We were traveling on a German train from Stuttgart to Heidelberg last week when God showered us with His bountiful mercy and grace. Here's what happened.
I had just finished teaching workshops on peacemaking for European women leaders at the International Baptist Church in Stuttgart. After several joyful days ministering, our team (My dear husband David, and two energetic DTS students, Julie and Judy) set out for a couple of days of sightseeing. Hopscotching from city to city, sometimes at speeds of 158 miles per hour, seemed sensible, even if you only had a few minutes to drag all your luggage from one train to another. However, not knowing German got us in trouble.
We were tucked away and ready to leave when we heard an announcement and people suddenly starting disembarking our train. David, our ring leader and guide extraordinaire, quickly jumped off the train to check it out, leaving us three women wide-eyed and concerned. As fast as he jumped off, he jumped back on to signal us to get off too. I had run five seats ahead to alert my two students and then back to grab my rolling bags at the rear of the car, and when I did I left my shoulder bag (with passport, papers, money, etc.) resting on the seat. We made it off that train and onto another just in time, quickly loading ourselves and our gear onto standing room only. About five minutes later, as we buzzed along, I noticed that purse was not around my neck. My heart sunk and my mind swirled with pictures of our next few precious days at the American embassy instead of seeing Germany. I alerted my group and we all began a silent prayer vigil.
At the next stop we found a lovely conductor who called someone important and took us to the place where that exact train would be coming into the same station. We had simply left a slower train for an express train with the identical destination. She stationed each of us at the spot where doors would soon open and told us we had three minutes to look through the cars for the missing purse. The train stopped, we pushed against exiting crowds, we searched seats and floors full of people and luggage for three insane minutes and then jumped off. No purse.
Bewildered, the four of us found our way to the information office to locate the equivalent of our "lost and found". Two lovely German ladies who spoke English reported the purse missing with the authorities, and we slumped away to a nearby couch, collapsing in exhaustion, to consider our next options. I must add here that no one, except me in my head, uttered words like, "How could you be so careless?" or "Really, did you really just do this?"
Suddenly one of the women alerted us, "They found it! They found it!" We stared at each other in disbelief, overcome with surprise and gratitude. We had to wait about five hours in the station for the train to circle back around but no one minded. We spent the time German people-watching, eating pastries and chocolates, laughing, and praising God for His wonderful mercy and grace, a sentiment that followed us home.
Our German conference hostess had commented earlier in the week about the honesty of Germans. We don't know whether God provided an honest German rider who observed me leaving the purse behind, an honest conductor, or an angel. We just knew that in the impossible chaos of a bustling German train racing through a foreign land, God was there and took care of us. He didn't have to, and we would have praised Him either way, but, oh, how sweet the loving kindness of the Lord.