I was on an overnight train from Budapest, Hungary to another eastern European capital in the 1990’s. With me was a young French sister in the Lord who was on her way to her new mission field. It was like a time of high summer in the spiritual sowing and reaping of that part of the world, after the fall of Communism made it possible for those people to reach out to the Lord in a way impossible in the past. All was well until late in the evening, after we’d crossed the border.
There had only been the two of us in our train compartment until 5 young guys in their 20’s came almost stumbling into our part of the train. It was Saturday evening, they were drunk and to them we looked like some fun.
Immediately they began to take a liking to my French companion. Meanwhile, sort of the ringleader sat down very close to me and rather intently but somewhat lightheartedly asked me some questions. All the while they were all knocking back vodka or brandy, a common thing people do there to help them sleep on trains overnight.
I should mention that I was actually carrying a somewhat large amount of money on me. This had been given to me as a gift to pass on to a missionary family in the country I was on the way to. I had this in a money pouch under my sports coat. We were all sitting close together and I guess this ring-leader guy noticed it. He suddenly put his hand right on my jacket where the money pouch was and said, “What’s that?!”
It actually was rather a tense moment for me. I was outnumbered 5 to 1, these guys were younger than me, I was in their country, I had a woman with me that they liked, they were drunk and it wasn’t like I could phone 9-1-1 or get any help. The train conductor couldn’t care less and basically it was quickly developing in a dangerous situation. It would not have been too terribly unusual if they’d decided to rob me and throw me off the train while they had their way with my friend.
So when he asked me, “What’s that?!”, I said, “Oh, some papers.” (Hey, telling the truth, right?) He looked at me hard and long and said, “It’s a gun, isn’t it?” I paused, looked back steadily at him and said, “No, it’s not a gun.” He kept looking at me silently.
Next he went out of the train cabin, out into the hallway with some of his buddies. I could see them talking together and then looking back at me from time to time. I continued to keep looking at them but also was staying relaxed. It certainly seemed like they were sizing up the situation and deciding whether to attack me and my friend or not. One thing working in our favor, in the physical at least, was that it was getting later and later and they were progressively getting drunker and drunker.
I guess you could say the end of the story was that they didn’t attack us. The ringleader was convinced I was carrying a gun under my coat and that I was just being coy about it. So gradually they all dozed off to sleep and after a long while my friend and I did the same.
“Mark, that’s not a miracle; you were just lucky!”
Say what you want, it sure felt like a major miracle. The Lord somehow tricked that guy into thinking I had a gun when actually his hand was on a large amount of cash in my money pouch underneath my jacket.
It could also certainly be said that we didn’t quiet really heed the Lord’s admonition to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We were doing the harmless thing OK but we sure weren’t being wise as serpents. And I never made a border crossing like that again if I was ever carrying anything valuable.
Another major thing was that we weren’t just tourists, traveling around seeing the sights. We were on a mission for the Lord and were under His protection as we went forward for Him. So it was like that verse, “The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14) Or the verse, “You shall not need to fight in this battle. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord with you.” (II Cron. 20:17) And sometimes, even when we’re doing something that turns out to not really be the truly wisest and safest way to do something, if we’re doing it sincerely in obedience to Him, He can get us out of what could be really serious trouble, like He did for us that night.
It reminds me of some verses that I claimed way back before I’d ever even left the States for the first time to go abroad for Him many years ago, “When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it, when they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, ‘Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.’” (Psalm 105:12-15)