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Issue 12-4

Lost My Purse at O'Hare Airport

Returning home from a trip, David and I made our way from Terminal Two to United Airlines Baggage Claim in Terminal One. We picked up our suitcases, took the elevator up one floor to the transit line, crossed the bridge, then rode the escalators one floor down and got ourselves ready to board the shuttle train to Parking Lot F, the long-term lot.

It was only then that I noticed I no longer had my black purse. Ordinarily, I haul shoulder-strap bags, but I’m trying to cut down on the weight of the luggage I drag through airports, and I had picked up a resale Liz Claiborne purse that was smaller, lightweight and would only hold so many travel items. My habit had been to slip the hand straps over the bar to my mobile computer-office bag where I file all my books and projects. Since it is on wheels, I can pull it behind me.

However, my routine was disrupted a little because I was traveling with David and he hoisted my computer bag down the narrow aisle of the airplane. Somewhere in that reconfiguration of baggage responsibilities, I mislaid my purse containing my passport, two credit cards, Medicare card, cell phone, driver’s license and all the essential items for moving through a day—car keys, house keys (perhaps the most problematic because somewhere in all that mess was my address), makeup, hairbrush, tissues and my ever-ready cough drops.

So David stayed with our two suitcases and my office travel case at the shuttle train platform while I ran back to check if I had left my purse at the counter of Baggage Claim 3 while we waiting for the suitcases to come down. Nope—nothing there and the attendant said no one had turned anything in. Perhaps I had left it on the airplane, but there was no way I could get back through the security checks. I asked the guards if a purse had been turned in, just in case it had fallen from my office bag while I was going down escalators and I hadn’t noticed it. Nothing.

Eventually I ended up at the Baggage Counter, where missing suitcases are reported. This is also the Lost & Found. I turned in a report and sadly went back to my husband with the bad news, my mind already racing as to what needed to be done to protect ourselves from consumer fraud or identity theft.

The security guard at the transit platform was sympathetic when I returned empty-handed, “Didn’t find your purse? Oh, that’s too bad.” He recommended we make a report to the Chicago police. He told us stories of their intervention in petty crimes (it appears there are quite a few incidents at O’Hare). I promised I would contact the police if the purse wasn’t found in the next 12-18 hours.

‘You know,” he informed us, “they come out. Take a photo of you. They can track your progress from the moment you get off the airplane and walk to baggage claim.” He pointed to an overhead camera we hadn’t noticed. “There are cameras everywhere but in the washrooms.”

I took this to mean that a white-haired woman wearing a red plaid woolen jacket could be tracked throughout O’Hare and that the police could quickly assess if I had disembarked our airplane clutching a purse, or if some thief had cut the straps while I waited for David to use the washroom, or if it had fallen off as I walked through the terminals, or if I had left it on a baggage-claim counter and someone had grabbed it and walked out the door.

The next morning, Sunday, at 8:45 a.m., we received a phone call from the Lost & Found department at O’Hare. My purse had been turned in! I could come pick it up that morning (which we did, skipping church; I kept thinking about identity theft and wouldn’t feel comfortable until I knew if everything was intact, and if not, what was missing). They gave me a claim number to use as an identifier when I picked up the purse.

So what could have been a bad story in my life turned out, amazingly, with a happy ending. However, I kept thinking about all those cameras tracking the movement of passengers (and crooks) through the hallways and the up and down elevators of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. This gave me a little chill.

Tim Shorrock, the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing—an exposť of the corruption, waste, mismanagement and cover-up in our intelligence systems—also reports that one of his sources, a whistleblower who finally resigned from the intelligence community, said that since 9/11, the National Security Agency has crossed all kinds of illegal lines, without appropriate oversight, and created a system that spies on American citizens that is fast becoming a police state with few parallels in history.

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was actually published in 1949, informed obviously by the fascist societies of that time. It is chillingly prescient. The fictional Oceania province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, public mind-control all headed by Big Brother, the semi-divine Party leader who expects and cultivates a worshipful cult of personality under the guise of working for the greatest common good. Totalitarian societies obviously have similar dysfunctions so that Orwell hit on essential truths that have resonated through the decades, also coining language that has entered into our everyday use: Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, etc. I often wonder how close we are to slipping into a similar society by not paying attention to what freedoms we are losing.

So, because of this incidental exposure on the transit platform at O’Hare to the ubiquitous overhead cameras, I’ve attempted to read articles and viewpoints exposing and protesting pernicious citizen surveillance. But then, suddenly and without warning, horrific terror strikes the happy, joyful festival of the Boston Marathon, and I am grateful for all the security cameras and the personal videos taken with cell phones. Thankfully, a massive and coordinated manhunt captured the perpetrator.

“Conflicted” is the right word to describe my feelings about an extraordinary loss of personal privacy weighed against the reality that we are a country in a world that is indiscriminately bent on blowing itself to pieces.

Then my mind leans back into comfort. We as humans are also under constant surveillance in the mind and heart of a loving and concerned God. “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, he who teaches knowledge to humankind, does he not chastise?” Psalm 94:9-10.

This theological reality, of divine omnipresence, is often used to keep children (or childish adults in line), i.e., God sees everything you do. Better behave. I much prefer to lean into another reality about the all-seeing God:

“Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, for there is no help in them…
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! whose hope is in the Lord their God…
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the prisoner free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous; the Lord cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.”
Psalm 46: 2-9

Constant surveillance can be used for good or for ill; it all depends upon who is doing the watching. Who is to say who really guarded and protected my purse and got it back to me—a cleaning crew? A Lost & Found agent? Or the watchful eye of a loving heavenly Father? I think I will spend more time praying for God to assign His angels to foil the attempts of the evil ones hell-bent on destruction. Put not your trust in the ruling surveillance oligarchy—for there is no help in them.

Karen Mains


Global Bag Project Sewers Graduation Ceremony: Mary Ogalo, Kenya Project Manager, Reports

We had a wonderful day yesterday. I am still overwhelmed at the joy saw from the woman who were graduating. I did not know this meant so much for them, but I believe that they felt that they are no longer spectators in life but participants in developing their lives. All the women who were training came with their families who witnessed their graduation. At around 1 p.m. in our usual meeting place—the domestic science room of Africa International University, 11 women walked proudly to receive their well-deserved certificate. Dressed in a ceremonial gown and cap they made for themselves, each one held up their certificate to the applauding crowd.

I had told them that God would be visiting us in a very special way that morning, God visiting to affirm his love and care. Through their smiles, laughter and happy chatter with relatives, I could tell that God had visited them and was breaking down the strong-holds of despair and shame. Their dream to own the first asset in form their own sewing machine came true. The members of the board … surrounded the women in prayer, and we shared lunch together.

gbp_grads.jpgGlobal Bag Project seamstresses in graduation outfits

Mary Ogalo has worked hard to empower our Global Bag Project seamstresses. Each one was given a dual-powered sewing machine (with the understand that part of its cost will be paid back to pay for machines for other women who complete their sewing training).

If you would like to contribute to the cost of a new sewing machine, we pay about $320 in country for dual-powered (electric and foot-pedaled) machines and will need to purchase more for training in the days ahead. A check can be made out to the Global Bag Project and notated: “GBP sewing machines.” Snail-mail can be addressed to Global Bag Project, Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.

Karen's Blogs for This Week

Link is Titles for Karen’s blogs for April 22-26 are: “It’s Important; Rent Due,” “I Don’t Love You,” “Internet Technician Services” and “Remembering to Collaborate Again!”

Karen uses the blogs as a personal spiritual discipline to highlight the multitude of ways she experiences God in her everyday world. For almost 40 years she has kept a prayer journal that keeps a list of these divine interventions, but she finds that writing some of them out gives her deeper understanding of His interaction with her life.


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Karen Mains

Karen Mains

Conflicted” is the right word to describe my feelings about an extraordinary loss of personal privacy weighed against the reality that we are a country in a world that is indiscriminately bent on blowing itself to pieces.

Then my mind leans back into comfort. We as humans are also under constant surveillance in the mind and heart of a loving and concerned God.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell

WIf you haven’t read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, you might want to pull a copy down on your e-reader. Then ask yourself: What are the commonalities of totalitarian systems? Are there any similarities between where America seems to be heading because of our homeland protection instincts that generations might resent in the future?

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot and style. The very adjective Orwellian is used to describe official deception, secret surveillance and manipulation of the understanding of the past by a totalitarian or authoritative state. According to Wikipedia, the book was chosen in 2005 by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923-2005. “It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor’s list, and 6 on the reader’s list.”

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