Three hours in the wrong direction
I haven’t had a day like it before. Thursday I was working with Roma children next to the most beautiful lake in Hungary, and Friday I was working into the wee hours of the night, photographing a beautiful wedding on a boat docked on the Danube River in Budapest—the golden city behind it glimmering against the evening sky. When I finally left at 1:00 A.M., the wedding festivities were still going strong.
After going to bed at 2:00 A.M., my alarm at 6:30 on a Saturday morning went off far too early… There was just enough time to catch the 7:12 A.M. train back to the beloved Roma kids! I gathered the bags I packed the day before, and walked to the train station. When I arrived, I reached into my backpack to fetch my credit card, but it wasn’t there.
I returned to my apartment, groggily trudging back up the hill, longing for just a bit more sleep, but desperately wanting to get back to camp to see the kids. I went into my office and there was my wallet, sitting in the chair. I glanced at the clock and realized that if I ran with all my heart, I MIGHT be able to catch the early train after all. So I did. Down the hill, across the street, and zig-zagging through people at the train station. I arrived to platform four and there was a notice that the train was three minutes late. Inside I cheered for joy, but after a few minutes, the train didn’t appear and the notice vanished. I now had two hours to wait for the next train. Rather than staying still (which surely would have led to sleep!) I went into the city to take some photographs for a project. On the metro, a nice guy from Turkey gave me a piece of cake his mom made… (good thing, because I hadn’t had a bite to eat!) The day was getting better!
Little did I know the best part of the story was yet to come. I returned to the train station, ticket in hand, ready to board when all of a sudden, my nose started to bleed. Without any tissues, my mission suddenly changed: find tissues to stem this tide. Eventually, I found tissues, and was juggling my wallet, tissues, and a train ticket while holding a tissue to my nose at the platform. When a train arrived, I got on and was thankful I hadn’t missed this one! I thought the train looked nicer than the ones I had been on before, but sat down. I took a glance at my watch, which read “9:08,” and I was confused because my train was to leave at 9:12. Not knowing what to do, I called the Hungary field director at camp and said, “Jonathan, I think I’m on the wrong train, it left a few minutes EARLY… If it was late, I wouldn’t be concerned, but early… That’s a horse of a different color.”
With quick thinking, and him on the phone, I walked over to the ticket taker and asked where the train was headed and what the next stop was. It turns out, I was on a fast train to Siófok, which would be awesome if that was my end destination—however in my situation it was at least an extra 3 hours on my already 2:44 journey to Balatonrendes. Jonathan handed the phone to my friend Réka who talked to the ticket taker, and next thing I know I’m handed the phone and she says, “Stay in plain sight of that man, he’s gonna try and work something out for you”
A few minutes later, the ticket taker motions to me to call Réka back. Because of the coordination between Réka, the ticket taker, and the train headquarters, the train made an unplanned stop for one at Székesfehérvár, my new favorite Hungarian city that I’ve never been to. From there I was able to transfer to my correct train just a few minutes later.
To wrap the story up with a nice bow, I made it safely to camp just 30 minutes later than planned (and I would have been that late regardless because I was on my original train). I returned to camp with a wild story and a valuable lesson…
The Bible says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions “ (James 4:2b-3, ESV). Everybody I’ve talked to was surprised this unexpected stop occurred. I’m so thankful that Réka asked with the motivation to simply help a friend out.
What’s the last outrageous thing you’ve asked God for?