Getting home from Eastern Europe was an arduous journey, but my traveling companions and I would make the most of our two-hour layover in Paris. We didn’t have time to venture out into the city to sightsee, so Mark, John and I found a charming airport restaurant that might as well have been a bistro on the Champs Élysées. I decided to take a picture of the menu as a memento.
I reached into my backpack for my camera. I rummaged around for it, expecting my fingers to brush against the familiar shape of my passport. I’d kept it close at hand during our two-week mission trip to teach English in Belarus. I felt my camera, but where was my passport? My lifeline while traveling abroad! Panic set in. I unzipped the backpack and opened it all the way to see the contents inside. I checked every pocket. A thorough search confirmed my worst nightmare. “My passport is missing!” I told Mark and John.
“Do you remember when you had it last?” John asked.
I racked my brain. We’d traveled from Minsk to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport. I’d definitely had the passport when we landed. I’d shown it at various checkpoints, pulling it out of my backpack several times. My traveling companions were much taller than me, and walked at a quicker pace, so I had to hustle to keep up with their long strides. At least once, I’d shoved my passport back into my bag hastily. Had it fallen out then? How would I make the final leg of our journey to San Francisco without it?
I stood up and put my backpack on my chair. “I need to retrace my steps,” I said. “Eat without me!” I weaved my way through the airport crowd. When I reached the first checkpoint, I used my limited French to ask one of the employees if anyone had found an American passport on the ground. “Non, madame,” he replied. He directed me toward the security desk to inquire about my passport there.
I don’t know if it was the language barrier or what, but I got turned around. I flagged down several people, but no one could tell me where I could find airport security. Eventually, someone sent me upstairs, to a second floor I hadn’t known existed. I found a business office of some kind. It wasn’t airport security. And it was empty. A dead end.
Desperate and hopeless, I bowed my head. “Please, God, I need your help,” I whispered. “I need to find my passport, and I don’t have much time.”
When I looked up, I blinked in surprise at the handsome young man standing before me. I hadn’t heard him approach. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Though he had a noticeable French accent, his English was clear. What a relief!
“I lost my passport,” I explained. “I’ve been so careful with it, but it’s not in my backpack and I’m due to fly home in less than two hours.”
He nodded patiently. “Let’s go back to your friends.”
Funny that he assumes I’m with friends, I thought. I hadn’t mentioned it. And what good would that do? I still wanted to find airport security and report my lost passport. But there was something about this young Frenchman I couldn’t quite put my finger on—something that made me put all my trust in him. We quickly returned to the restaurant where I’d left Mark and John. “Did you find it?” Mark jumped up to ask.
I shook my head. “Sadly, no.”
“Which backpack is yours?” the Frenchman asked. I pointed to my bag, still on the seat where I’d left it. He unzipped it, reached in and—without further ado—pulled out a passport. “Is this yours?” he asked, handing it to me. Stunned, I flipped it open to find my own photo staring back at me. The Frenchman smiled.
“Yes, it’s mine!” Mark, John and I looked at one another, all of us speechless. It was as if I could see the thought bubbles above their heads: What just happened? They’d seen me search the backpack thoroughly and were clearly as stunned as I was to see the passport reveal itself.
I finally turned back to the Frenchman. My savior. “Thank you so—” He was gone. I whipped my head around but didn’t see him. “I can’t believe my passport was in my backpack the whole time,” I said to my friends.
“No,” said Mark, “it most definitely was not.”
“Francine,” said John, “we checked your backpack ourselves. After you left, we wanted to make sure you hadn’t overlooked the passport while searching for it in a frenzy. We took our time and went through the backpack carefully, methodically. Your passport was not in there.”
We had just enough time to gather our things and head over to our gate. As we boarded our flight home, my passport clutched in my hand, I knew the rest of our trip would be safe and blessed. I had an angel watching over me—one with a French accent.
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