A couple weeks ago, our family had a last-minute opportunity to be back in Utah for a very special family sealing which we felt we could not miss. Through a series of miracles and the goodness and kindness of very good friends, we were able to secure six buddy airline passes — the only way we could financially pull this off. We recently left most everything we had in order to pursue a prompting leading us to France and there was no other way for us to be back this soon.
Buddy passes have certain risks associated with them, but we were determined to do all we could to participate in this special family event. Through the help of our dear friends, we determined the best day to fly out of Paris, feeling confident we had limited the risk of not being able to get on the direct flight to Salt Lake and having to be rerouted through different airports and planes. The thought of having to go through even one layover was daunting with four children.
And so we left our home in Lyon, France, at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, making the five-hour drive to the airport in Paris and attempting to arrive early enough to get on the flight.
We managed to make it on time to register and check in at the Paris airport, not knowing that our experience was going to require an additional opportunity to strengthen our faith and learn to rely on the Lord. For reasons we still do not understand, we were greeted by a most unhappy and difficult airline agent who found every possible way to prevent us from getting on the plane. We were well prepared with all the information we needed, but it appeared as though we were not meant to get on that plane.
Through a series of runs around, we were made to miss the flight, which apparently took off with plenty of room for our family. We were devastated. Our children were devastated as well especially after hearing from other agents that most flights for the next couple days were going to be full.
I remember feeling completely helpless stranded in that airport, not knowing what to do. We could not really stay somewhere in Paris for a few days hoping we would get on a flight. We also did not really have the option to just go home and wait for the next day. It was too far and costly. We had to find a way to move forward or go back home. In the midst of the disappointment and heartbroken feelings, we prayerfully decided to consider any other option possible to head west. The sight of four little children praying with all their heart was touching.
We discovered a flight headed to Philadelphia in a few hours, connecting us to Salt Lake the next morning. We determined that this would really be our only option and so we went with it. Of course, the plane was nearly full and when it came time to get on, we realized that we were assigned seats all over the plane. We would not be able to be together. Even our 3-year-old Charlie was going to have to sit by himself with strangers. Thank goodness people on the plane quickly opened their hearts and rearranged their seats so we could be closer together.
At this point, we had already gone through a lot of emotions and the thought of taking my family through another unknown brought tears that I tried to hold back throughout the whole flight. What were we to do in Philadelphia? Where would we stay for a night? Is there any hotel close by we can afford? I did not have enough cash to secure a cab.
I remember distinctly asking the Lord why this journey had to be so difficult in a moment of anxiety and concern for our family. "Why" not being the right question, I quickly resumed my prayers for help, an expression of my faith in his plan and gratitude that we were even this far. The Lord answered our prayers through the kindness of a couple seated on the flight. Bob and Claire had witnessed our “grand entry” on the plane and it appears as though they felt inspired to inquire of us. Out of care and concern, Claire offered to give us her phone number in case we would need anything. We were so grateful as we did not know what would happen once we landed.
A little while later, Claire offered to actually wait with us once we landed to make sure we would be able to find a local hotel and would be taken care of. Our hearts were filled with gratitude that someone would take the time to watch over us, especially after having been in France for multiple weeks and through a long flight home. Claire and Bob then decided to invite us in their home to spend the night. While our first instinct was to tell them, “Oh no, you don’t have to do this for us ” we could not help it but see this as the hand of the Lord and as an answer to the prayers of a mother and a father feeling completely helpless.
Shortly after Claire made this suggestion, the flight attendant announced our arrival saying: “Welcome to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.” I could not hold the tears once again as another miracle had just happened and I then knew in my heart that our family would be OK for the night.
Claire and Bob not only took us into their home for the night, but waited at the airport with us to find out that all our luggage did not follow us, arranged for a taxi to their home, fed us, organized beds and were a delight to be with. We could not believe the kindness displayed to us. Their love and goodness towards strangers like us reminded us of the words, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:35).
They woke up at 4:30 a.m., after being jet lagged, and tired to carpool us over to the airport with both of their cars.
As we waved goodbye, I again felt an extreme amount of love and gratitude for them. They offered all that they had to literally rescue us that night, and we will forever cherish them and the wonderful example they displayed that of our Savior Jesus Christ. The words of the flight attendant resonated again in my mind. We had witnessed a special kind of brotherly love in Philadelphia through this wonderful couple.
We went on to try and finish our journey, which continued to be difficult and provided us with opportunities to put our faith in the Lord’s hands, but we finally made it to Salt Lake after five flights and 48 hours. We were able to be reunited again with family, attend the sealing of a beautiful family and be touched by the love of kindness of many dear friends.
Through it all, we have been inspired again by the Lord’s tender mercies. I do not know why this journey had to be so challenging, but this I know: The Lord took this opportunity to strengthen our testimonies and faith. He allowed us to cross paths with another couple who will always be very special to us.
There is much goodness in this world. In the midst of the doom and gloom shared constantly over the news, we stand as witnesses that there is still much goodness in the heart of many. Knowingly or unknowingly, this couple followed and acted on a prompting that testified of Christ and his love for his children.
I know God lives and I know he answers our prayers. In the last few months, there have been many occasions to feel completely helpless and always, at that very moment, when all hope seems lost, one way or another, guidance and help comes. What is even more amazing is that in this moment of connection between two families, he found a way to reward not only the receiver but also the giver. As I expressed gratitude to Claire and Bob in an email a few days later, they responded with the words, "It’s our turn to thank you .”
Hard to think we could have been the means the Lord would bless them through this situation, but indeed the Lord found a way to reward them. They expressed that our visit affected the timing of Bob's trip to his office after dropping us at the airport. While he was there, by chance he went out into the hallway to go for a cup of coffee and ran into someone who looked familiar to him. It was a student who had graduated about five years earlier with a PhD in physics. He was not visiting there to see Bob, since Bob was not his thesis adviser. But Bob recognized him as having been in one of his classes. So he stopped to talk to this person.
It turned out that the former student had a story very similar to that of their son. Unable to find a teaching position in the U.S., he had taken a job at a Shanghai university. He is Chinese-American, but had been born and raised in the U.S. Hearing about the situation of their son needing to be in Shanghai for the same reasons but needing a lot of help in order to settle there, he immediately offered to help him in his transition to China. Bob and Claire had been very concerned about their son. Bob took the contact information and sent it to their son.
“The 'upshot,'" as Claire said in her note to me, "is that Bob would not have run into this former student or even have known he was around except for the chance timing of walking out into the hall at that precise instant. And that wouldn't have happened if you had not visited us. So, it's our turn to say thank you!”
And so it is with a Father in Heaven involved in the very details of our lives. I express my thanks to our Heavenly Father for his goodness and deep care and involvement in those seemingly unimportant but so critical life details. He does live! And yes, he does love each of us his children.
Founder of lessaintsdesderniersjours.com., a website sharing inspiring articles and news about the church in French to worldwide Francophones, Roland Lepore recently moved to France with his family after living in Utah for 10 years.