I went to work Friday morning with Africa on my mind. Actually, I went to bed the night before the same way. Truly it has been in the forefront of my thoughts since the call.
I left Conway for the airport around 4 p.m. Friday. After familial salutations and my oldest son helping me with luggage, I checked in and went smoothly thru TSA to Gate whatever. Without too much wait, the plane for Atlanta began boarding and in sense, I was on my way to the Dark Continent. It was a 1 1/2 hour flight but because of the time zone change, I arrived in Georgia at 9:45 to make my connection to D.C. I then traveled roughly two hours up the coast to D.C. to spend the night in a hotel waiting for the long leg of the trip. Everything proceeded satisfactorily and I slept well, got up at 7 a.m., and caught the flight east at 11:00 am Saturday.
We flew up the U.S. coast over Vermont and Maine and then ventured out over the North Atlantic Clouds just a little north of where the Titanic went down. As we were traveling East and the dark side of the Earth was moving West, we met nightime at 4 p.m. and collided with Sunday by 5. So I had a 17 hour Saturday. We soon came to the lights of Ireland and specifically Dublin. We overcame the British isles in no time and were soon looking down at the nighttime blackness south of Rotterdam, where the Pilgrims attended “Pilgrims Fathers Church” before making my trip in reverse, and slower, to settle in America. We made our way North and West of France for some reason, flying over Germany, then Croatia, Albania, and Greece. I saw none of this because we were on the dark side of the Earth. Shortly south of Athens, I guess we lost whatever signal was informing the screen in front of me where we were, but I knew we were over the Mediterranean until I saw the lights of the Northern coast of Africa below. I could see by a different map at this point that we intersected with the coastline about halfway between the mouth of the Nile at Alexandria and the Libyan border.
In Egyptian airspace, the lights of the coast quickly faded into the darkness of the eastern Sahara. We stayed just west of the Nile, flying over the Valley of the Kings, then Axum, Ethiopia right at sunrise. I wish I could have stopped here long enough to check into the rumor that a church here holds the original Ark of the Covenant, but we flew right over.
The story is that when Sheba visited King Solomon they conceived a son, who was then born in Ethiopia but traveled back to Israel as an adult to visit his father. Solomon allegedly foresaw the future destruction of the Temple and sent the Ark back to Ethiopia with his son, Menelik I, to assure that it wasn’t destroyed. Given all the other manners by which Jehovah protected his earthly home, I’m more inclined to believe this story than one in which the Ark is stolen, buried, or destroyed. Regardless, if they don’t have it, they’ve been guarding an empty shrine or a an ancient replica for centuries. One other, maybe even more credible story is the account in Second Maccabees (Apocryphal) that says the Prophet Jeremiah had it hidden away to avoid destruction, somewhere in the mountains of Israel.
In any event, I didn’t get to pause in Axum to investigate, so I landed in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, and then caught one more short flight to my final destination, to meet my friends and my friends-to-be.
I went to Africa to encourage friends in the faith, to learn about faith and culture, and I did that. But I got more than I expected. By far.