Friday, August 8, 2014


Recently I received a phone call shortly after I arrived at work.  A caller from Minnesota was asking if I could help a young woman who had been stranded in Mena.  She had traveled from Lafayette, Louisiana to Minnesota by bus to attend a wedding.  On her return trip the bus she was riding on stopped in Mena in the early morning hours.  The young woman along with several other women got off the bus to use the restroom.  She was last in line, and as soon as she finished and walked outside she saw that the bus was pulling away. She chased the bus waving her arms frantically but the bus drove off. 

She didn't know what to do.  She was stranded at a gas station in a strange town.  Her first call was to Greyhound Bus customer service. They were not helpful at all.  It was no concern of theirs that the bus had left her.  Since she was not on the bus that her ticket was written for, the ticket was no longer valid.  If she wanted to continue her journey by bus she would have to go to a Greyhound terminal and purchase a new ticket.  The nearest terminal was nearly 100 miles away and there was not another bus until the next day.  The customer service rep suggested that she take a taxi.  There is not a taxi available in the small rural town of Mena. 

When I arrived at the gas station I found the young woman very upset.  Being stranded here in Mena isn't what she had planned on. We talked about her options in between phone calls from friends and family trying to find a solution.  After some time we finally worked out a plan to get her home.  Her family started driving north from Lafayette and my parents drove her to Texarkana where her family met up with her.  She was no longer stranded.

I could empathize with the stranded young woman.  On a trip that we took back in 2008 we ended up stranded three times.  We were on our way to Belize.  We had boarded our plane at DFW when the announcement was made that we had to wait in line for our plane to be de-iced.  After three hours on the plane it was announced that due to snow all flights were grounded.  We were stranded in the airport along with thousands of other passengers.  Because all flights were canceled there were so many people spending the night that there was no way to get a motel room.   

We spent a very uncomfortable night in the airport, and it was the next afternoon before we were able to fly to Belize.  When we got to airport in Belize our small plane wasn't able to fly to San Pedro because of a thunderstorm.  We were once again stranded.  On our way home we were once again stranded, this time in Miami, due to flights cancelled due to weather.  

As uncomfortable as it was to spend the night at DFW airport, it was nothing compared to the experience of Mehran Karimi Nasseri.  He was expelled from Iran in the 70's for protesting against the Shah.  He was awarded refugee status by Belgium.  He claimed that his mother was British and in 1988 made a trip to London.  While he was in Paris he was mugged and his papers were stolen.  He went ahead and boarded his flight for London, but when he arrived British officials sent him back to Paris because he had no papers.

Because he had no papers, he was not allowed to leave the airport; He was stranded. He lived there for the next 18 years.  Belgium at first refused to issue new papers saying he had to come back to Belgium to get them, but he couldn't leave the airport without papers. After many years Belgium officials made arrangements for him to be able to return, but he refused.  Apparently the world outside of the airport terminal was too frightening.  

There is a difference in the way Mr. Nasseri and the young woman that I helped dealt with being stranded.  The highest priority of the young woman was to get home.  She didn't want to be stranded in Mena, Arkansas.  I'm sure that Mr. Nasseri felt the same way at first, but after years of living in the airport terminal he no longer felt stranded.  He felt like the terminal was his home.

Jesus told us in John 15:19, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own.  But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you".  

We as Christians have been stranded here on this earth, but we don't belong to it.  It is not our home.  Jesus tells us about our home in John 14:2,3 "In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also".

We are stranded; we are strangers.  This world is not our home.

I am a poor, wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world alone
And there's no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go
And I'm going there to see my mother
And I'm going there no more to roam
And I'm only going over Jordan
And I'm only going over home

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