When I was first planning my trip to Nicaragua I had hoped to include a visit to El Salvador. After investigation, however, I realize that a trip by bus or car from Palacagüina would take too long. So I abandoned the idea and continued to find my flight to Nicaragua. One of my very few options was Avianca out of Dulles. All their flights have at least one or two stops with one always being San Salvador. I was looking through the list rejecting any that had two stops and any that had long layovers. My eyes went past one with a 24-hour layover which I immediately rejected. Almost just as quickly a voice in my head said, “Hey there, 24-hours could be productive time.” I emailed Oswaldo who confirmed it would work for him and then I booked the flight. Guardian angel #1.
Or so I thought. The regulations concerning Covid testing for entry into Nicaragua are rather tight. A PCR test no more than 72 hours before arrival with notification to the Nicaraguan government for authorization to enter submitted no less than 36 hours prior to takeoff. I suddenly realized that my assumption that the flight from San Salvador to Managua was the one that counted for the 36-hour rule might not be correct. So I contacted Avianca customer service. The agent told representative told me that I was incorrect and that they wouldn’t let me board the flight at Dulles without authorization. He looked at my itinerary and told me that the timing would not work. My own check of the schedule concurred. So now I was stuck with a non-refundable ticket that I could not use. I spent a few days in disbelief given how sure I was that God had talked to me when I made the reservation and not sure what to do next.
Finally, seeing me agonizing over it, Linda said, “Why don’t you let me check out your itinerary to make sure. It took Linda a little time to wrap her head around the “no more than 72 hours before arrival and no less than 36 hours before departure,” and I created a timeline of everything. From there Linda pretty quickly figured out that the representative and I were wrong. The timing worked. Guardian Angel #2
I was trying to gather money to finish construction on a new house for a young family with young children who were living in a house made of scrap metal and plastic. A mission team from January 2020 left behind enough money to get the project started. It was supposed to be finished by a January 2021 mission team but the pandemic wiped that trip out. There is no team with me so I was praying for funds that would help us out. I had a nice start on this when an SSK sponsor give us a few hundred extra dollars as a donation. Guardian Angel #3
Then, from left field, my brother sent in a donation to 516NOW and told me to spend it on anything I wanted. Guardian Angel #4.
Then, thinking that I might have enough but knowing that budgets in Nicaragua are usually grossly underestimated and also knowing that other needs would arise, I was praying for money from somewhere else. I attended a prayer group meeting after church one Sunday at the end of which the Associate Pastor mentioned that she was looking for a ride to and from BWI Airport and would pay someone $150 for this service. I didn’t think much about it. But on the walk home, a voice in my head said, “Hey Scott, you were just offered $150. What’s wrong with you?” So I contacted her, I took her and picked her up and she wrote the check to 516NOW. Guardian Angel #5
Although the timing worked, because of the 24-hour layover my 36-hour window was considerably narrowed. I needed a clinic that could provide quick turnaround for a PCR test. I made many calls, a few visits, and spent a lot of time on the web. The only place I could find was at Dulles Airport for a cost of $250. Acceptable but expensive and logistically difficult because it would involve two trips (four hours round trip each) to Dulles. I ran across a notice about help that could be provided by the Talbot County Health Department and called them. They could not provide the service but they knew a clinic that could. A clinic located in our hometown. I called. Only $200, five minutes from our house, and a turnaround time of 60-90 minutes. Guardian Angel #6
Just before leaving I withdrew cash for my trip. The next day I was asked if I could front $700 to take with me to San Salvador and give to Pastor Oswaldo. This was money that had been donated to him and using me to deliver it would be quicker and less expensive. I wasn’t sure I had enough cash to cover it but said I would check. When I checked I discovered that I had accidently withdrawn almost $1,000 more than I had intended. I was able to deliver the money to Pastor Oswaldo. Guardian Angel #7
My Covid results were negative. The woman who administered it told me to expect the results in about 90 minutes. This was at 10:00 a.m. My 36-hour window would close at 4:30 p.m. About an hour after I took my test, the director called to tell me he’d have my results about 4:00. I explained to him my situation and reminded him that he knew I was going to Nicaragua and that he had told me I’d have the results in 60 to 90 minutes. He told me he was the only one who could do this type of lab procedure and he was in car about 4 or 5 hours away. I told him that timing was going to be everything and he needed to give me those results as soon as he possibly could. I received the results about 3:30. I had my email all prepared with the additional information needed and simply uploaded the results and sent it in. And prayed.
And I waited. I heard nothing from Avianca. That night before bed I called Avianca customer service but they could tell me nothing. Apparently, customer service and the folks who handle the authorization to enter a country don’t talk with each other.
The next morning, Sunday, at 11:30 I received an email from Avianca informing me that they had received my results and forwarded them on to Nicaragua. But when had they checked the email? When were the results forwarded? I sent an email back to the address asking. Nothing. (To this day, nothing.)
My flight was going to leave Dulles at 4:30 a.m. the next day (Monday). So I called customer service and spent two hours on hold waiting for the next rep. When I finally talked with him I had trouble understanding his English. But he kept trying to get me an answer which seemed positive but not definitive. I kept looking for a definitive answer. His last one was definitive but I was not sure if I believed him.
I arrived at the ticket counter about 2:50 a.m. A very long line. I quickly learned that everyone in line was going on my flight. I was at the back of the line. When I got to the counter, they couldn’t confirm my authorization from Nicaragua. They kept looking and looking. They asked for proof that I had sent my results in to them. I showed them my email. They looked again. Then they asked for a copy of my negative result. I showed them. They looked again. Finally, they found my authorization and gave me my boarding passes for both flights. I looked around and noticed there were absolutely no other passengers at the counter. I asked the woman working with me if I still had time to catch my flight (it is a long trip from the counter, through security, on a train to Terminal B, then to the gate. A woman from Avianca was standing next to me and said, “Yes you will because since you are the last passenger I will be escorting you to the gate.” Guardian Angel 8
We got through security with no real issues except my jar of peanut butter was confiscated. Bummer. I talked a bit with the guy who told me my only option would be to change my carry-on to checked luggage. No way. We wound our way to the trains going to Terminals A, B, and C. A train came. I went to get on. Angel 4 said, “no, that’s not ours. You have to look at the digital sign as each train comes in to see what terminal it’s going to.” Without her, I would definitely not have made the flight. Guardian Angel 8B
While waiting for the train to Terminal B, a man approached me saying he had just come from security where someone had left a laptop and thought it might be mine. I immediately realized it was. (Guardian Angel #2 would say I don’t focus when I’m nervous. I would say the TSA agent distracted me when he took my peanut butter. Probably we are both correct.) I looked at my Guardian Angel #8B and said, do I have time to get it? “Leave your carry-on and backpack with me and go.” I ran. Without her, it would have been a choice between my laptop and my flight. Guardian Angel 8C
We made it to Terminal B and as we were walking to my gate Guardian Angel 8C asked me to spell my last name. She typed it into a device she had. When I got to the gate I started to get out my boarding pass and the boarding agent said, “don’t need it. Just board the plane.” Clearly Guardian Angel 8C had forwarded what they needed ahead and when I boarded the plane everyone was seated. Nonetheless, we made it to San Salvador a few minutes early. Guardian Angel 8D
Clearly God has blessed me on this trip. And I think he’s continuing to bless this trip. Yanerling had a trip to Managua planned for tomorrow to purchase shoes for the SSK Palacagüina program. But Osman did not have enough time to withdraw sufficient cash from the ATM (it is a Nicaragua thing) before he left Palacagüina to pick me up at the airport and come with me to Diriamba to work on a 516NOW construction project. So he was going to have to drive to Managua tomorrow to meet Yanerling to give her more money that he has been withdrawing while with me in Diriamba. But tomorrow is going to be his busiest day soldering on the project. So I suggested that perhaps tonight we could drive to Managua, give the money to Eliab and have him give Yanerling the money tomorrow. So Osman called Eliab. As it turns out, Eliab is at a conference today about 20 minutes from us. He’s returning to Managua tonight. So we’re going to meet up with him soon, give him the money, and have dinner with him.
Guardian Angel #9.
Some will think I’m just lucky. Others will think it is all just coincidence. I believe otherwise.
Thanks for reading.