This is the continuation of Just A Story~
Everything seemed to go in slow motion. I think I was in a bit of shock as I reached up for the baby. As soon as I had her well in my arms, John came tumbling out of the little cabin. He landed with a thump on the rough corridor floor and upset the rooster who was afore hand happily napping slung over its elderly matron’s shoulder. Surprisingly, we were so very shocked by the scenery before us that the cackling bird did not seem to bother us.
There on the tracks where the engine and several cars should have been, a few of the passengers stood around chatting as if everything were completely normal. Nothing but Mexican desert surrounded us. I thought, “We are going to die, I know it we will die here and no one will ever find our bodies.” Brittany started to fidget and I came to my senses.
I wandered toward a few of the other passengers, whose appearance were as primitive as my Spanish, and was able to ascertain that the train would come back soon. So there was nothing more to be done except to wait for the help that we were assured would arrive. I handed John the baby and began my climb back into the wee cabin while the onlookers watched in not-so-silent amusement. John handed me the baby and then followed us in. It took several attempts to close the door, which included John having to alight the nest and climb back in yet again.
I could not fathom a more stifling heat
We spent the time mostly in silence because of the heat. It was difficult getting Brittany settled as she was so sweaty but eventually she fell asleep in just her nappy. Several hours later we heard some strange noises and we tumbled out of our hiding place to see what the commotion was. There, before us, we could see the runaway cars and engine slowing backing towards us and the male passengers endeavoring to join the cars yet again. We were saved!
It was nearly sundown when we started to chug chug off again through the barren desert. By this time our food was going off, and I was famished. We ate and drank the rest of what we had brought assuming that we would be in Mexicali in a few short hours. But yet again, the train went ever so slowly through the hot wasteland.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
In the evening I had to stretch, so I fell out of the cabin and wandered about. As I looked around I realized that most of the passengers wore very poor and wore tattered clothing, carried animals in cages or over their backs as I mentioned before and the majority of the menfolk were by this time sporting large bottles of tequila and speaking a slurred form of their native tongue.
A couple came up to me and asked why we were taking the train, as it was considered transportation for the poor alone and we were in fact rich Americans. Through the years we would hear this often. As a matter of fact, most people groups we have been blessed to minister to through the years live with the misconception that all Americans are filthy rich. I was able to share the Lord with them and told them I would pray for them. They were, in fact, so very sweet and kind.
The gentleman took a large drink from the tequila bottle he held in one hand and then generously offered me some. I graciously declined even though he tried several times to convince me that I looked as if I needed it. The dear woman even mentioned that it might help the baby to settle better. I smiled as I made my way back to our cabin.
We finally fell asleep to the rhythm of the engines slowly churning beneath us. We must have been exhausted because we slept late and were awoken by the loud sounds of no engines yet again. However as we looked out the little locked window, we noticed that we had come to a small village. Was this our final destination? Was this Mexicali?
Tumbling out of the cabin for the umpteenth time, John went to see if he could find some useful information. He came back with a large block of ice and a bottle of water. Then he explained that we were no where near the border and it would be at least another day of traveling by train. I was famished, we both were. The villagers had some snake soup, and some other unsavory things that looked too suspicious to venture out on so we decided to risk it and go to the food car within the train once it started up again. Besides, it would be an adventure and help us manage our boredom.
We put the block of ice into the wee sink for Brittany to play with.
She loved playing with it, and it did help to cool the room just a bit.
Finally, our moving prison started up again and after a while we decided to make ourselves look decent enough for a meal in a real train car. We slowly walked down the corridor through four cars to get to the Cafe Car. There was a porter, but no passengers. Most of the passengers bought their food from the village we had just left. The porter looked shocked to see us. One lone dirty, sticky menu lay on our table. We decided for sandwiches and when he came over attempted to point out what we would like. He said we would not like those. We asked for several things and his response was the same every time. We finally realized that the kitchen was out of everything we asked for so we asked him what he thought we would like. His reply was but one word. Cerveza. We had to have something to at least drink.
We shared a warm beer and went back to our tomb
The next morning I was worn, really at the end of my tether. It was so stinking, sticky hot. We all were beginning to smell. The rickety movement of the train was upsetting my stomach. I was hungry and dirty, and I absolutely detest being dirty. I had prayed, tried to worship and read what I could in my old faithful Bible. I tried truly. I just did not have it in me to do this missionary stuff any more. This was not the image I had in my mind when I said “yes” to the Lord. Often our images of grandeur when it comes to ministry are nothing but a mirage. To minister, to lead is to serve. I don’t think I truly grasped those concepts yet in the infancy of our missionary call.
Often our images of grandeur when it comes to ministry are nothing but a mirage.
To minister, to lead is to serve.
I left the baby with John and went to find the bathroom again. I really did not want to go there but I knew I must. My stomach was turning so badly I thought I would be ill. The bathroom was a tiny little closet with a very antique chain commode. The tank is fixed above your head on the wall and you pull a long chain to flush. When you pulled the chain you could see a flap lift up and the contents from the bowl shoot out onto the desert floor. No sink, no paper, just filthy walls and an unfathomable stench. Trying to be positive, I thanked the Lord for the extra baby wipes I brought. Yes, they had been extremely helpful.
I must have looked a wreck when I came out because the corridor porter stopped and asked if I was well.
I assured him I was and thanking him for being so kind I went back to the family.
We ate shared a final bit of a sandwich I had found amongst our things. It was pretty hot and yucky, but it served its purpose. Then later that evening John made a trip to the dining car to bring us another even warmer beer to share. It was nasty, but it was wet.
We were beginning to feel like crumpled bits of trash. As we made our way back, the sweet corridor porter showed me into a side car where I could stretch for a bit with the baby. He was so very kind that I lost it and burst into tears. I hugged him and cried on his shoulder. He gave me a gentle hug and left us to have a bit of a stretch on the double seat.
I began to talk to myself and honestly, by this time it suddenly became so humorous. We were all in the same boat together. They were not in any hurry and did not seem to mind so why should we? I burst out in open laughter. Somehow I knew it would be alright because God was in it all. I had so much to learn and still do.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
At about 1 in the morning we were awoken by the city lights of Mexicali. It was hard to believe but we finally arrived at our destination some 55 hours after we had begun. It was dark and we were endeavoring to push and pull our suitcases toward the bus when a few drunken men helped us along.
Our trip money was dwindling too fast. We were trying not to be worried about whether we could actually financially make it across the border into America. We must have looked pretty bad at that point because an elderly woman wrapped in a shawl came over to admire my sleeping baby, she blessed me and tucked a small note into the baby blanket. When I pulled it out it was a $20,000 peso note which was the equivalent of just under $2 US dollars.
It was a precious reminder from the Lord that with Him nothing is impossible
So we boarded the bus and it was lovely. The air-conditioning worked and other than the pounding mariachi music and the Virgin de Guadalupe surrounded by flashing red Christmas lights, it was a pleasant chance to rest. The man in the seat behind us was a jolly, loud fellow and kept offering John his tequila. He told us over and over, “No you look terrible, you need this brother, please take the whole bottle”
Finally we arrived in Tijuana at around 4am. The bus stop was no where near the border. We needed to get a taxi to the border and hopefully cross and call a friend or family member to retrieve us. We actually did not put too much thought into this part of the trip, and now we had less than $35 to hail a taxi and make it to the US side.
We finally got a taxi. We smashed all of our luggage into the trunk and in the back seats. No sooner had we gotten all of our things into the taxi than the driver pushed four more people into the cab with us. I sat over the gear shift and had to lift my legs every time he wanted to change gears. We arrived at the taxi stop and he started dumping our bags on the curb. When we asked him where the border crossing was he pointed to the massive American Flag, over a mile away. We tried to get him to take us closer but we not only did not have enough money, he told us he was not allowed to go any closer even if we could pay him.
We stood there in the dark parking lot of a customs station a mile away from our homeland. There in the distance was our freedom, food, showers, clean bathrooms, everything. Yet, in front of us were our 10 large bags. We were going to have to carry the bags bit by bit to the border. So we began dragging and scooting our bags across the parking lot. I was not much help with a baby in my arms but we really had no choice. If we had left some bags behind they were sure to be stolen.
We were incredibly exhausted
So there we were scooting the bags along in the dark when out of nowhere, literally nowhere, a very old car came up next to us. A kind man got out and asked us if we needed help to the border. Without waiting for a reply, he began to grab our bags and stuff them into his trunk. We might have worried if we weren’t so tired. We didn’t really care at that point. We signaled to each other an “abandon ship” type plan. If anything happened John would jump out first and I would jump on top of him. Jump and roll. We climbed into the front seat of the car and carefully watched the Flag as our destination point.
John grabbed the door handle at one point as we made a slight detour to line up at the crossing. As soon as we were lined up, with no way out, this kind man cautioned us to tell the Border Patrol Agent that we knew him and we were friends. “Oh dear Lord”, I thought, “we made it this far only to rot in a Mexican prison within sight of our beloved flag.”
Amazingly enough, as the sun rose we arrived at the booth and our angel driver knew the Border Agent who was waiting for us. They chatted a bit, and then he waved our car on through the checkpoints and into the USA. We silently got onto the freeway, while John and I both looked in wonder at the cleanliness of our America. We were at home, at last.
Eventually, we began to express our deepest gratitude to this angel who was driving us. We had but $20USD to our name and told him we would gratefully send him more if he would give us an address. He drove us right to our friend’s house and helped us unload our things. He gave Brittany a wee kiss on her sleepy head and we never saw him again.
I have been able to avoid train rides in Mexico ever since…
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Stasia is mother to six beautiful children and wife to a dedicated, loving husband. They have served as a family together on the mission field on four continents for nearly 29 years. Stasia’s passion is to share in true colors the grace of God in her life. You can read more about her and the ministry of the Women’s Bible Cafe here. Meet Missionary Mom and Ministry Leader Stasia Nielsen If this article has blessed you in any small way, please consider showing your support by clicking subscribe in the upper right corner.