Hope Filled Flights to South America


There’s nothing like being blessed with the opportunity to meet a stranger. The first couple minutes into a conversation with a brand new person, is like opening a door to an endless hallway. The hallway could lead to somewhere dull, or it could possibly lead to a wondrous place. I try to never miss an opportunity to be graced with the gift of getting to know someone.

Airplanes are some of my favorite places to strike up a conversation with a stranger. There’s always a story to share with someone—if all else fails, you can at least chat about where you’re going or where you’ve been…

…and that’s exactly how my friendship with Mark began.

I met Mark while on my way to Lima, Peru. He is a sweet older man, and I was drawn to his vibrant smile. He seemed just as excited as I was to be headed to South America.

“So what are you planning on doing while in Peru?” I ask, buckling my seatbelt.

“Well, we’re spending some time in Cusco, then hiking to Machu Picchu,” he answered with a grin.

“Me too! I’m hiking the Salkantay Mountain up to Machu Picchu!”

“Oh wow…that’s 4 days of trekking, right? Have you been practicing? I’m doing a 2-day hike and I’ve been working on it for months…” he confessed.

I thought this to be a little odd. Prepping for months for a two-day trek? I was about to embark on a 4-day one, and hadn’t thought much about it. (I would soon find out that was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in a really long time. Never overestimate your fitness level when hiking 15,000 feet to the summit of one of Peru’s tallest mountains)

Anyways, I learned that Mark is also a fellow Floridian who is now living in Boston. We talked about our favorite US cities, what countries we’ve been privileged to visit, and our mutual love for travel. Mark shared his passion for culture. He’s lived in 4 different countries and is fluent in 4 different languages. As Mark shared his experience from his last trip to Singapore, his voice dipped down into a whisper—“I had a stroke. It was 6 years ago.”

“Oh, wow. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yea, it was rough.” He explains, as he removes his hat and shows me the hole in his skull from his brain surgery.

Mark continued to explain that his stroke left him in a wheel chair with half of his body paralyzed, and no recollection of any of the languages he previously knew—even most of his English was lost.

“My Doctor can’t believe how far I’ve come—it’s a rare case. I was determined to fight. It’s taken me 6 years, but I gained all my languages back, I even learned to walk again—without a cane!”

I was blown away.

“Wow. I don’t know you much, Mark, but I must admit, I’m proud of you.”

“Ha, Ha! Thanks, Kat!”

“I don’t say this lightly, but it’s pretty clear God has a plan for your life. There’s a reason you’ve been through so much and have overcome.”

“You know what? I really believe that, Kat. I’ve been able to give a lot of stroke victims hope.”

Ahhh. Hope. In that moment, Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-4 came to life:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that:

Suffering produces endurance.

Endurance produces character.

Character produces hope.

Mark’s story unexpectedly reminded me of a heavy life lesson on this Friday afternoon flight. Suffering will come, my friends. In a world as broken as ours, we will all experience it. But hold fast, because only through suffering can we endure. Choose to endure. Like Mark, choose to fight. Because it’s through endurance, that God forms character in us. It’s in that process that hope is built. And hope never disappoints. Hope gives strength, and hope perseveres.

After 6 years of paralysis, and being bound to a wheelchair, it was hope that brought Mark to South America, and it’s hope that will get him through a hike never thought possible for a stroke victim—to then encounter Machu Picchu—one of the greatest wonders of our world.

Keep persevering beloveds, and let hope carry you through.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13