He said to them, “To you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables, that ‘seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest perhaps they should turn again, and their sins should be forgiven them'” (Mark 4:11 12 WEB)
Twice I was privileged to visit the island nation of Sri Lanka. Each time I worked with computer systems. I provided installation and training for the new System Administrator. The system was integrated in our global networking. While the computer work was interesting what I remember most were some of the side trips and, on the second trip, my arrival at the airport.
My first trip was routine. I arrived, went through immigration and customs, then met my colleagues outside the security area. No problem. About a year later I returned to Sri Lanka to move the system to a new office and upgrade some software. Normal arrangements were made including my arrival time and date. The plane arrived at the airport, I went through immigration and customs and exited to the waiting area outside of security.
The place was full of busy people coming and going with all the routine hustle and bustle of an airport. I’d seen this many times before. However, after about twenty minutes I found myself alone in the large arrivals room. The only other folks were employees waiting for customers in the different vendor windows. No sign of my colleagues or friends, no notes, no messages, just a big empty room and me. I figured they were delayed by traffic so I waited another twenty minutes.
I started to worry someone made an error with the dates and times. I walked up to one of the car rental booths and was inundated by a long speech about their cars in a language I didn’t understand. Just before I signed my life away I realized I wasn’t there to rent a car. His speech, unintelligible as it was to me, was very impressive. I think he could have sold snow cones to Eskimos. I put down the pen as the salesman looked on with a disappointed frown. I pointed to the telephone.
Using international sign language, I’m an expert at pointing, jumping up and down, and making a fool out of myself until I’m understood, I signaled I wanted to use the telephone. No way, if I wanted to make a call it was going to cost me. I think he wanted some compensation for not renting a car.
I exchanged some money, at an exorbitant rate, to the local currency. It was almost midnight and the salesman was ready to leave and go home. With a few coins I called the number of a colleague and prayed someone would be home. A sleepy voice answered the telephone. I identified myself and asked if someone was coming to meet me.
She was suddenly awake. Her husband and another missionary drove to the airport over three hours ago and should be waiting. I let her know I was the only one left in the airport waiting room and the vendors were anxious to see this foreigner depart so they could close shop.
“Did you take the blue bus?” she asked as if it was a routine question.
“What blue bus?” I replied. I felt as if I just stepped onto another planet in the conversation.
“You know, the one they told you about in the e mail.”
“I didn’t receive any instructions in e-mail about the airport or a blue bus.”
“How about a fax.”
“Oh oh . . . .” she responded and there was a short silence. “You need to take the blue bus to the pick up area. Go out the front door, with you bags, and walk the quarter mile to the curb where the shuttle bus will take you to the pickup area which is about five miles from the airport.”
It seems that the security issues at the airport had changed with the increase in bombs around the capitol city. No one, picking up or dropping off passengers, was permitted within five miles of the actual terminal. There were concrete barricades between the road and the building to prevent suicide bombers from driving trucks loaded with explosives into the crowded terminal.
With the new information in hand I was the last passenger on the last bus to the pickup area. Five more minutes and I would’ve been stranded at the airport until the morning bus run eight hours later. Praise the Lord for the great timing of the telephone call and the patience of my fellow missionaries to wait for their unprepared visitor to arrive at the right place.
When Paul started going on his missionary trips he was excited about God’s mystery. He would arrive in a new town and his message was as new and revelatory as discovering I needed to find a blue bus. My blue bus took me to a gravel parking lot and the comfort of friends and colleagues. God’s mystery takes us to His kingdom and the comfort of our savior for eternity.
I was overjoyed to discover the bus was still there to take me on my way to safety. I remembered a greater joy. I discovered the revelation of God’s mystery and my travel plans were both laid out for me in heaven and eternity. Sometimes we forget to tell someone how to find the bus. Other times we forget to tell them how to discover God’s mystery and the Gospel of salvation. In both cases we leave someone stranded.
Next time someone asks directions, or travels to meet us, maybe we should consider what directions they need along with the bus route they need to know the narrow road to eternity. I pray I don’t forget to include God’s mystery revealed with any travel instructions.