Two American college students (girls) showed up in church on Sunday and said they were just visiting for the weekend and were hoping to join our meetings. They had already missed our Sacrament services and we told them they were welcome to join us for Relief Society which would be next, and they seemed to vacilate on whether to stay or go. They were kind of guarded in their responses on why they were there, but when we probed a little deeper, they revealed that one of them had her purse stolen at the airport the night before and she couldn't get on her flight to Paris because she didn't have her passport. They were stuck until Tuesday when the U.S. Embassy would re-open (Monday was a U.S. Holiday) and she could get a temporary passport.
They were clearly embarassed by what had happened - the purse was stolen while they were sleeping at the airport terminal. They thought they would avoid the chance of missing their 4:00 a.m. flight by camping out at the airport. They were trying to take turns sleeping to keep an eye on their stuff, but they ended up both nodding off and sure enough, the purse was long gone when they awoke.
The worst thing is trying to deal with this situation in Spain. Customer service here is absolutely miserable, and I can't imagine having to deal with the Spanish in this case. The poor girls had to change their flight, fill out a police report, get directions and more. Essentially, no one they spoke with at the airport was sympathetic or helpful until they finally broke down in tears at the tourist information booth (this was after having been denied any form of help by about 10 other "information" and "customer assistance" booths).
I think they were lucky, or perhaps guided by the spirit, to show up to our ward - essentially the only ward within Madrid city limits with any Americans in it. The Bishop helped them make phone calls to their family and we arranged for them to stay with us Monday and Tuesday night so they could catch their flight early Wednesday morning. We let them borrow Eryka's cell phone so they could go out and see Madrid (as long as they were stranded here, they might as well have some fun) and call us if they needed anything.
So the girl got a replacement passport this morning and they'll be able to get back to their trip. I felt really bad for all the hassle they had to go through to resolve this, but at the same time I'm grateful we were here and in a position that we could help them. It reminded me of the times my Dad would run into stranded college students from Europe in Blanding and help feed and house them until they could get their car fixed or find another rental and get back on the road. I remember what a neat experience that always was for our family to meet new people from exotic locations. More importantly, I got to see my Dad provide selfless service to a stranger. I'm not sure Isaac, and certainly not Stella, will remember this, but I think it's a good family tradition my Dad started that I hope we can carry on.