We are in Naples, Italy, for a week with Charlie and Shannon Worthy, SBC missionaries serving there. We will conduct two Life Purpose Seminars for the folks in their neighborhood that they have been sharing with for the last eight years. Then we will conduct prayer walks and explore other options with them for future mission work in Italy.

So a few introductory remarks from my journal about the trip over here, which is often the most difficult part of the trip, i.e., just getting here. Keep in mind, when I write about something like this, I might exaggerate a little bit. The reason for this is that the process of traveling is usually not that interesting, but in the first day or so of being “on the field” that’s the only thing that’s happened so far. So, I might make things a little more interesting by placing the emphasis on the more interesting parts – fair warning! Here goes…

We flew out of the DFW airport at around 4 pm CST on Sunday bound for Naples by way of Frankfurt, Paris, Munich, and finally, Naples. It was a very crowded flight, and I have never seen so many children on a flight, “Well, it’s summer,” says Gail, which I guess means that children are allowed to travel in the summertime. Truth is, I love children – I am a proud grandfather of 7, so have some experience loving them and being proud. So none of my observations are made with the slightest hint of irritation. They are just observations.

As far as the children on this flight though, I’m talking about, and, remember, I love them, LOUD children. Several in our cabin were babies who were suffering the normal ear popping and pressure issues of first flight, and you can’t help but pity them for their inability to deal with this normal difficulty of flying. Unfortunately, they were crying most of the time – 10 hours. At least one of the wailing, inconsolable waifs was a future opera soprano if I know anything – I think the cabin decompressed two or three times during the flight due to the window glass shattering.

After what I would have guessed was four hours of the flight, I glanced up at the monitor hanging from the ceiling that shows where our plane is relative to the world beneath. We were just passing over the Arkansas state line. Hmmm, I thought to myself. This is going to be a lo-o-o-n-n-ng flight.

I counted 8 children under 10 in the five rows around us. In the seat right behind us, the young lad was prostrate sideways in his seat, playing on his gameboy the entire flight. Late in the night once when I woke up for a “break,” I noticed that he was still wide awake, intensely focused on his game and kicking his foot. The receiver of this footplay was a very sleepy dad who kept getting kicked in the stomach, then jerking awake, displaying a haunted look as he glanced down at the source of his wakefulness, and then trying to nod off again, only to be freshly kicked awake. I think this went on all night because in the morning, the normally slightly overweight six foot four inch athletic type dad had progressed from merely haunted to gaunt and despairing, like the survivor of a concentration camp. But just as we were landing, I noticed that the lad, bless him, was finally deep asleep. I commented to Mom and Dad, “Now he’s asleep, just when we need to move.” They just chuckled helplessly.

The only other issue I noticed with the children who were luxuriating in the miracle of flight was a child in the side seats to our right and a little forward. Sometime deep in the darkness of early morning, he or she discovered that when the food tray moved in just a certain manner, it made the most ungodly, screeching, fingernails-on-blackboard sound. So, of course, this had to be repeated over and over and over and over….well, you get the picture. The sound stopped abruptly though – I pictured some adult nearby with their hands around the little throat. Periodically throughout the rest of the night, there were small experimental single repetitions, like one of those tiny Jurassic dinosaur-lizard things calling the rest of the pack for a fresh kill. I’m guessing that every time Mom and Dad nodded off, then…

Now you can tell by this time that when I wrote this entry in my journal, I hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous night. Aside from the floor show, the seats were barely wide enough for me to fit into, let alone a larger person, and I had to butter my sides to accomplish it – mind you, I’m down twenty pounds too. So sleeping was a bit of an athletic accomplishment anyway, being held in place by the tightly packed masses around you. Additionally, the cramped space effect is further “enhanced” by the passenger right in front of you reclining their seat back as far as possible and ending up basically with their head in your lap, pinning your legs under their seat back. I asked them if they’d like me to rub their forehead while they drifted off, but they didn’t speak English, and so just looked up into my eyes blankly before ignoring me and going to sleep.

In this particular super jet, the steward call buttons were on our armrests, and at least once I was wakened suddenly by an arm reaching down across me as the stewardess punched my call button and mumbled something about please-don’t-lean-on-the-button-with-your–elbow in a tone that might have been slightly irritated, or, on the other hand, merely tired of repeating this instruction dozens of times each flight as they had to deal continually with this obvious design flaw. I mean, really, when my love handles are hanging over into the seat next to me because it’s so narrow, where am I supposed to put my arms if not daintily resting them on the “arm-rests????” Needless to say, severe “elbow anxiety” also contributed to getting less sleep than I might have.

So we arrived in Frankfurt literally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which I think refers to being red-eyed and having a wild hairdo. At least that’s how I would describe Gail’s fashion approach as we de-planed. Far above all that fashion stuff, my hair, of course, looked just like it did when I boarded.