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Returning Missionaries, Active Shooters, & an Earthquake - Stress...What Stress?!

Oh, the Pains of Parenting!

The Calling of Church Missions

When my 19-year-old daughter told Lisa and me that she wanted to fulfill a church mission, we were not surprised in the least.

She had been talking about it since she was a little girl.

But the day we held her LIVE Facebook reveal for where the church was sending her...

 my heart dropped to the floor.

Guayaquil West Mission, Ecuador

It was all caught on camera. She announced the location with a joyful crack in her voice.

And I plainly said out loud, "I can't protect her that far away!"

It just came out. 100% pure, honest thoughts slipped right out of my mouth.

As a father, my main goal had always been keeping my kids safe. Sending my little girl (not so little anymore...) to a 3rd world country was not in my Dad's Safety Manual.

Our established family safe word would not work in this situation.

"You need to have faith," my wife would tell me. "It's what she wants."

Yeah, well, she also wanted to stay out until 2am running around with friends on a school night. And leave her purse sitting on the front seat of her car.


The full-time job of keeping her safe became war stories I began to share with other dads at church.

It turned into a series of stories called Wingman Moments and I was their Wingman.

I shared all these, now comical, events with brethren as a way to let younger fathers know what they were in store for and to get advice from seasoned fathers in the group.

But those stories are in the past.

I now had a beautiful young adult who was ready to go out into the world and share the Gospel.

Then Along Came the Coronavirus

I've been plugged into the homesteading community for over a decade. Very closely tied to that community is the survivalist and prepper community.

I could see the writing on the wall with Corona within days of the outbreak in China. I started considering what could happen in third-world Ecuador.

Here I am, the protective father, reliving my thoughts "I can't protect her down there."

I have no passport and no means of extracting her from her location, should the need arise.

My mom, God Bless her, went into Ross Perot mode without me even saying a word.

She was contacting all of her resources who she thought might have a chance to go on a rescue mission on their own.

Things escalated quickly in Ecuador and the church was suddenly in a feverish pace (no pun intended) to get ALL missionaries out of Ecuador.

I'll jump to the punch line to save you some details. The church finally came out with a statement for parents to buy their missionaries a return flight home ASAP and the church would reimburse us.

Finally, she is coming home.

Here's Where Fate Stepped In...Again

I was on my way back up north to my rental after having spent Spring Break doing the final cleaning and packing of our home near Twin Falls.

(I'm happy to report that the garage is finally in tip-top shape!)

The halfway mark on this road trip is right around McCall, Idaho. Known for its beauty, I enjoy passing through this town.

Just on the north side of McCall is a town called New Meadows. 

That's where the car jam started. 

I lined up in a short line of about eight cars. I was roughly number five in the line. In front, and alongside us, where about eight county Sheriff vehicles.

As I debated what might be going on, another Sheriff pulled up next to me. He jumped out of his SUV and headed to the rear hatch.

He popped open that hatch and reached in to withdraw a black rifle. Then darted off into the treeline.

Well now...

Perhaps I shouldn't be sitting here?

To skip over the mundane details, this was a live, active shooter scenario in real-time. Officers had already been fired upon.

A local citizen, wandering from car to car, appeared to be sharing information. Once he was within earshot of my van, I asked him what was going on.

"Someone is shooting at the police."

He had evacuated his home which was near the scene and walking away from the area. A few minutes later I received information that this "standoff" could keep the road closed until tomorrow morning.

My only recourse was to drive two hours back from where I came and go a different route (that was many hours longer than the original route.)

Rather than taking an alternative route and arriving at 330 in the morning, I went back home and slept in the comforts of my own bed.

The next morning, I checked the New Meadows Facebook page and the roads were "all clear" and safe for travel.

Off I went on my merry way. Again.

Deja Vu

Not ten miles south of McCall and I'm getting passed by Sheriff trucks...again with lights on.

Multiple vehicles, lights flashing.

I chuckle to myself...no way.

No way!

Would you believe, that just 30 minutes before I arrived at that exact same shooter spot, the police AGAIN closed that stretch of highway to look for the same shooter?


A quick chat with another stranded driver revealed he had a scanner. He was listening to the whole thing. "They're calling in the drones to look for him now," he said.

This time I knew better. I reversed gears and went back eight miles into McCall proper. This way I had a cell signal and could check the news.

It also put me squarely in the middle of a grocery store parking lot should I need anything during the extended wait.

It was at this moment that I started checking email, texts, and Facebook.

There it was.

A post from the church Mission President in Ecuador saying "Parents, check your emails for details on getting your missionaries home."

Frantically checking my emails, there were none to be seen from him. I called my wife, she had none either.

A quick post on this private Facebook group and another parent sent me the email.

In the email was the instruction on where to call in order to book a flight to get our daughter home. 

The phone lines to Eastern Airlines were backed up. I was caller #11 and told to expect a wait of 20 or more minutes.

I'm starting to get a little stressed.  (<== understatement of the year)

While waiting on hold, I start attempting to buy the airline ticket online using my cell phone.

It's asking me for details on her passport of which I have no idea. Luckily, Lisa had made a copy of the passport.

  • Eastern Airline's wait music playing on my phone speaker, 
  • Lisa texting me passport information, 
  • I'm trying to carefully enter flight information on my cell phone and not transpose a single digit without accidentally hanging up on the airlines call in case I get through
  • Facebook "friends" I've made in the roadblock are sending me updates
  • I forgot I had left the defrost on full blast to warm up my Arby's roast beef Sammy on the dashboard during all this so its 200 degrees in my van...

Fifteen sweat-drenched minutes later, I successfully purchased a one-way flight from Ecuador to Florida to the tune of $1366.

None of this, mind you, would have occurred had I not been turned around at that particular moment due to the unusual current events.

I would have been outside of cell phone range for about 90 minutes.

Would the tickets have been sold out?

Would have I even been checking my emails at that time?

I learned from a mentor early on in life to find silver linings in bad situations. Getting my daughter home from Ecuador thanks to my travel plans getting thwarted two days in a row is a fair trade to me, any day of the week.

She gets on her plane tomorrow at 2pm and starts her return journey. I can only imagine the stories she has to share with us upon her return.

Now, time to do a little research on this earthquake that just shook my little north Idaho rental...

Stress...what stress?


  1. Since I do not believe in coincidences, I strongly feel that the incident that took you back to McCall was God directed. Thankfully your daughter will be home soon. We have a friend here, that is originally from Ecuador, and from what she tells us, (her mother and father are still there) Ecuador is not a currently a good place to be.
    The earthquake had our house swaying pretty good, with no visible damage, and no reported damage in our area.
    Me thinks that you should get moved up to St Maries, soonest.
    God bless and stay safe.

  2. Would love any real time first hand info on Idaho earthquake. will your daughter have to isolate from you for 2 weeks
    when she arrives home? Praying for safe travels.

  3. Isn't God's hand in all things? Isn't it just beautiful? Yes, you were stressed, but HE had it designed perfectly.
    We had a 4.2 in Saint Maries in April 2015, I believe...shook our home pretty good and boy was I surprised by the sound. The geese on the wetlands below the house were pretty adamant it was a personal assault. Interestingly, the deer gathered in our yard and while my son and I went to the barn to check on the horses, none of the deer moved as we passed through the herd.


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