Since I was a small boy, I’ve always admired trains. Whether it is the locomotive, passenger cars, caboose, or the many noises associated with them, I’ve always felt that trains call to us: “All aboard!” However, until eight years ago, with the exception of “specialty” trains operating within zoos or amusement parks, I had never traveled on a train.
On my first train trip to Chicago, I had just completed a full day of meetings and was beginning the six-hour journey back to Michigan. After boarding at Union Station, I quickly found my seat and sank in with a cup of coffee and newspaper while occasionally peering outside to view the sun setting upon the Illinois and Indiana countryside.
After a couple of hours on the rails, I observed that an elderly man was continually walking past me. Eventually, he stopped, turned toward me, and began to speak. And what he said caught me by surprise.
“May I ask you a question? Are you a minister?”
To say the least, I was stunned. After all, I wasn’t wearing a clerical collar or publicly praying the scriptures. Dressed in simple khakis and sweater, I noted that yes, I was, and confided that I had only been ordained a month. After inviting him to sit down, he began to talk.
He confided to me that he was a cancer survivor and had lost hope for a time but persevered because he believed that God would lead him to a doctor with a treatment that would help save his life—or at least prolong it for a time. He noted that through prayer, he was led to another cancer survivor who urged him to see a Chicago oncologist who specialized in what he described as “lost causes.” Then two years past his personal “D-day,” the day on which his original physician had provided him with a terminal diagnosis, he noted that he was responding positively to treatments and had been giving constant thanks to the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ, whom he believed had personally intervened to bring about his healing. As he departed for his seat, I remember thanking the Lord for this gift of healing and asked Him to continue blessing this man.
For the remainder of the ride, I sat and reflected upon the many gifts each of us have been given. In a special way, we are individually “gifted” with unique abilities, skills, and talents. Indeed, not one of us possesses identical ones. In nurturing them, it is true that we may become personally advantaged. But in doing so, God also calls us to use these divinely-given gifts to help build up the Body of Christ. To use the example of a train, God has provided each of us with a unique ticket on the ONE train that leads from Him, through Him, and to Him! As such, our mission is two-fold. First, that we fulfill our own mission that God has given us. And second, that we nurture and encourage the on-time arrival of others, as well.