Volcano chaos is reminder 'God is in charge', says missionary

The huge volcanic ash cloud over Europe not only left thousands of travellers stranded worldwide, but it also managed to frustrate the travel plans of some mission workers.

Greater Europe Mission, a group with about 300 people serving throughout Europe, said a number of its people were affected by the volcano. But for the most part, GEM missionaries traveling within Europe were able to find alternative ways using ground transportation to reach their destination, said the mission group’s president, Henry Deneen, on Monday.

Still, the ash cloud proved more troublesome for mission workers trying to get into Europe. As of Monday, a team of 26 short-term missionaries in Chicago could not find a flight into Romania.

Deneen said the eruption of the Icelandic volcano also thwarted his own plan to fly to Europe. He was supposed to visit Sweden on Sunday and travel to a number of European countries, including Latvia and Kosovo, to meet with colleagues this week.

“It is an interesting reminder to the world that there is something bigger than our plans and there is a God in charge”, Steve Martens, who is part of the leadership team at GEM, told The Christian Post. “Just one simple volcano can throw everything we’re doing upside down.”

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland erupted last Thursday, spewing ash into Europe’s air space. Airlines have cancelled or delayed flights for days because of the danger posed by flying through volcanic ash. The ash cloud looks similar to a normal cloud but its particles are finer and could cause engine problems.

More than 6.8 million airline travellers were affected by the Icelandic volcano. It is estimated that the delay of flights flying over Europe air space is costing the five largest US-based airlines $21.9 million per day, said Robert Herbst, analyst and founder of AirlineFinancials.com, to CNN.

Although around half of all flights have resumed across Europe, the still erupting volcano threatens to spew more ash that could cause further delays.

World Gospel Mission, a 100-year-old mission group with missionaries in 23 areas of the world, said it has not been greatly affected by the volcano. WGM mostly works in South America, Africa and Japan.

Tim Rickel, vice president of communications at WGM, said one of the group’s short-term missionaries was stranded in Kenya for a few days before finding a flight back to the United States on Monday. He also shared that a couple serving as missionary pastors who were in Kenya and Uganda for a retreat were still unable to find a flight back to the United States as of Monday.

Similarly, Mission Aviation Fellowship’s mission work was not directly affected by the ash cloud because it focuses on Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Despite none of MAF flights being affected by the volcano, the European air space restrictions did disrupt the travel plans of the group’s leaders. Ron Wismer, manager of research and operations support, said he and some of the mission group’s staff were scheduled to attend an Africa manager’s conference in Kenya this week but had to cancel the trip because they could not fly through Europe.

Airlines are warning that the huge backlog of passengers trying to catch a flight might take days to clear.

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