On God's Time
From Bring The Children
Chapter 9 – On God’s Time
At the time of this trip in 1997, I was a fulltime management consultant. That meant that every Monday I took a limo to the airport to head out on assignment, usually somewhere in the continental US. Invariably, due to weather, maintenance issues or other problems, flights would be delayed at one end or the other. So, I just assumed trying to get to Croatia and then Bosnia would be a real disaster. I was wrong. Every flight was exactly on time, you might say, on God’s time.
The plan was to fly to Frankfurt, Germany on a widebody jet, then to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and then to Split, Croatia on the Adriatic Seacoast. Even though Medjugorje was close to Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which had a large airport, commercial traffic was not allowed there due to the war. So, upon arrival in Split we’d be taking a long bus ride.
There were about 16 in the pilgrimage group. That included a guide who had been there many times, his daughter and her boyfriend, a family of 4 with teenage boys, a priest who was a retired military chaplain, a middle-aged man and his niece, and our family of 6 - Me, Helene, Chris (10), JT (8) and Kim (7), and Helene’s sister Nancy.
The flight to Frankfurt was about 12 hours and I didn’t sleep. The widebody Airbus was as smooth as can be and they had a flight status monitor on screen, but it was long.
In Frankfurt we were led to a chapel where a priest in our group said Mass. I could sense excitement in all the pilgrims despite just having flown 12 hours.
Next, we got on a Croatia Air flight, a 737. This made me a bit nervous, but our guide said they were great professional pilots. And sure enough the flight was smooth enough and on time.
In Zagreb we saw lots of military cycling in and out of the airport. Most wore the uniform of the SFOR, which stands for Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Keeping track of the kids was a bit hard and Chris wandered off for a few seconds. We found him talking to a smiling soldier
from Jordan. Rather than panic, we took their picture together, smiled and pulled Chris back to our group. I struck up a conversation with another interesting fellow, a contractor (CIA?) who was assisting with landmine removal. He was someone right out of ‘Apocalypse Now’. Very interesting to talk to. This was where we began to realize that we were in a war zone.
Next, we flew to Split on the Adriatic Coast. Our landing was more like an attack as we had to clear mountains and then descend rapidly to the airport below. Most pilots in the region were former air force pilots and it showed. When we landed, I realized all three flights had been flawless, perfect weather and on time.
The bus ride was way more dangerous than the airplane flights. Along the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea, mostly bounded by single guardrails, the bus would easily have flipped over had the driver lost control. And the driver went way faster than we would have liked. But then we did want to get to the destination.
We arrived just before dark, greeted by a spectacular sunset exhausted and excited at the same time.