I sat awkwardly on top of my luggage. We huddled in the corner, shoved out of the way of the busy foot traffic which clicked and clacked across the wet marble floor. It was a blustery December morning. The Genoa train station, (il stazione principe) was filled with busy Italians who no doubt were all en route to some fabulous holiday destination in the Italian Alps. We were there under orders. We got to the train station a few hours earlier, around 11:00 AM. The Genoa youth hostel (ostello per la gioventu-it's really fun to say) closed that morning, and we were going on something our leader Jody had heard whilst in prayer. "Go to the train station the morning the hostel closes. You will know by 1:00 where to go." We had little else to go on, so we set off for the stazione.
It was an interesting situation to be in, and as I look back, the whole story seems so outlandish that it's hard to believe that it actually happened. I'm trying to remember, to recreate the emotions of that time. Most of all I remember the fear & excitement that coiled in my stomach like a double helix, inexplicably bound up with faith. It was all so surreal, and it probably helped that we were still jet lagged. But the story is true, and happened just like I say.
Prayer in a Circle
We stood in a circle and prayed something like this. "God, here we are. Please show us what to do." We waited, eyes closed, listening. Hearing the voice of God in prayer takes humility, patience, faith, and discernment. You must also be able to risk being wrong, keeping in mind that God's 'spoken' word will never contradict His written word, and He most likely will not be telling you to a) build a multi-million dollar Christian entertainment complex called Heritage USA or that b) He will kill you unless your television audience pledges money. (Hello, Oral!) Anyway, as I said, a modicum of discernment. So, where were we?
We heard nothing initially. We would get together to pray every half hour or so, and the rest of the time, I read, or walked around. I remember an exhibit on creches, in true Italian style-almost all were in caves, with the Virgin Mary prominently displayed, faintly glowing with lasers shooting out of her halo. Well, maybe not that last part.
A Word Unheeded
At last, when we prayed, two or more of us heard inside this phrase, "Come away and spend time with Me." Interesting, we thought. And how nice. But not very practical, it didn't include angelic beings showing up with train tickets. So we pretty much ignored it.
One o'clock came and went and still we waited. For a sign, for a word, something that would show us not only what the next step was, but that we were not completely crazy to believe that God would lead us in such a mysterious fashion.
In the early afternoon a few people heard "Wait for my messenger." Which sounded very James Bond, and got all of us excited. I imagined a tall, distinguished looking man, sort of an Italian Sean Connery approaching us with a discreet envelope full of lire, train tickets and an address for a small but significant church revival meeting where we were slated to speak.
Around 7 PM, something finally happened. We were camped out beside one of those ubiquitous machines one sees in a foreign public place, for phone cards, change, tokens for the WC or to breathe the air about you. Whatever it was, it was broken. In all my free time (ha!) I had taught myself how to say in very poor Italian, "The machine is broken." A man suddenly surfaced, trying to use this machine. "Mi scusi, Signor, la maquina es rotta!" I said, or something like that. He turned to me. Somehow he could tell I was not a native Italian speaker. (I can't imagine how, I had the Godfather accent, the NYC Italian hand gestures and everything.) He began to talk to us in English, asking us what we were doing in his fair country. We explained that we were in his country to do Christian ministry work, and he began to get strangely agitated. He was a small man, and looked sort of like Roberto Begnini from Life is Beautiful. He began to tell us about his son, and how he tried to raise him right, taking him to church so that he would learn good values. His English was much better than my Italian but his wording of different phrases was a little odd. He referred to his son as 'The Son' & himself as 'The Father'. As he spoke of his son he shook his head sadly, hunching his shoulders in that characteristically Italian way, palms skyward, and said, "Because The Son will never love The Father as much as The Father loves The Son." After he left, my teammate Ben looked at us, shaken. He said, "Guys, I think that was our messenger."
We realized, in a rush, that this was the message that God had sent us. When we gathered together again for prayer, the words flew at us, fast and sharp, going straight to the heart. The jist was, "It took Me stranding you in a train station for you to sit still long enough to hear that I love you and that's all that matters. You have fretted and worried about your circumstances and haven't sought Me, your Father who loves you. Don't worry about the rest! Come away and spend time with Me! That's the most important thing right now!"
We all scattered to different parts of the station for an hour or so. I wrote, cried and prayed, feeling at once humbled and lifted up by this incredible lesson. It was interesting to note that even though our circumstances hadn't changed and to the naked eye we still had nowhere to go, we all felt oddly light-hearted when we came back together, like some sort of progress had been made. It was around 8 or 9PM, and the main terminal was beginning to close. We were herded into a smaller waiting room. To wait.
We came together to pray every hour or so, with the preface, "God, we are so glad that we are Your children, and it's enough to know that you love us. If You want us to leave this train station, we'd be fine with that." Or something like that. And the interesting part, is that we meant it.
Finally at 1:00 AM ("...You'll know by 1:00"!) the majority of us heard the word, "Rome." The next (and last) train to Rome left in eleven minutes (that's right, one-one-one) so we hurriedly bought tickets. It was with a light heart and a head full of The Monkees 'Last Train to Clarksville' that I ran, backpack careening wildly on my shoulders, the weight (and the wait) of the last 14 hours slipping off me, to catch the last train to Rome.
Love: a life-lesson
I still have train station moments. When it feels like God has stuck me somewhere so I can learn the lesson again that I am His child first and foremost. That with Him, relationship comes first, not anything that I can 'do' for Him. And shouldn't this be our model with each other?
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12
Next up: our travelogue continues in Rome.
items of note:
- 327 market
- a paper elephant::heidi
- an organic experience::the other
- aunty suzanne brewer
- bbc 4:: gardener's question time
- bricks in the cave::children's adventure story
- dani the poet
- esther in the garden
- esther's boring garden blog
- etsy::all things handmade
- garden rant: garden blog for the courageous and dirty
- i like it::scotland as few have seen it
- let them parachute in
- lizzy cantu
- loose and leafy::lucy
- mayor of dannyland
- neal breakey
- nori::seaweed girl
- o.t. girl::my favourite anonymous o.t.
- pictures just pictures
- polar goldie cats: (secret: i am tam's little sister)
- sarah::appearing as herself
- sir gibby::b'liciousbennet
- the molly
- vintage faith church
- YWAM Seamill, Scotland: dearly missed
Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature
- A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
- Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
- Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
- RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
- Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
- Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
- Sunset Western Garden Book
- Sunset Western Landscaping Book
- The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
- The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
- the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
- The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
- The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
- We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish
lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations
- vespertinus: flowers in the evening
- veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
- superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
- rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
- placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
- nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
- nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
- muralis: growing on walls
- mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
- formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
- carpe vitam: get a life
- Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.