.”
Erika testified about her mission in church on August 13th. She carries donations (clothing, sheets, baby formula, kitchen utensils, etc.) to La Sagrada Familia (an orphanage for 1200 children aged from toddler to 17 years) as a private individual, using her personal luggage allowance: 100 pounds per passenger. After the service, a parishioner stopped her. “You’re going back to Peru,” she said and handed her a check. “I’m paying for your plane tickets.”
Erika welcomed me aboard. Within minutes of our first conversation, she reminded me to view every detail of the trip as God’s provision for us. “Your will be done, Lord, not ours.”
Over the next seven days, I shuttled back and forth to her house, picking up suitcases loaded with shoes, shorts, and curtains. On my first stop, four Wegmans bags stuffed with baby clothes waited alongside a massive suitcase. My mother and I stuffed it all in the trunk, figuring there would be space in the second checked bag that Erika promised to pack later in the week.
As it turned out, both full-sized suitcases maxed out the weight allowance, so I turned to my carry-on instead. It was just large enough to squish in three bags and stuff the contents of the fourth around the edges. As we packed, my mother and I exclaimed over the socks crocheted to look like Mary Jane’s and canvas sneakers with buttons instead of straps. It was fun to imagine fitting them onto little feet.
“This carry-on is full of donations,” I commented to Erika as we waited in line for our boarding passes. It was my apology for bringing a full-sized backpack as my “personal item.” She nodded, smiling. No big deal, I supposed.
Customs must have agreed. Suitcases stuffed with products can raise a red flag if officials suspect the passenger intends to sell the goods in Peru without paying taxes and fees, but they passed our 300 pounds of luggage through the scanners without batting an eye.
When we settled in to unpacking during our first evening in Lima, I mentioned the doll-sized shoes to Erika again. “I hope it was okay that I couldn’t bring one of the Wegmans bags, but all the baby clothes fit.”
“What baby clothes?”
As it turned out, one of her clients had dropped off the donations without Erika’s realizing. She had no idea that socks, shoes, and outfits for toddlers were accompanying us across the Caribbean. As we spread the bounty across the coffee table, Erika marveled at God’s goodness. Now we had gifts for the baby caretaker, Santita, who had predicted Erika’s return to Peru.
From merciful miscommunications to seeing us smoothly through customs, the Lord has blessed us every step of the way.