Hello from Ho Chi Minh Airport, Vietnam! I'm nearly home... No photos this week & no recount of the week, instead, just as a filler until World Youth Day, here is a quick-list look at the last 18months. Here is, the good, the bad and the bizarre.
Top 12 Highs
1. Being offered hammock hanging space in a tin shed in Panama by a young man who lived there with his wife & child. The shed was no more than 2mx3m with no running water, electricity, toilet or address. Dinner was a bread role with a slice of sausage on it. Breakfast was another bread role with a cup of lemon grass tree, which he cut fresh from the nearby field. He had nothing but gave all that he could. His daughter's toy Dino doll has accompanied me the entire trip since.
2. USA/Canada hospitality including 15days in a row across Montana & Canada where I was invited by strangers to stay in their home. Loved it!
3. Walking 148km over 3days between civilisation across the Shirley Basin in Wyoming, USA. I nearly froze, but God provided the perfect practical support in incredible ways (including peanut butter filled chocolates)!
4. Walking across the spectacularly beautiful Grand Savannah in Venezuela's south east corner.
5. The surprise visits on the road from my good friend Dave in Austria and then my parents in Spain.
6. Walking at night through an Oklahoma (USA) electrical storm that was simply mesmerizing.
7. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago in Spain; Their stories, their personalities, their company.
8. Spending a blessed & fun-filled Christmas with my brother Chris and the family Quist in Edmonton, Canada.
9. Being welcomed into the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Christian Unity :-)
10. All of the Mountain crossings! The Andes Mtns, Mexico's Cordillera Neovolcanica, The USA Rockies, The Austrian/Italian Alps & the Pyrenees.
11. The amazing hospitality in Riachao do Bacamarte, Patos & Pombal in north east Brazil just as I was starting out. Many smiles.
12. Being joined on the road by Nikki, Chris, The Quists, Justin & Wojtek (& Michal's trumpet!)
Top 12 Lows
1. Walking 66km in one day across Venezuela, running out of food & water & then coming face to face with a Puma in long grass on a quiet country road. After a tense stand-off & a slow approach by the Puma we finally parted company & I was left to sleep 3km back up the road in a clearing, severely dehydrated & a tad shaken!
2. Again in Venezuela, having a shot gun pushed against my head while eating lunch on the side of the road.
3. Being mugged at knife point & stripped clean by 4 men while walking with a small youth group in Costa Rica.
4. Being attacked by 2 drunken men in the snow on the side of a Russian highway & having to fight my way free.
5. Being hospitalised in Guatemala due to Salmonella poisoning & a subsequent Typhoid fever caused by eating some under-cooked rooster.
6. Big-toe-bleeder. Three times, for around 6-8weeks each time, having the side of my left big toe split open.
7. Developing an irregular heartbeat as a result of physical stress, rapid weight loss & fatigue.
8. Both knees seizing & both achilles tendons being strained all at the same time while in Russia.
9. Being taken to the Chief of Police in Brest, Belarus, for having crossed Belarus with an invalid Visa.
10. Waking up in a dark room in both Brazil & Honduras with a man trying to get into bed with me.
11. Being assaulted on the side of a Columbian road by a drunken man before a soldier, armed with an automatic rifle, broke up the scuffle & arrested him.
12. Dodging flying rocks, full beer cans, water balloons & verbal abuse throughout Venezuela.
Top 12 Bizarre Moments
1. Not able to find accommodation in a remote part of Texas & with dangerous animals lurking, I locked myself in a National Park disabled toilet cubicle & slept soundly. And if it started to get cold, all I had to do was reach up and hit the hand dryer... hmmm, toasty warm.
2. Being invited to speak about unity & the need for prayer at a funeral in Brazil, while the mourning family wept in the front row. Talk about a pressure moment!
3. Having the trans-Siberian railway stopped by a drunk man in the middle of Siberian wilderness because he wanted a lift. The engineer (with a hammer in hand just in case) took to him with a huge kick to the chest, flooring him in the snow. I guess that was a no.
4. Being heckled by two young men in Nicaragua as they passed by in a horse drawn cart. Heckling isn't ever nice, but there was something bizarre about being heckled from rickety old cart.
5. In a church in Colorado, USA, I was introduced to the congregation, "And we'd like to extend a very special welcome today to a travelling missionary who is with us, all the way from Tanzania, Austria!" Everyone applauded. I smiled with great difficulty.
6. Nearly crying with laughter as Nikki Harris' boots bellowed out shampoo foam during a thunder storm after she'd washed her socks the night before using... shampoo. Hmmm, do I smell 'Citrus Fresh'?
7. While walking in the rain, having a Texas gentleman stop his truck & run half way across the road & toss a heavy duty rain coat at me, "Just so you don't get sick son!" A little confused, I caught the coat as he ducked back into the driver's seat & headed off down the road, "but... I already have a raincoat."
8. Standing on the side of the Amazon River boat I caught, I was fascinated by the floating Caltex service station up ahead that all the boats were pulling into. The captain must have been fascinated by it as well because he ran straight into it & buckled the tin sheeting on its roof.
9. Being taken into the border security interrogation room at both ends of the USA. Nothing beats the moment when the first questioning officer re-entered the room fitting a pair of surgical gloves on. With a snap of the gloves I looked up with open eyes, "Oh no." The officer looked at me, "No, no! I just need to go through your bag..."
10. Eating congealed cow's blood mixed with sugar and sheep guts on a bed of rice while in Brazil. Anyone for McDonalds?
11. Watching a lady in Venezuela try to pull a large open umbrella through a small doorway & jamming it. She turned around, rotated the umbrella & pulled again, of course jamming it once more. My eyes widened, "Did she just rotate a round object to fit it through a rectangular doorway?" A third time she rotated the umbrella & this time pulled harder. Nothing. Finally, a hand emerged from the other side & twisted the umbrella onto an angle so it could fit through the opening. I was left alone in the street with my mouth ajar. "Did I really just see that?"
12. While walking in Poland, a young man, Wojtek, joined me for the day. In the late afternoon a gaggle of geese flew over us with no formation. I yelled out, "Form a V, it's easier!" In that very moment the geese quickly arranged themselves into a flying 'T'. Wojtek laughed and yelled out to them, "No! He said a V, not a T!" We couldn't believe our eyes as the 'T' slid into a flying 'V'. Glad we could help...
God is good, God is great. For all of the above, the bad included as well as all the things that have gone without mention, I am grateful to God for his provision and love. I complained a lot, I frowned a lot, I stuffed up a lot, but I have been blessed out of my socks. Thank you to everyone who has supported this mission in any way, shape or form. I hope to see you for the penultimate blog from Sydney next week. God bless & peace be with you.
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Pr 19:21