We were waiting at the train station. We were about halfway through the trip, had been in Mutarara for a couple of days and were now heading to Yaminga. The train was expected about 10:30 pm. We had arrived at about 5pm, just before the sun was about to set.
This enabled us to find a place to wait amongst the many others there. At least 100 people were doing as we were. The station was quite large and with a cement pad, railroad-tie benches, and no roof. There was a light that shone down once it got dark, but other than that our only comfort came from the fabric cloths we had brought, and thankfully I had my sweatshirt with.
At first the wind blew hot for as the sun set the surrounding rock hills gave off their heat that they had stored that day. It had been a scorcher. I’d spent most of the day in Mutarara laying on a mat in the church just trying to stay cool (sorta being the operative word). And so it had been strange to in the midst of searing heat ensuring that my sweatshirt was ready for the night.
The plan was to board the train about 10:30 and to travel through the night to Yaminga, arriving about 6am. It was therefore imperative that we try to catch a bit of sleep as we waited. My sweatshirt became my padding under me and my backpack made for a pretty good pillow. In this way I could also ensure that it wasn’t snatched while I slept. I figured my head made a pretty good guard dog.
The time went by. At first I couldn’t sleep. I’d had one of my few coca-cola’s earlier that evening and there was no sleeping for me. So I settled into holding the little one so that her Mamma could sleep a touch. The men took some walks, bought us buns and water, and I later learned that Whisky had even taken a quick bath in the nearby river for refreshment.
Sleeping in fits and starts is an interesting way to pass a night. And while sleeping on rail-road tie benches is unique it wasn’t all that different than the mat on concrete or dirt floors that had been our beds for more than a weeks time already. Railroad ties were surprisingly comfortable in fact.
All around was the chatter and busyness of people. There were the young people laughing and flirting with each other. The occasional drunk man made his bit of declaration to anyone who would listen. Boys of 10-12 years old had gathered to sit near me (this happened everywhere I went).
It must have been about midnight that the chatter finally stopped and we all became quiet for a time. Women nearby spread out their blankets on the concrete floor and stretched out for a good nap. Men sat and nodded off with heads askew. Children curled up next to parents.
At some point in time as I was asleep something ran across me. It is one of my mortal fears, to have some cockroach or spider of rodent run over me while I’m sleeping. But as I woke with a quick gasp and thrashing of my hand to speed its run I realized with quiet satisfaction that my worst fear had happened and I was still alive to tell about it. I was making progress.
The fellows had a bench nearby and took turns stretching out and getting in full sleeps. Mamma and I were next to each other on our bit of bench and as the night turned deeper and the possibility of mosquitoes became greater every once in awhile I’d feel the soft thump of cloth on my body and face as she waved away anything that might be bothering me.
I’d gotten used to this by now. And as I lay there half asleep and with my eyes closed I simply smiled at her care. Of course, I couldn’t go to sleep with her whacking at me, but nonetheless I said nothing and simply appreciated her heart over me. Later in the night she put one of her cloths on me as a blanket. This too I was used to, and so I simply kept on ‘sleeping’ as she tucked me in.
One of my greatest concerns some years back as I was entering into this work was the wondering who would care for me as I cared for many others. As I poured out for many who might pour into me? Well this trip it was Isabel. She diligently took my care in hand, often to an embarrassing extent, yet nonetheless did indeed minister to me. I could not discount the Lord’s provision over me through her. With all the travel and ministry that we undertook in a two week span I am certain I would not have fared so well without her.
So there we were at the train station, waiting and waiting. Now during all my time in Mozambique I never had a watch or means by which to tell time. I learned that the sun set at 6pm each night, and so I could gauge time by that but most often I was a little clueless. Therefore after it seemed that some time had passed I asked Daniel the time. His reply, “Seven minutes to Four”.
I was astonished.
Anyway, we spent the entire night at the train station. Over twelve hours, sitting, laying, curled up, stretched out (sorta) on those railroad-tie benches. It was, all in all, quite the adventure. And I’m not sorry for the experience in any way.