This month I am doing a series on my favorite China moments over the past decade. These are in no particular order.
Of Train Stations and Angels of Mercy. When I lived in the south we didn’t have an airport in our city. We didn’t even have butter in our city. That means that anytime we had to travel we had to take a 3-hour train to the provincial capital, and then take a long-distance bus, just to get to the airport. You couldn’t just order tickets ahead of time, but instead just hoped there was a tiny corner available on some train that would take you home. One time I was making my way back to my city in the middle of the Chinese New Year (February). To say that there were many people scrambling to get train tickets during the holiday is a bit of an understatement. I remember having a forty-pound backpack on my back while pushing through the masses at the train ticket office. It wouldn’t have taken much to simply tip me over.
I was also culturally frustrated. You see, Chinese people have a funny way of standing in line. There’s a fancy word I learned in grad school to explain this call “polycentrism” but I don’t think you care about that. It’s basically like this: If you don’t close in on those two inches that suddenly opened up in front of you then you can guarantee that someone else will get in there. I only wish I was exaggerating. So, it’s cold, my back hurts, I’ve been travelling all day, the masses have no mercy, and I have been waiting in line for over two hours.
I pushed and shoved my way through the crowds of lines! Still praying, still checking my attitude, and trying to concentrate on the cute kid in front of me rather than the throng of people cutting in front of the line.
All of a sudden I just started singing. I don’t know why, but I began quietly singing the songs we sang at a conference we had just a few days before. And thanking Him for a time to pray. 🙂 The people in front of me probably thought I was looney, but I’ve been called other things before :). And I sang and hummed my favorite tunes. I felt like Paul and Silas singing in prison when the doors opened (except I wasn’t in prison and the singing didn’t help the line get any shorter, but you get the point).
Finally made it to the front of the line and got a ticket. I didn’t have a seat, but I got a ticket and that’s all I cared about. Standing for three hours on the train, I was okay with that. I finally got a ticket! Such a joyous moment! Realizing I had a few hours to kill before my train left I decided to find a coffee shop or someplace warm to hang out for a bit- which meant trekking about a mile down the main street. Then it started to rain and I didn’t have an umbrella. Of course I didn’t. So, it’s cold, my back still hurts, I just stood in line for two hours, and now I’m wet!?! Lord, have mercy!
About half a mile from the train station I am plugging along when all of a sudden a young man jumps out of a taxi right in front of me. I was so startled by his appearance that I didn’t realize what was happening until after the fact. With just a smile on his face the young man hands me something, gets back in the taxi and leaves. I look down at my hands and there is my passport, my wallet (with cash and credit cards still there), and the train ticket for which I’ve been standing in line for two hours!!! Apparently I had dropped it a few blocks back and he was simply returning it to me. And there in the middle of a rainy cold street in China I just let tears flow in thankfulness to the Father who was truly watching out for me!