On my second day of focusing on things excellent or praiseworthy, I am going to share with you a story that I think is pretty great. Actually, I think it’s really great.
The strange thing is that I haven’t shared this story very often. I like to tell it to people, but the reaction I usually get is, “Huh. That’s really cool. I don’t quite know what to do with that, but that’s really cool.” Every so often the story sparks a theological debate that I don’t want to get into, but usually the response is simply a puzzled stare.
It is an excellent story, though, so here we go:
The summer after my freshman year in college, I went to Ukraine on a mission trip. For eight weeks my team and I traveled around doing Vacation Bible Schools, visiting orphanages, meeting with people in hospitals, and just connecting with Ukrainian people however we could and telling them about Jesus.
It was an absolutely incredible summer. Although it was more years ago than I’m willing to admit, I remember it so clearly that it seems as if it was just yesterday.
Before we left for the trip, one of my mom’s biggest concerns (not worries, naturally, but concerns) was for our safety. As an eighteen year old girl who thought she knew everything, I thought my mom was crazy. Now I realize she was right to be concerned.
The way she dealt with this concern was to pray for us daily, and specifically for our safety. My cousin was on the trip too, and her mom was also concerned for safety (good call, Auntie), so she also prayed daily for our safety. So did basically everyone who knew us – because we were two eighteen year old girls headed to Ukraine.
We saw the Lord answer those prayers on several occasions, not the least of which being the time a taxi driver pulled a gun on our team, holding it up to one of our team members and demanding money.
There was also the night that our inebriated neighbors decided what they wanted more than anything else was “some love from the young American girls.” The neighbors spent the entire night trying to climb through our window or break down our door. My cousin and I spent the entire night huddled together praying, reciting Scripture, and singing.
The story I want to share though happened one night near the end of our trip. My cousin had come down with a terrible sickness, so she stayed home alone while I went out to the activities with the team.On the way home that evening I had about ten minutes of the trip I had to make by myself. It was two train stops and a two-block walk back to the apartment.
Things were going smoothly until right before my stop. At that time a very large man reached down and grabbed my backpack. He informed me in his native language that he was going to take care of me and make sure that I got home safely.
I told him, in his native language, that I didn’t need any help, thank you, and to kindly let go of my backpack.
He insisted that he would help me, and I again asked him to leave me alone. I spoke loud enough for several other men on the train to hear me. One kind man helped remove the guy’s hand from my backpack, and when I got to my stop three men helped keep the guy on the train so he couldn’t follow me. I quickly walked the final two blocks and reunited with my cousin.
Here’s the best part of the story, though – All of the conversation was in the Ukrainian language, but I did not speak Ukrainian. Sure, I could sing some songs that I memorized, could decipher the alphabet, and could count to twenty, but that was the extent of my language ability. Yet at that moment, when I absolutely needed it, I could clearly speak and understand everything. I knew exactly what the man was saying, what the other men were saying, and what I needed to say in order to get out of the situation.
The second I was off the train, though, I couldn’t remember a word that I had spoken.
So there’s my story. It isn’t about speaking in tongues, nor is it about the wisdom (?) of traveling on your own in a foreign country. This story is about the fact that Jesus promised us He’d always be with us. And He is. He was with me on that train. And He is with me today.
And that, my friends, is both excellent and praiseworthy.
See you tomorrow!