The biggest dislocation, of course, comes when we change countries, usually by flying from one country to another. We go through passport control, pick up our luggage, and then exit into the receiving area hopefully to be greeted with someone who knows us by sight or who has a sign with our names on it. We don't have working cell phones--they can send and receive texts, but not calls, and only sometimes do we have access to the internet when we come into the receiving area. We feel a little like we are on a trapeze, and having let go of one swing, wonder if there will be someone on the other end who will grab us to bring us to safety. But after over a dozen new country entries, often to places we've never been and visiting people who only know us through the recommendation of a mutual friend, we've never missed a connection. We experience this as a "traveling mercy", and are never unaware of how badly things could go wrong, and grateful that they don't.
We are also frequently shuttling from one place to another even within a country. Sometimes, that exchange is quite easy, as when we drive with our country hosts from their home to the location of the conference facility where we will be staying while teaching for the weekend conference or retreat. We have done this in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania (more than once), and Georgia. For just two of our country visits have we stayed in one location for the duration of our visit (Belarus and Armenia).
We are in Albania now, at our second location, where we will stay for a couple weeks, teaching at a Bible School. (I'm teaching manuscript Bible Study in Ephesians; Lisa is teaching public speaking.) But the school is in Erseka, a rather small town in Southern Albania, and it involved several types of transportation to get us here. Our host in Vlore, Ylli ("Oolie"), walked with us about 25 minutes helping us to roll our luggage to the Minivan pickup place in Vlore, and helped us board a minivan which took us to Tirana, a 2-3 hour journey. Ylli also arranged for a Taxi driver friend of his, in Tirana, to meet us where the minivan ended up, and this guy recognized us the second we alighted from the van. (I asked Ylli how he would know and he just said, "Oh, he will know its you." Apparently, people in this part of the world can, somehow, recognize Americans instantly.) Then, our new taxi-driver host took us to the Stephen Center, a missionary-founded cafe that seemed to be crowded on that Saturday morning with Christian workers from all over. Safely there, we met up with another new Albanian friend, Zef, the leader of the IFES work in Albania, and his family. Zef shared his story with us over breakfast and then took us by car to another part of the city where the minivans that take you to Erseka and other points south leave from. Zef spoke to the driver of the van and assured us that he knew the camp/school and would take us right to the gate of the camp. This trip was about 5 hours long, of which the last 2.5 hours was on the windiest and bumpiest stretch of road I've ever been on, at least for that long. While the van was never full, by the time we were supposed to be close, we were the only ones left in the van. I couldn't ask the driver how long it would be, but he assured me that the camp was still ahead in language that I could kind of make out. (The camp/school was referred to, by everyone, as "Kampi".) When we finally arrived at our destination, 13 hours after we left our "home" in Vlore, we were relieved to meet up with yet more people we had never met but who had expected and prepared for our coming. Soon after that, we were able to email both Ylli and Zef and inform them that all the logistics of the day had gone as planned without a hitch.
And while this was a bit of an exceptional travel day, it was just like every other travel day we've had for the last few months--full of small reminders of God's care for us in this unfamiliar part of the world, largely (though not exclusively) through brothers and sisters we had never met.