Last weekend, Steve and I were invited to speak at a church in rural Iowa. It's located several hours from our home, so we made arrangements to stay overnight and visit with some friends who live in the area. As a missionary, you get used to making these trips pretty frequently. A weekend trip used to take me several days of planning and at least an hour of packing. Now, I don't even think about it until the day before and I can be fully packed and prepared within about 20 minutes—at least that's what I thought.
So for this trip, I efficiently packed our prayer cards, items for our mission table, our computer, directions to the church and relevant phone numbers we may have needed. Finally, I packed up our clothes and toiletries. We were ready to go.
We hit the road on Saturday morning. As we approached our destination, it struck me that we should stop somewhere to pick up a hostess gift for the couple with whom we were staying. I knew they lived a long way from the nearest town and it might be difficult to find time to pick something up later. With our legs needing a stretch and our drinks in need of refreshing, we stopped at a Wal-Mart. I did the shopping quickly and we returned to finish the last half-hour of our journey. When we reached our car in the parking lot, I decided the best place to store my newly purchased gift would be in our suitcase so I wouldn't forget to bring it into the house with us.
Uh-oh. "Steve, where is our suitcase?" Silent stare. Then it hit us. Our suitcase was right where we left it—all nicely packed with all our church clothes and other necessities—and at home at the foot of our bed!
I truly love Wal-Mart. Sneer if you must. But that low-price, shopping oasis in the middle of Iowa cornfield was a lifesaver. OK, it was a little tricky. Have you ever tried to buy a decent dress for church at a Wal-Mart? Not easy. I opted for a skirt that I found on clearance and a tank that I could cover with the sweater I was already wearing. Of course, toothbrushes and deodorant were the easiest items on our list. But we also needed underwear, socks and a belt. Unfortunately, Steve had opted for comfort and worn his sandals. That meant we had to add a pair of shoes to our cart. $140 and a big headache later, we made it back on the road.
We were relieved that the crisis was averted. But we didn't quite get away it. Because once we arrived at the hosts', we had to offer some explanation regarding our new luggage set—6 plastic Wal-Mart bags!