So I’m jumping out of order in sharing this, as I had plans of sharing some of our fun in Prague back in September. But now that I’ve told you what I was supposed to write about, I’ll be sure to get to that (yeah… as well as the Israel adventures that I promised…hm, maybe I should just start keeping my plans to myself…and not let you know how much I meant to write, and didn’t, last year 🙂 ) Anyhow, here’s my first worth-sharing experience to kick off the New Year:
(We spent our New Year’s Eve weekend in Berlin, a last minute decision for a quick family get-away. I’m taking the following straight out of my journal entry which I wrote on our 6 hour train ride home. It’s the last story I recounted for my personal reflection of the three days we spent in the capital of Germany)
“…The only lasting regret I have on our time – was not more boldly speaking out about Jesus in our various encounters. I could have easily told a few people about Jesus and His love: the young lady from France taking the walking tour with us; the older lady, widowed for 7 years now, serving in Albania with the Peace Corp who participated in a 2nd tour (for us) that day; Lizzy, our tour guide, with whom we spent almost our entire day on two of her great tours. At least I gave her a cd, and I can hope that she reads the booklet inside and listens to the songs. Lord, forgive me please if I was supposed to open my mouth more. Don’t give up on teaching me and working on me to be more ready, more bold, to speak of You. But the last two, really one, encounter, I do wish I’d said more….(jumping over some info to the real story)…
We have about an hour and a half more on the train, and I can taste home arrival is closing in. But I must still tell the one last story: it’s a McDonald’s story, funny enough. And here’s the beginning of it – We arrived at the Berlin HBF to catch our train only 23 minutes before scheduled departure. So my husband and the kids went directly to the platform while I attempted to hunt down food – and maybe money. I failed at both. I used up 10 minutes ordering 2 salads to-go at Vapianos – only to be waited on by the slowest employee I’ve ever encountered behind the counter of a Vapianos. She lazily opened the meat to cook, chatted with two colleagues that got in her way with a cart of something, didn’t even begin the salad ingredients, and proceeded to get the gentleman behind me a bowl of soup – soup is much less work to serve than a salad, and that suited her better. I didn’t get mad while being put off, but I did start to get anxious. I conversed through my dilemma with the kind gentleman who waited for his soup…and ended up apologizing to him as I left without completing my order. The lady who should have cared behind the counter was still not making salads and didn’t even pay attention as I left in search of at least an ATM machine, and maybe something to snack on that’d be faster.
Well, the ATM was out of order. In my frazzled state, I didn’t realize the screen said so until I had wasted my last precious minutes with three attempts to get the machine to take my card. So, I arrived to my husband and children food-less and defeated. I began to get rather upset those last six minutes we had still to wait, according to the sign of our train’s departure. Even as my sweet man admitted to being super hungry, he assured me that we would be fine, we did have some euro cash, we could buy the terrible train food snacks. But I was still getting pretty upset by the minute. Why couldn’t I have made better decisions? How were we going to make it in peace six and a half hours, skipping two meals, confined to a train?? Just then, I ‘randomly’ get a WhatsApp from a good friend who is more like my little brother. Hey, he’s been praying for us – has my son’s interest in biblical languages resurfaced? Instead of talking about spiritual needs, I admit to him in a quick text that no, he hasn’t, but what we really needed right that moment was a solution for lunch, in our time-limited circumstances. No sooner had I hit send then the screen for the train announced a 20-minute delay. I looked at my Love and blurted that I would run to McD’s (yes, last minute desperation) and sprinted back up the stairs and down the corridor, not even waiting his response. And how the Lord does these things is beyond my understanding:
On entering the fast-food doorway, I saw a half a dozen people or so in line to my right and 1 family in line to my left. I get in the line to the left. A slightly begrudging server is finishing up a tourist’s confusing order. Oh boy. But worse, they finish and said server does not return. Calm down, Melissa. Trust God. A different lady begins walking up to the cash register – and so does a customer looking to cut me off who is not even from the other longer line. Calm down, Melissa. Trust God. The sweet young girl smiles at me apologetically as she asks for a clean spoon – hers dropped. Okay, I’m up. In German, I relate to the gal behind the counter that I need 4 meals to go in under 10 minutes. What should I get? A bacon burger? We become co-problem solvers in that instant. She jumps into full possession of this mission, suggests a quicker burger. Nuggets. Check. Drinks? All waters. Got it. Ketchup? Yes. We are focusing intently on the job, she is moving so fast, and I am helping fill to-go bags as she brings items over. I barely noticed the impeccable timing of my arrival in light of the now 20 person line that appeared from no where behind me in those short minutes until I’m racing out for the 5 minute walk (or 2 minute run – I ran, just in case) back to platform 1. Breathless and sweating, but happy with my greasy victory, I spot my daughter staring at my beaming face. And my son. Where’s my husband though? Calm down, Melissa. trust God. When I get there, my 13-year old daughter explains that Papa went to look for me (apparently those 20 minutes were just about up). Again – calm down, Melissa. Trust God. “Okay, it’s okay,” I tell the kids. I have us bow our heads and we prayed right then that God would tell Papa’ to come back, since he didn’t have his phone on him. I prayed out loud. This entire conversation may or may not have been overheard by a young man sitting on his well worn green suitcase right beside us. Just as I say, Amen, my boy spots Papa’ coming down the stairs. Ah, relief. I’m all smiles as I very briefly report to him on my mini adventure. And then I owed my friend Austin a brief call. He said it reminded him of a hymn he’d just been thinking about that morning:
“…Have we troubles anywhere,
You don’t have to be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
After we talked, I really wanted to take my ukulele out and sing the whole song. But I had the chance to praise God in a different way. There was a man (probably homeless) asking people for a normal city train ticket – did we have an extra? At first I said no, but then I realized we had that day pass, and it was still good. I chased him down and gave it to him. He was so thankful. I didn’t get to say anything about God, he was off to catch his train too quickly. Back to my victory bags, I realized we had a 5th meal. So I asked the man on the green suitcase if he’d like a free meal. He said, a little bit incredulously, yes. You sure? I’m absolutely sure, we are 4 people, and I have 5 burger and fries. We talked a little bit. He mentioned how much he appreciated it, his brother had told him that the DB trains often run out of the food they say they have for purchasing. He was studying in Ulm. We told him about living in Stuttgart. But that is where my regret comes in. In the moment, I didn’t see a good way to bring in the gospel. But did I need one? Couldn’t I have just opened my mouth and told him that Jesus loves him? Now I realize I could have led with a simple explanation that this McD’s was an answer to prayer, and that God listens to our prayers. Without words, did he see Jesus in us? Or was my lack of speaking of our God going to haunt me, make me wonder if that young man’s blood will one day be partly on my shoulders because I didn’t find out if he knew the Savior?
Lord, please take these regrets and let me learn from them and become more in-tune with every opportunity I have. I know Your forgiveness is there for me – help me open my mouth more so the people around me know it’s for them, too.
An. important P.S. –
after I shared this story just now with my very insightful husband, he says, “OR…” and as he is telling me that maybe I’m just one small piece in a train of people God is currently bringing into this young man’s life, and God only needed my actions and not my words right then, and the light will go on at just the right moment for him. As my husband is telling me this, a real-life instance of this very theory comes to my mind of which we heard about first-hand from the very person who experienced God in this way from someone. In fact, the notes from listening to Tass Saada share his story are in this very same journal I am writing in now. He spoke of a very wealthy man who just loved and respected Tass – with no further explanation as to why, no words about the love being from Jesus. And when the time was right, years later, this man did tell Tass Saada about Jesus the Lord and Savior – but not even a hint to this spiritual truth before, just living it out. So there are two sides to this coin: the urgency we need to have, yes – I still believe we should purposefully and intently look for ways to share Jesus with everyone we encounter. And at the same time, if the Holy Spirit wants us to do that only through our actions and the love of Christ that compels us without further words for now – then, Calm down. Trust God. He’ll take care of our lack, no matter what it may be.