Standing in customs at the small airport, I held my breath. Large men in camo with large guns searched our suitcases.
On our Immigration papers for entry into the country, we had all marked that our trip was for “pleasure.” And it was indeed our pleasure to be headed across the border to do a medical, dental, and eye clinic for a week. If the large men in customs knew we were heading across the border, they would at least heavily tax our supplies or at worst confiscate it all.
I stood at the counter with Geno. In his late 60s, and with a heart as big as Texas, he had volunteered to do electrical work at the school where we were staying. Geno had promised to stay with me through customs. He was my guardian.
The camo-ed men spoke in harsh tones and words in another language as they went through our suitcases. In my bags, under layers of clothing, were dental supplies and meds. It was crucial to get them to the clinic. As my first suitcase was opened, I nearly gasped. Somehow, by only the Lord’s Hand, the dental supplies were INVISIBLE. I exhaled, but only slightly. We weren’t through yet!
They grabbed Geno’s heavy case, slammed it on the conveyor and began ripping it open. Inside was an enormous lug wrench for a bus owned by the school. It had taken a miracle to acquire it and then another to find luggage it would fit into!
There was no hiding the lug wrench, but all around it we had packed toothpaste and toothbrushes to be given out at the dental clinic.
Geno’s bag was opened and no one moved. I mean, seriously, no one moved. There it was for all to see, surrounded by tooth supplies. What part of a “personal” trip would cause someone to bring a lug wrench and a million toothbrushes and toothpaste? Inside my head I prayed loudly, “PLEASE, JESUS!” The lug wrench was a much needed tool. If the men confiscated it, it would be a year before we could try to get another to work on the school’s bus.
Geno had said he wouldn’t leave me, and I wasn’t leaving him either! So there I was, stuck like glue to his side, holding my breath. In a moment of ridiculous genius, Geno asked, “Would you guys like a toothbrush?” Immediately the situation changed. Like kids being offered candy, the large men smiled, accepted the gift, and re-zipped the suitcase.
Relieved and trying not to cry (me, not Geno), we raced to join the rest of the team who had been outside waiting…and praying. The eye team was still detained; taxes were being demanded.
After an intense conversation between our mission team leader and the guys in customs, all supplies and team members were cleared. We loaded onto a worn-out bus and made a rough three-hour trek to the border. Thus began an exhausting but glorious week in the clinic with several people giving their hearts to Jesus! Shew and praise the Lord!
Though the mission trip and customs ordeal happened a decade ago, it will remain in my heart forever. It was exciting and terrifying, and such a God-moment.
It is especially fresh in my memory today because our beloved Geno went to heaven this week. I pictured him seeing Jesus and many of his loved one’s who were already there. Then, I imagine Jesus putting his arm around Geno and saying, “Let me tell you guys the story about the lug wrench!”
Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor's wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at email@example.com