Well, remarkable for me Lois, by alendar


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									A random encounter
                               US Partner Jim Couch on
     I met a veteran of the
                               how a chance encounter
     Afghanistan war on the
     train platform in Zima,   got him thinking
     Siberia. It was a most

                                           ell, remarkable for me. Lois,   also low on our food stocks. Our diet
     remarkable stop on the
                                           Becca and I were taking         consisted of sausages and bread with
     Trans-Siberian Railway.               the long way around back        the rare cucumber or piece of fruit
                               to the US from Asia this past July.         thrown in. However, I was low on
                               The journey is six days by rail from        rubles and few people out in Siberia
                               Beijing to Moscow and our overland          are willing to change dollars for you.
                               travel adventure required that I take       But I had read that there are ATMs in
                               the twenty minutes stops at major           the Russian train stations. So I set my
                               stations, usually around five hours         goals for the next twenty minutes:
                               apart, to find food.                        dash over to the building and snap
                                                                           a shot, race into the station and see
                               Zima represented a particular               if the rumour of the ATMs was true,
                               challenge for me. First of all, I saw a     and, if so, then capture a meal for
                               most interesting building beside the        our family from the stalls lining the
                               tracks as we pulled into the station.       platform. But, I think that God had
                               I had to have a photo of it. We were        other plans for me that day.

10                                           first quarter 2008
                                                                                               A random encounter

You can see here the photo of the            just accomplished a most remarkable
building that caught my interest.            feat: providing fine fare for my family
And yes, there is an ATM at the Zima,        for the next five hours? I stepped back
Siberia station and it does dispense         into our cabin and picked up one of
rubles using my bankcard. I was two          the sausages. “There’s a Tajik out here
for two with ten minutes left. Now,          begging who fought in the Afghan
over to the kiosks for provisions. “Two      war,” I announced. I reached down
sausages,” I said in English pointing        with my offering. He reached up with
to the treasured sustenance with one         his outstretched hand. A Siberian
                                                                                        The train winds its ways across Russia
hand while holding up two fingers            sausage passed between us.
with the other. Back in our train cabin
I spread our meal out before the             That should have been it. In fact, if      was smiling. The begging was over. I
adoring faces of my loved ones.              I were writing the story, that is how      ran to the window to bid him and his
                                                          it would have ended.          son farewell. Looking back at them
“I did it,” I said to myself       ‘there are two         I wanted the train to         on the Zima platform I waved as I
walking back into the                                     move. “Certainly it’s been    watched them diminish in size while
train corridor to look out        things that are twenty minutes by now,” I             the Trans-Siberian Railway took us
upon Zima. But as I gazed                                 thought. The man tucked       onward to another adventure.
upon the field of battle          never full – the the sausage into his coat
on which I had been so                                    pocket with thanks and        Back in the States in the Interserve
victorious, my eyes fell           beggar’s bowl continued beseeching                   office, Lois and I met with our finance
down upon a bedraggled                                    for more, more food,          director. “You’ll need to raise more
man in his mid-thirties and the mullah’s and maybe some rubles                          support to meet your budget,” he
and what I took to be his                                 too. “Why couldn’t he be      said. Lois’ modest salary from the
young son beside him.
                                      stomach.’           happy with my sausage?”       school in Thailand was finished
The boy’s hands were                                      I thought. “It’s like the     and we now need to make up the
full. He was clutching two halves of         Afghans say, ‘there are two things         shortfall. With eighteen months
a watermelon. His father was gazing          that are never full – the beggar’s         before us in both the States and New
up at me with a beseeching look,             bowl and the mullah’s stomach.’”           Zealand, we face the unenviable task
that universal expression of piteous                                                    of finding funds from donors who
appeal beggars use was etched                I met myself on the train platform in      support our ministry.
across his face. As he began his spiel       Zima, Siberia. I wanted my giving to
I was astounded. I understood him.           be easy. Out of my abundance had I         At the same time, these donors are
He was speaking Persian.                     not been so generous? I wanted him         not some random travellers passing
                                             to be satisfied – satisfied with my        through our lives. They are partners
It never ceases to amaze me that             small talk in Persian, satisfied with my   with us in our work, some of them
when I meet people in these exotic           compliments about his son, satisfied       showing interest in us for over fifteen
places and we begin to speak in a            with the gift from my table. And still     years. I’ve been pleased to find how
minority language like Persian, they         the train did not move. But I did. I       many folk back home really have
fail to think it strange that a foreigner    came back into our cabin and sulked,       been keeping up with us, reading
can speak, with limited capacity in          turning over the uncomfortable             our newsletters, praying for us, and
my case, their native tongue. He was         occurrence in my mind. “Why can            supporting our ministry.
a Persian speaking Tajik, a veteran          I not feel satisfied through this
of the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan            giving?” I mused.                          Yet even with all that, despite the
war, from whence the deployable                                                         “noble cause”, I often feel like a
condition of his life ensued. Did I not      The train jerked and began to move         beggar at a train station. I guess that’s
have a few rubles to spare? Well, I          forward. I looked past our cabin           my challenge during this season of
did. In fact, my pockets were literally      door into the corridor and saw the         life: how to give and how to receive.
brimming with rubles.                        veteran from the Afghanistan war           And it all rose to the surface when I
                                             jumping up to catch a final look at        met myself on the train platform in
I could be magnanimous. Had I not            me through the window. His face            Zima, Siberia.

                                                     first quarter 2008                                                          11

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