There are many gifts my heavenly Father has given me, but the one I cherish most is 36 years and 15 minutes.
That’s how long I had on this earth with my mother.
In 2000 I was serving at Zhengzhou Middle School in Zhengzhou, China. January 13th, about 5:30 in the morning I received a phone call from my sister that no one in this world ever wants to receive. My sister proceeded to tell me that my mom had had a heart attack and they were trying to get me home (Kerrville, Texas), but probably by the time I got there she would be gone. She put the phone to my mother’s ear and with a broken heart I told my mom that I loved her, and I was coming home. If God chose to take her home before I got there I would be okay, but I was coming home.
Adrenaline and unbelief kicked in, but I knew I had to get home. My Chinese boss was gracious to help me in any way he could. My teammates also helped me get packed and held me as I cried and wondered what it would be like to arrive home and my mom not be there. At the time Zhengzhou was under three feet of snow and ice and no flights were going out of Zhengzhou. The only way I had to get to Beijing was by train. My wei ban took me to the train station and bought my ticket to Beijing. Humbly and apologetically he brought me the ticket and said, “I am very sorry but the only ticket I could get was a no seat ticket.”
For those reading this and don’t know what a no seat ticket is, it is a ticket to ride the train but you literally have not seat. Standing in the isle or sitting on a suitcase or rice sack is the way many Chinese people travel on the train. For me it meant standing the 7 hours it took to get to Beijing.
I had heard about those but had never experienced it myself. I had actually heard horror stories about not having a seat on the train. At this point I was just numb and trying to go through the motions of getting on a train and getting to Beijing, so I could get on a plane to get home. When I went to get on the train there were two trains, one on the right and left of the platform. I saw a line of people lined up in front of a closed train door and figured this must be the place I am supposed to go. As I was standing in the back of the line a porter came by and I showed her my ticket just to make sure I was in the right place. She quickly pointed me to the other train. I walked over to the other side of the platform and started walking down the long line of cars trying to find the car I was supposed to get on. As I was walking the train whistle blew that the train was about to leave. I showed another porter my ticket and he motioned for me to get on the train because it was leaving, and it didn’t matter which car I got on.
I got on the train and within seconds it began to move. Whew!!!!!!!!! I was on the train. Now I just had to walk through the cars to find the one I was supposed to stand in. I walked through a couple of hard sleeper cars and through several soft sleeper cars. Here I was with my huge suitcase, jostling between people with one thought on my mind, “My mom was lying in a hospital at home dying.” I made it to the dinning car, put down my suitcase, leaned up against the wall and lost it. All the emotions just came flooding out in a river of tears.
At that moment I just couldn’t take it any more, but I felt a tap on my shoulder and turning around there was a young Chinese man. In perfect English he asked, “Mam, can I help you?”
There’s something to be said about a distraught foreigner on a train. He maneuvered me to sit down at one of the tables and I told him that my mom was in the hospital not expected to live and I was just trying to get home. He asked me where my seat was and I showed him my ticket. He took one look at my ticket and said, “Wait here, I will be right back.” Soon he came back with a porter and told me to follow them. I followed them back down the isle of the soft sleepers and the porter stopped at a door, opened it and said something in Chinese to them. The next minute I watched as the four men in the compartment gathered their belongings and left. Then the young Chinese man turned to me and said, “You can stay in here.” I was completely dumbfounded, but didn’t argue with them.
He sat down on the opposite bed and told me that his name was Jack and that he worked at the train station and if I needed anything he would be right next door. Then he left by saying, “Don’t worry and get some rest.” I was able to get some sleep on the way to Beijing.
When the train got to Beijing Jack made sure I got off the train okay. When I turned around to thank him, he was gone. Someday in heaven I want to meet my angel Jack and tell him Thank you.
God put other wonderful people in my path to help along the way too. Friends were at the train station to meet me and take me to their home. One of the ladies from my dad’s church flew to California just to meet me and have somebody to fly to San Antonio with. The Youth Pastor and his wife were at the airport in San Antonio to meet us and drive us to Kerrville. I was thankful to all of them for their kindness in this very trying, hard part of my journey.
Here’s the gift of 15 minutes part. My mother had her heart attack on Tuesday morning, I arrived in Kerrville at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday night. God took my mom home at 8:15. He gave me the gift of 15 minutes with my mom and the chance to say goodbye. Being able to be there with my dad and my sisters as a gentle loving God took his wife and our mom home, while placing his loving comforting arms around us was incredible. I realized in that moment what the scripture, “My grace is sufficient for you” really meant.
In the midst of sorrow, and the hardest time I have ever had to go through in this life up to this point in life, He was there, where He has and always will be, holding me in His arms of perfect love and giving me my most cherished gift of 36 years and 15 minutes.
What measurable grace have you experienced?