Salvation and interference on a bus into Macedonia
We’d been like followers of some not very popular religions sect, gathering off-hours to worship in someone else’s oversized church. That’s how Thessaloniki’s train station felt during a rail strike, but a few of us needed to get to Macedonia. Specifically me, a class of Dutch teenagers, and a squadron of American missionaries. You know you’re getting off the beaten track when it’s just the Dutch and the Bible-Thumpers around.
Waiting in the warming air I talked to a woman I’d mistaken for a school chaperone, but was only Dutch by coincidence. Their family had lived in Benin and Indonesia for decades, then moved to Skopje two months before. She was sending her 15 year old son back on his own, and though he was fundamentally competent, you could see a substrate of nervousness in him, so I half-jokingly promised her I’d look out for him.
Fresh-faced kid like that, the missionaries noticed him too. We were four minutes into the hours of highway when The Texan invited himself to sit. And divulge. Everything.
“I’m from Texas, d’you know where that is?” His monotone was grating already. “I had a girlfriend in Tennessee and when we broke up I was suicidal, but the Lord Jesus called to me and told me to go forth unto the world…I worked at Walmart, d’you know what that is? (Step by step explanation of how he booked a plane ticket) I went to Australia and I did everything there is to do (extensive list of things one can do in Australia) So we went down to the refugee camps in…in…in some Greek town, I don’t remember the name, and the Lord Jesus told me to pray for these people so I made the group come with me and I found a guy who had a broken foot, he was probably Syrian, and I prayed (demonstration) and the Lord Jesus healed his foot right there while we watched, the man was up and dancing and everything. Then I found another man with a broken back and I prayed (another, longer demonstration) and we heard the bones snapping as the Lord Jesus healed his back because of our prayer, do you believe in Jesus?”
I had no evidence that the Texan ever inhaled. But there was an obligatory mini-pause after his question, and I pounced. Turning to face the two over the seat, I said to the poor kid in Dutch “If you don’t want to listen to him, you can tell him to stop.” His eyes lost a bit of their glaze and a small smile tickled around the edge of his mouth.
Had I overstepped my bounds? Interfered in someone else’s conversation? I have an ideological commitment to respecting religion, but that kind of missionary behavior strikes me as cultural warfare. Had that been gratitude in the kid’s eyes? A second later I had my answer when his quiet and polite voice spoke up.
“Thank you. It’s enough.”