The princess on the platform

The pastor's day

Maywald Jesudass is the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India.

Waiting for a train that's two hours behind schedule is no pleasure, particularly when you are away from home for two months and anxious to get to your loved ones. Incessant rain and the noisy crowd on the railway platform added anger to my anxiety. How long can one talk about weather and the train's delay with frustrated fellow passengers milling around the narrow platform?

Suddenly I saw her. She was perhaps eight or nine. Pleading eyes. Hand outstretched. Another tapping her tummy, indicating its emptiness. A coin satisfied her. She ran along to the next person and then to another. She proved good at her business. Efficient, I would say. I watched from a distance. She was just like any other child. Sound distracted her. Colors attracted her. She stared longingly at those who sat around eating. Perhaps she dreamed of money and lots of good food. Impulsively she ran toward her friends with a broad smile. Proudly she shook her bowl, rattling the coins that proved her success. The girls whispered to one another, perhaps identifying their prey. She soon resumed her work, muttering when unsuccessful and joyful when a coin hit her bowl.

By then she had my undivided attention. There was something familiar about her. Was it her walk? Her voice? Her pleading face? Her sparkling eyes? Her mischievous looks or the way she carried herself? Then suddenly it dawned on me. She reminded me of my daughters.

I hadn't seen them for 65 days. Seemed like years. My daily devotion never ended without admiring their photographs. Calling home each weekend and hearing them say the same things repeatedly was exciting. Letters from my wife described the things our two-year-old did and said, probably never to repeat them again. The eldest one drew pictures, wrote alphabets, numbers, or spellings of newly learned words. She gave me an opportunity to show off to my roommates.

The little girl on the platform reminded me of my beloved daughters. Fairer than the second. Prettier than the first. She looked beautiful. A hot shower should clean her up. Shampoo should make her matted hair breeze down her back. A lacy pink dress with flowers and beads should suit her. Shoes with stockings to match. Good food. Warm clothes. Hugs and kisses. She could be the princess of a lost empire.

Hours later, my mind raced back down the tracks, in the opposite direction from which the train traveled. Unlike the trees, mountains, meadows, and distant houses that disappeared from my gaze, that little girl lingered in my mind. She was becoming a lovable problem. If she reminded me of my daughters, surely she would be attractive to Jesus. Shabby clothes, unkempt hair, hunger and cold, homelessness,... being poor makes inheriting eternity easier. Poor or rich. Adorned by human garments or Christ's righteousness. Either way, she is a princess. The difference is that one fades and is forgotten while the other grows brighter.

My eyes grew heavy. Yet, a question remained unanswered. Would she ever realize she was a princess in Christ Jesus? Who will tell her? I wondered. Missed opportunities rarely return. Maybe I should pray for the laborers who would harvest this difficult vast field of nobodies.

Abba Father, thank You for the rains, for train delays, and for beggars. It is wonderful to see beauty through filth. In shepherd David You saw a king. In cowardly Peter You saw a rock. You are the only one who sees beyond mere humanness. See through her, Lord. Send prophet Samuel or Paul to speak those words. Words that can transform lives and build nations. Maybe like Mary, someday she will break an alabaster box. Compel Your kingdom to come ... soon. Once again, work through the little ones for heaven's gain. Thank You for the princess on the platform. For Your name's sake, begin the miracle in her life. Amen.

I woke up. Don't know when. The train was still speeding along. The starry sky and the smiling moon stood guard over the night. It wasn't the girl who woke me. It was the wind the disturbing wind, which penetrates through closed windows and hearts! Its whisper was deafening. Its grace and power overcame me. Its message was loud and clear....

Peter is dead. You are chosen as Christ's mouthpiece. Go make daughters and sons of footpath and platform dwellers. I'm counting on you.

Even as the night lingered on, light dawned on me. My pastoral ministry should encompass the homeless, the unlovable, and the nobodies of this world.

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Maywald Jesudass is the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India.

May 1999

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