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"And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'" (Luke 15:5-6 NIV)
Syktyvkar, Russia is also the capital city of the Republic of Komi, which is home to many indigenous people by the same name and their own unique language. On the 26th of June, Galina and I looked at each other with pleasant surprise and a little disbelief when we heard a few words from the Delta Airlines agent at the check-in counter in Orlando. He said, "Your bags are now checked all the way to Syktyvkar. Understandably, he jumbled up the word so much that it sounded like he said something like Sheremetyevo, which is the main international airport in Moscow. Galina was rightfully concerned and asked him if our bags were checked all the way to Syktyvkar. He answered with a smile, "Yes, that's the place."
This news took away much of the stress of that morning that began very early in Cedar Key when we got up before dawn to finalize our packing one more time. On previous flights to any destination in Russia, our luggage was always checked to Moscow even though our final destination was usually Magadan. We were nervous that perhaps the agent had gotten things mixed up a little. We had to change aircraft in New York even though we would still be on the same Delta flight to London. In London, we hardly had anytime to know we were in Great Britain as we were quickly ushered through customs and security checks as if we had entered England. The only thing we experienced of the United Kingdom on this trip was the funny sensation you have when traveling by bus on the wrong side of the road.
On the flight from London to Moscow, as we approached Sheremetyevo International, the pilot speaking in his best southern dialect carefully explained that passengers whose luggage was checked to another city should go immediately to a special zone in the customs area on the same floor rather than going downstairs, as we have always previously done. He explained that our luggage would be there for customs inspection, and then put on our connecting flight. This was such good news to us and we went directly to that zone. Clearly, however, no one there had gotten the message from the higher powers of Aeroflot. We knew we were in some trouble when the first micro-mini skirted, bellybutton exposed attractive agent couldn't stop talking to her boyfriend long enough to know what we were talking about. Suddenly, there appeared a more serious minded customs agent to tackle our problem. She was not having any luck finding our baggage and since our connecting flight to Syktyvkar mandated that we had to make a trip to a different airport, she reasoned that perhaps our luggage was already headed over to that terminal to be put on our flight and we would pick it up in Syktyvkar.
We knew it was completely not normal that we didn't have our bags checked by customs in Moscow upon entering the country. When we arrived at the airport in Syktyvkar, two men from the local church of Christ were there to greet us. Their presence was a most welcome surprise. One of the men who is an elder in this church was holding a sign imprinted in English, "DAVID BINKLEY." We don't know who the good Samaritan was who notified them about our arrival, but this turned out to be a huge blessing. Gennady and Evgeny stayed with us as we had that great empty feeling when it was getting late and the airport personnel were getting ready to go home for the night. The empty luggage conveyor finally stopped going around and around. Galina held back the tears as we had the sudden realization that our luggage was lost somewhere in the Moscow airport. No things we brought with us to give to our new friends in Inta would go with us on that long train ride farther north. This also meant that we would live for almost three weeks with the one change of clothing we had with us. We did buy some articles of clothing, but wore the same jeans we wore when we left Cedar Key.
We were scheduled to be on board the 23-hour train ride to Inta that would put us there early Sunday morning. Gennady immediately went to work contacting the airport manager who also went to work trying to find our luggage. There was some hope that if we stayed over in Syktyvkar another night, they might find it and send it up to us on another flight. That didn't happen. We did stay in Syktyvkar and they asked me to preach for them that Sunday. Later they showed us their almost completed, beautiful brick church building. They are presently meeting each Sunday in different rented halls. There is also plenty of room for the facility to be used jointly by the Syktyvkar Bible Institute that educates and prepares preachers for Russian speaking countries. We made the decision that the luggage was not that important an issue and we had to go on north for our mission with the church in Inta. Gennady, with cooperation from the airport manager - Leonid, worked tirelessly on the problem of our luggage. They both even suggested that perhaps the luggage was not really checked to Syktyvkar. Gennady was joyful the other day before we left Inta to inform us that they found all three bags in Moscow. We could pick them up in Moscow. No one offered to send them to us in Syktyvkar.
Today we arrived back in Moscow and saw our bags in the mountain of luggage and stuff in the Sheremetyevo Lost and Found department. At first they couldn't locate one of the bags that they had previously found and allowed Galina to go digging around and it was found. We felt so relieved and joyful to have our things back and now we can go on to Ukraine with clean clothes and prepare a shipment from Ukraine to our new dear ones in Inta. The first thing we looked for on the bar coded luggage was the destination: Syktyvkar. We were relieved that the pilot and ourselves had followed the correct procedures.
We seldom realize that we are the lost possessions of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to earth seeking the lost to bring us home. Are you lost in a fantasy world that provides no sense of purpose or direction? Turn your heart back to God in sincere faith and repentance. You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write me with any questions or comments. David Binkley, Sr., P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or E-mail at email@example.com. Or you may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Check out our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.