Minnesota Undercover – Part Ten of Ten
Tim D. McConnaughy Jr.
Everything went black for a moment, as if we had entered a tunnel but suddenly the bi-level coach we were in began to shake. As if in the middle of a massive earthquake the coach started to tilt and rock violently back and forth! It felt worse being on the upper level of the coach—we were sure to come off the tracks! And then there was the familiar smell of smoke as it filled the inside of our passenger car. Looking outside, daylight was rapidly being replaced by an eerie smoky night as the smoke grew thicker and thicker. I heard various screams and cries for help then loud explosions as if someone had lit a few sticks of dynamite next to my chair. I heard people yelling, “Get out! Get out!” and “Save yourself if you can!”
What was happening? I wasn’t sure but I knew I wanted off the train—and fast. I tried to find an exit but I couldn’t see well enough to escape. All the doors in the coach appeared to be blocked by fire and then I remembered Natalie. Where was Natalie? Was she safe?
I searched the area around me again but the smoke was growing thicker than spoonfuls of Blackstrap molasses. People tried to smash any window that might break. I heard more yelling and then someone cried out, “We took the wrong train!”
Suddenly I heard a crash and then a thud, like something heavy had fallen close by. That’s when I awoke to find a large aluminum designer suitcase lying in the aisle only a few feet from where I was sitting. While the suitcase may have looked oddly familiar, I figured it must have come from the baggage rack above me. I glanced up to see Natalie sitting in the same seat she had been sitting in when we got on the train. She looked a little surprised as she stared at the lifeless suitcase laying on the floor. We both stared at the large piece of luggage for a moment and then I thought I really was smelling smoke.
I took a deep breath to be sure. Sure enough, the smell of smoke was rapidly filling the space around us and I let out a brief cough. I quickly began to look around for a fire or smoke. I looked behind me and saw the gentleman seated there in the process of lighting a cigarette. A conductor nearby quickly rushed over to him and told him to put it out. Only a cigarette, what a relief! I thought. I was thankful there had been no fire and our train was still moving safely down the track.
The train conductor then noticed the suitcase on the floor. He picked it up and put the heavy piece of luggage back in the overhead rack just above my head. Just then the announcement was made that we would be coming to our first major stop on the way out West. I was hoping this stop would allow me the opportunity to finally call my wife.
The train slowed as it neared what looked to me to be a small lonely train depot in the middle of no-man’s-land. I glanced through the side window at a sign on the front of the little depot. I read it: No-Mans-Land Train Depot. The sign made me chuckle. Someone’s attempt at humor I guess.
The train came to a complete stop and Natalie and I, together with some other passengers, got off the train. The first thing I noticed after exiting our train’s coach was how cold it was outside compared to inside the warm the coach car—it felt at least 50 degrees colder. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground and it made a crunching sound as we walked toward the little metal depot building. I noticed the depot was nearly completely surrounded by trees that had been lightly flocked with fresh snow. A few of the passengers took the time to smoke a cigarette while I intended to place a call to California. Once inside the small building I checked my phone to see if there was cellular service in the area. Surprisingly there was and I noticed my wife had left me several voicemail messages and a few texts.
I noticed Natalie was already calling someone so I proceeded to dial my wife’s number. After three rings I waited for her to answer. Another ring and then I heard her lovely voice. “Thank you for calling Emily McGregor, please leave your name, number and a brief message after the beep and I will call you back.” I had reached my wife’s voicemail box and it was a familiar message, in fact one I had heard many times before. Yet this time hearing her soft voice felt different–more sentimental in light of the tragedy unfolding around the country. I waited for the beep and left a quick message of my own telling her I was okay and was riding home on the train. Then I listened to her messages in which my wife told me she was okay but understandably had been concerned about my safety and whereabouts. I had barely hung up the phone when I heard the train whistle again. I returned to my seat and soon we were on our way.
Later when the train stopped somewhere in Montana, I tried calling my wife again. This time we finally connected and she told me I had made the correct decision to take the train (despite my having a nightmarish dream) since all flights around the country had indeed been grounded.
Now it’s true that being from the Northwest coast of California my wife and I had grown accustomed to earthquakes, flooding and Tsunami drills but no one could get used to enemy attacks like our country was now facing. My wife had told me that various news outlets had been reporting that the president was in an undisclosed location. There was still mass hysteria and panic ongoing across the country as news of the horrific events continued to spread. All malls and amusement parks had been put on high alert and some were being completely shut down out of an abundance of caution. She told me that our small town was also on edge and that local police patrols had been expanded locally but something else was happening. The recent events, as tragic as they were, had a way of bringing people together. Communities large and small were coming together like never before. I was just thankful she was okay. We said goodbye and I got back on the train.
I settled back into my chair and began to open my Bible when I heard Natalie speaking to me.
“I had an abortion,” she said.
Natalie raised her hands up to her face with her head down and started to cry. I could hear pain in her voice as she spoke.
“I thought you should know,” she said. “My family doesn’t even know yet.”
As we spoke further she told me that she had had the abortion a few years ago. At the time she had run away from her home near Seattle and wasn’t sure she even wanted to live anymore. She told me she had kept the abortion a secret up until recently. She had been going to school in the Twin Cities when she heard about a conference in Bloomington. It was the Renewing the Mind conference I had attended. Natalie told me she didn’t want to go but some of her friends were going so she went along anyways.
“When I saw you speaking at the conference,” Natalie said, pausing just long enough to catch her breath between sobs. “I heard you and the others speak about God and how much He hates sin.” she said.
“Someone at the conference spoke about the importance of not being like the world. At that moment I felt more awful about what I had done and more alone than ever. I mean, I had taken a baby’s life! Questions about why I was even on earth began to overtake my thoughts. Right then and there I just wanted to hold my baby!” she said crying.
People seated around us on the train began to look at us with a mix of concern and bewilderment. I grabbed some tissues that were laying on the seat beside me and handed some to her. Through her tears Natalie continued telling her story.
“Then I heard you mention there was a way of escape from God’s anger and judgment for our sin, whatever it might be,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I believed in that but I wanted to know more in case I was wrong.” Natalie continued. “I don’t remember who it was but I heard someone say we could be forgiven of all our wrong doing against God. It felt like they were speaking directly at me! I started to cry right there in my chair. My friends and some of the other girls there came over to me and put their arms around me. I then told Jesus that I knew I had broken God’s commandments and needed Him to save me from what I deserved. Right there I repented of my sin and told them about my abortion and that I had just put my trust in Jesus Christ. They prayed with me, gave me a Bible and now I’m here.”
I had tears in my eyes after hearing Natalie’s story. God had saved her and now she had true peace for the future despite what was going on in the world. I was so happy for her and her renewed relationship with the Creator. We continued to talk as the train passed through Idaho and crossed the border into Washington State.
The scenery on the trip had been gorgeous, the ride was smooth and now we were entering the final day of the train trip. Outside, the sunlight was beginning to fade again on the snow that capped the mountains in the distance. I knew that once we reached Spokane, the train would make a switch. Part of the train would go through Oregon while the rest would continue toward Seattle. It would be morning when we would reach this junction. Once we reached it, Natalie and I would say goodbye and go our separate ways. When that time finally came to say our goodbyes we exchanged hugs and agreed to keep in touch. My train headed toward Portland and I watched the sun begin to peek from behind a ridge of mountains. I watched a few remaining stars twinkle in the early morning light.
Staring at the stars reminded me of why I had made the trip to Minnesota in the first place. Sure I had come to speak at a conference but for me it was more than that. This trip was a reminder, a reminder we all need. As a speaker at the conference it had been my hope to point people to the One who had made the stars in the first place. And if they didn’t believe in Him I would tell them why it mattered. There is a battle raging on around us—a battle between good and evil. It’s essential we be reminded of who triumphs over evil. In light of the recent events, I didn’t know if I or anyone else would ever be flying again or if I would even make another trip to somewhere. However, it was clear that the world was crumbling and people were seeking hope and peace. Now it was time for people to be told about true hope and peace—eternal hope and peace found only in Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.
Missed Part One of the story? Start at the beginning.
Minnesota Undercover is a work of fiction. With the exception of well-known historical figures and events, all names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents contained in this story are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.