Ash spewing from a volcano on the island of Iceland canceled flights worldwide and left passengers stranded at points around the globe.
The cloud traveled south and west of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík.
“We can sometimes see the ash plume from the city’s outskirts,” said Sigridur Hilmarsdottir, a church member in Reykjavik. “But where the ash has fallen, things are bad. It has devastated many farmlands and affected seriously a small town lying in its path.”
“You might say that Europe has been hit harder than us,” Hilmarsdottir said, “because all flights are now in chaos.”
The massive cloud drifted east of the Scandinavian island and floated across northern and central Europe, grounding flights at the continent’s key hubs.
Members of a mission team from the U.S. bound for Volgograd, Russia, were stranded at points along the journey, including Madrid, Spain, and Zurich, Switzerland, said Eileen Emch, a missionary in Russia.
Lyle Asbill, pulpit minister for the Grapevine, Texas, Church of Christ, experienced repeated delays as he tried to return from a mission trip to Ukraine.
“We trust our God and know he will get us home safe,” Asbill wrote in a Facebook post. “Our prayers are with those who are waiting in uncomfortable airports and dealing with the crowds. We are still in our apartment, just waiting to leave.”
The ash cloud also delayed mission trips that included plane changes in Europe. Church members traveling to and from nations including Uganda and India experienced delays, church members told The Christian Chronicle.
But the cloud did not keep U.S. Christians from worshipping with the tiny church in Reykjavik, which began in 2002. About five years ago, missionary Royce Sartain set up an interactive videoconferencing system that allows him to “join” the Icelandic Christians for Sunday worship from his home in Pennsylvania.
“Until this past year, I was preaching (in Iceland) on Sundays,” Sartain said.
Now he teaches Bible classes using the system. Ministers in Texas and Alabama rotate preaching duties for the Reykjavik church.