"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©

Friday, August 25, 2006


Leaving Luggage in France

Day Five of Seven
August 25, 2006
Guest Blogger: Charles Gibson

In the year 2000, I went on a short-term mission trip to France. I wrote about it in my second U-Turns story, Leaving Luggage in France (God Allows U-Turns: The Choices Teens Make, p. 138). During the week and a half our team from Minnesota remodeled a building for Toulouse International Church in Toulouse, France, I shared a room with Andy, the only teenager in the group.

Now Andy talked fast. Really fast. In the story, I wrote that “Andy rattled off words with the tempo of a machine gun. His statements gave new meaning to the term run-on sentence.”

There was also the issue of the Suitcase.

Everyone on the team brought tools on the trip. Since tools are heavier than clothes for example, people on the team spread their tools around between their suitcases and carry on luggage to distribute the weight. However, Andy didn’t do this.

The story opens this way (story text in blue):

“I need a hand with this suitcase.” Andy struggled to move the heavy weight from the trunk of the car to the ground.

“How heavy can it be?” Charles yanked on the handle and the suitcase barely moved. “What’s in here, lead weights or a bag of cement?”

“Nope, tools actually.” Andy was serious. “I brought hammers, hacksaws, screwdrivers, a cordless drill, tape measures, a tool belt, and duct tape. I want to be ready for any job.”

Charles shook his head. “You put all your tools in one suitcase? We have a long walk to the train station.”

…While most of the team’s luggage could be wheeled around, Andy’s was awkward. He carried the suitcase, dragged it, heaved it up on his shoulders, [and] shared his burden with others.

The latches on the suitcase were broken so Andy had wrapped it in multiple layers of duct tape to keep it shut. It stayed shut. The problem was trying to get it open once we arrived in Toulouse (story text in blue):

As Andy tried to hack the tape off his Samsonite using a pen, keys, his teeth, and anything else he could find, he took a step back and said,”Duct tape sure keeps a suitcase closed. It’s gone halfway around the world and I still can’t get it off. If I could only get my saw out. I could cut a hole in this thing. But I guess that wouldn’t work, either. I couldn’t get all my stuff back home with a hole in the suitcase. Maybe I could cover the hole with duct tape. Wait, here’s a pair of scissors.” Andy started tackling the tape. Things are sure a lot easier to open if they’re not wrapped so tight.”

Andy didn't realize it, but he was wrapped as tight emotionally as that suitcase was with duct tape. Many difficult experiences in his life had led to anxiety and a desire to control what was going on around him. Taking a risk in going to France, stepping out in faith and being part of a supportive team, helped him leave not only the suitcase and his heavy tools in France, but much of his anxiety about life as well.

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