September 02, 2008

Adventures In Travel

This August I returned to Spain by myself to help teach at a music camp. I was invited to go by fellow faculty at the college where I teach. It was my first experience traveling overseas alone and it was amazing! I traveled on British Airways and I highly recommend them! They were so kind and very careful with my violin.

Anyhow, I was at the music camp for two weeks. When it was time to return home I headed back to Madrid via train. My plane was scheduled to leave from the Barahas Airport, terminal 4 the following day. The plan was to travel via train the day before and spend the night in Madrid to spend some time touring. Now, in Spain public transportation is king and very cheap, clean, and safe. But on this trip the unexpected happened.

It all started with a grumpy conductor who snapped at anyone who even looked at him. I'm not kidding, the poor man was not a happy camper and neither was anyone near his vicinity. When it came time to present my ticket to him he didn't spare any kindness on me either. I was traveling with a friend who didn't understand Spanish as well as I. At the time I had wished that I couldn't understand Spanish either because I was very hurt and embarrassed by his inappropriate tirade.

So after he left I began to pray. I told God how hurt I felt and that I wished the man would learn a lesson. But then I realized that I didn't know the conductor personally or have any idea what might be going on in his life. Maybe things were really bad for him. So, I started feeling guilty for being angry at him and I asked God to take away my anger.

There is a verse in the Bible ( Romans 12:19) where God says no one should try to take personal revenge but to leave punishment up to God himself. This verse popped into my head after I finished praying. In response I told God I would rest in Him and trust that He knew how best to handle the situation.

At the next station our train died.

I later learned that it is very rare for trains to die in Spain.

After our train died everyone had to get off and take the next one. It was quite the hassle for our conductor who was perspiring heavily last I saw.

My friend and I managed to get her cello and my luggage on board the next train. She hopped in to get a better hold of the luggage. By this point, the train was so packed it looked like cans of sardines all hooked together! I was just about to hand my friend her luggage, much heavier than mine, and get myself on board when the doors suddenly shut on me! There was a brief moment of bewilderment and then the train, with my friend and my luggage, took off. I was left standing in an outside, abandon train station with all her luggage, my violin, and a large carry-bag.

Now, if you are ever stranded by surprising circumstances do not panic. Stop and think about the next step. But if you find yourself lost as I did... pray. I had no idea what the next step for me should be. I couldn't leave my friend's luggage unattended and it was too heavy for me to move around by myself. As I was pondering my situation and praying again for God's help a voice interrupted me. I turned and was met by a handsome man. He couldn't have been older than his early thirties. He asked me if I needed help and that he noticed I seemed bewildered.

I explained my situation and he not only told me that the following train would take me directly to my next destination but that he was headed in the same direction. He had with him a laptop bag and asked if we could switch. His bag for my heavy luggage. No problem on my end! The next train was pulling in and he carried my friend's luggage inside and kept me company the entire trip.

When we arrived at the Charmatin station in Madrid he again helped carry the heavy luggage off the train and into the station. I was so grateful! But when we arrived my friend wasn't there. I became concerned. Did she know where to get off? Even if she found the hotel, just across from the Charmatin station, the reservation for the room was in my name. And the desk clerks needed to see my passport before handing the key over.

The " handsome stranger" by my side offered to take the luggage for me into the lobby of the Charmatin hotel but he had mentioned earlier that he was returning home from work and still had a ways to go. He had already been so much help and I felt bad taking more of his time. So I thanked him for all he did and we parted ways. But not before he gave me his name, Manuel. Now, here's an interesting fact. The name Manuel is a derivative of the name Emanuel which means... are you ready for this?... God with us.

Manuel came to my aid immediately after my prayer to God for help.

But to finish my story, my friend arrived 30 minutes later. I had apparently boarded a direct train while she had taken a train that stopped at every station along the way. To this day I will be more careful what I ask for in prayer because God does answer. And He promises to always be with us and to give us what we ask when we live for Him.

Two days after I left Barahas Airport the news told the story of how a plane, leaving from the exact terminal I had been in, crashed during take-off. I saw the photos of grieving families and I cried for the lives lost that day. And part of me realized that it could have been my plane. We make plans and believe they will go as we want them to but the truth is that there are no guarantees in life. My little adventure at the train station is a clear example. But just as clear is the promise God gave to everyone who believes in Him... He will never leave you, He will never betray you, He will always be the one friend you can count on. And that is why I love Him.

"I will always be with you, even to the end of the world". ~ Matthew 28:20

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