38. Packing

Missionaries live by a number of ancient and sacred proverbs. Where God leads me I will follow; what God feeds me I will swallow is one such proverb, inspiring missionaries everywhere to eat fried leaf-cutter ants, roasted guinea pig and other exotic fare. A pocketknife may save a life is another such proverb, prompting many missionaries never to be caught without one.

One of my favorite missionary proverbs, the Packing Proverb, has been very useful to me: I will make it fit! Although I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, I think Paul must have forgotten to include the art of packing in his lists of spiritual gifts. Being able to pack efficiently and effectively is a gift of God.

Missionaries in particular seem to have been gifted with a spectacular ability to make any item, no matter how large or unwieldy, fit in any piece of luggage. It’s almost like magic—no, more like the bag in Mary Poppins that can hold anything.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been packing things into suitcases and storage boxes as I prepare for my imminent trip to Uruguay. There’s something fun about fitting things together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle: the delicate items cocooned in socks and T-shirts to prevent them from breaking, the lighter objects placed on top of the heavier ones to prevent them from being crushed, the things that may be needed during the trip positioned where they’re easily accessible.

It’s almost a pity to unpack baggage after it’s been packed with such care.

However, care is necessary when traveling—especially when traveling internationally. Luggage handlers have little respect for luggage. Bags are dropped, shoved and thrown on top of each other. Fragile items in suitcases are reduced to smaller, more conveniently-sized pieces and distributed lavishly among hardier items. The contents of baggage are creatively rearranged by gravity.

I’m probably making it seem much worse than it is.

All the same, I’m taking no chances. I’d better go buy more socks.

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