I have been thinking about the phrase, “traveling mercies” this week. What brought this about? Two incidents. My niece landed in Moscow only to find that the friend with whom she was going to stay had just experienced a tragic family death. And my daughter called me in tears. I was in Indiana. She was at the airport to go to Hong Kong and when she handed her passport to the agent, she discovered that it was her grandmother’s passport. Their passports must have gotten switched a year ago when they crossed the Canadian border and now hers was in Michigan and she was in Boston trying to leave the country.
Why do we pray for traveling mercies? We are often at our most vulnerable when we travel. We have to depend on the help and hospitality of strangers. I have two friends who have been traveling when they experienced the accidental death of a child. In both cases it was outside the country where they lived. They had to depend on total strangers.
In my own family, the state police once had to track down my grandmother and step-grandfather who were traveling from Minnesota to Texas when my grandfather’s son died. Just recently I asked my mother about the 1939 car accident the led to the eventual death of her father when she was 9. They were in South Dakota traveling home to Minnesota when the car rolled. She can recall the sound of the glass breaking and the feel of the car rolling. She remembers her sister reaching over to turn the car off and seeing her father, mother, and aunt out in the field where they had been thrown. She somehow ended up at a local doctor’s office to get her finger sewn up, but the adults were taken by ambulance back to Minnesota. But who called for the ambulance?
Refugees are the most vulnerable travelers in need of traveling mercies. When I lived in Iowa I helped with hosting 5 different Central American refugee families who had been accepted by Canada. This was called the Overground Railroad. The families stayed in our town for about 6 months while waiting for their final papers for Canada. They each had their stories of travels to the United States. Some had been in detention along the US border. They had experienced death threats, trauma, and loss outside the confines of family and friends. In one case a child had been left behind in Mexico City. When it was time for them all to fly to Canada, we had to find someone in Mexico City who would take the paperwork to the 5-year old in the slums of Mexico City and get him to the airport at the right time to arrive in Canada at the same time as the rest of the family. They were dependent on us—who had been strangers—and on our ability to find strangers in Mexico City to help us help them.
Traveling Mercies. I pray for traveling mercies for those more distant from me—like Syrian refugees—and for those close to me. We all are in need of traveling mercies.
My daughter did make it to Hong Kong. I drove back to Michigan from Indiana and sent her passport by FedEx overnight. The agent rebooked her ticket for two days later and added two days at the end at no charge. I wish I knew this stranger’s name…