On the way home from speaking in Canada at Doreen Penner‘s women’s conference, I rode the Canadian Via Railway train across the Rockies in Canada and the U.S. Amtrak train going from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle, Washington; Seattle, Washington, across the Rockies to Chicago; and then Chicago to Kansas City, Missouri, where I live. This is part 3 of my Canada Trip Blog Series. You can read Part 2 here.

Canada Trip, Part 3: A young man searching for God and “the angel”

As I shared in part 2 of this blog series, I told Ray that all I wanted for my birthday this year was to ride on a train. On this trip, I was able to speak at a women’s conference, see Canada, AND ride a train! I’ll share more later about the awesome people I met in Canada, but for now I want to tell you  the exciting train stories. I had several divine appointments. I also wondered if one of the people on the train was an angel.

I’ve only ridden a train twice before, and those were for short distances. I’d never ridden a long-distance train before  and wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve decided that I like trains, but not train stations. They are crowded and dirty, not as nice as airports.

They are rather boring, so you shouldn’t get there too early – but early enough so you won’t miss your train. They WILL leave you at your stop, as one did a man who went to get a cheeseburger. I will tell you this amusing story later. Some stations are more crime-ridden than others, like Chicago’s. They do offer snack shops. The larger ones have more stores and places to eat, and even t.v.’s to watch the news.

The conductor really does say, “All aboard!” for you to board the train a few minutes before departure.

On the Canadian Via train, a CBC camera crew boarded to film children traveling by train. They also took footage of some of the other passengers. I think they cut my part when I looked up into the camera and said smiling widely, “Hi!” to the camera man, a big no-no in t.v.. You are supposed to pretend the camera is not there when on t.v. So I’ll never be a star…My one big chance for fame and celebrity-hood and I blow it, sigh! 🙂

It was surreal

The private sleeper cabins with beds are small and are much more expensive than coach, and to save costs, I booked a seat in coach. Next time, I will probably book a sleeper cabin so I can have a bed. The coach seats do recline.

Surprisingly, even though I often have problems with insomnia, I slept fairly well on the trains. Maybe it’s the motion of the wheels. The train whistle was surreal at times and was actually comforting in my sleep. It totally blessed me that God made my dream come true.

Have you started making your bucket list yet? What are your dreams?

The train was not as crowded as planes are, and security is a lot less strict. While I hate and feel violated how over-the-top strict airport security is today, I was shocked how lax the security is on a train. It seemed like anyone could just walk onto the train from the street at our stops without being checked.

Bring cash on your train trip

If you are on the Canadian Via train, you need Canadian money! They don’t accept U.S. dollars in the dining car and at the snack shop. One of the lessons I learned! I think some trains accept debit/credit cards. The meals are anywhere from $15 to $28 each on the train, so you need to bring a lot of money or buy groceries to eat, especially for long distance trips. I ate one nice meal on the train, but bought food to eat the rest of my meals. Next time I’m dining on the train more. It was delicious!

The U.S. Amtrak train is much cleaner, newer, and nicer than the Canadian Via Train, but the Amtrak train made a lot more stops due to freight and passenger trains. For example, I arrived three hours late in Chicago. The conductor would tell us why we were driving so slowly or why we were stopped, but it was still annoying at times.

But as the “angel” said to me (who I’ll tell you about in a minute), in America we are always in a hurry, rushing, rushing, busy with some place to go. Trains are slower and give you time to think about your life – what is going right, and what you are doing wrong. Trains give you a chance to spend some time with God and reflect and pray.

The Canadian train trip to Vancouver (across the Rockies) had much more beautiful scenery. Canada has a lot of farmland. My husband Ray would love it. There is something about wanting to own a lot of land that is in a man’s blood. “The land gets inside of us; and we must decide one way or another what this means, what we will do about it.”  – Barry Lopez

The further we went, the more we encountered the challenges of snow, ice, frozen lakes, trees, and huge rocks on either side, and snowy mountains. Despite the dangers, though, I felt safe on the train. I knew God was with me for the ride. 🙂

On the Via train to Vancouver

Doreen Penner and her precious friend Helen Reimer, who hosted me at her beautiful, Italian-decor home while I was in Mitchell, Manitoba, took me to the train station to see me off. Doreen prayed for me before I boarded, and we both cried! I miss my Canadian girlfriends!

Below is a pic of Helen and me at the Via train station. I confess that I was secretly coveting Helen’s beautiful, fashionable, white coat with the big, black buttons, and Helen’s hair. It is highlighted blonde on top, and toward the bottom and underneath, it is dark brown. She is licensed to do hair and did her hair herself. Doreen and I saw coats like Helen’s at the mall when we went shopping. Doreen and Helen are beautiful women, inside and out.

Me & my new precious friend Helen

One of my goals was to write on the train. The train ride went smoothly overall, but at times it was bumpy, which made writing on the dinner tray a little hard to do. (The tray pulls out of the seat like plane trays.)

Below is my pretty flowered journal that I wrote in during my train trip. I bought this at one of Canada’s Dollar stores called Dollaroma, like our Dollar General or Dollar Tree. I was surprised at how MANY American stores and businesses that Canada has, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and J.C. Penny. Doreen and Helen often cross the border to shop in Grand Forks, IN.

My journal on Canada train trip

In my journal, I wrote, “On the train now for Vancouver. It definitely is not what I expected. The train building is very old, probably built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. I was expecting something more modern…we are now by the Red River. I’ve had an incredible time here in Canada. It’s going to take two days to get to Vancouver. The train is not that crowded…the train is going pretty slow. I do hope it goes faster.” The train, at higher speeds, goes about 80 mph. One night I awoke in the middle of the night to it hauling butt. It must have been at top speed. It was pretty fun.

My first divine appointment on the train

On the Canadian Via train, after I sat down and put up my bags, a young man in about his late 20’s or 30’s sat next to me. We would be on the train for two days. I was content to enjoy the beautiful scenery outside my window and write, but after dinner the first night, he suddenly struck up a conversation with me. I found out that he’d ridden the train before and was riding for pleasure this time. He was engaged to a woman, had a baby son with her, and had one baby on the way.

For the next hour and a half, this young man, Eric, talked to me primarily about God. When he found out I was a Christian, he began asking me all kinds of questions about God, Satan, the garden of Eden and Adam’s and Eve’s temptation, Job, life, suffering. His father Peter was in the last stages of cancer and dying, but he was at peace because he had faith in Jesus. Eric was troubled because he didn’t know if he believed in God or not, and was afraid of dying and what came after that.

He asked me questions about Buddha, Allah, and reincarnation. I shared the gospel with him, and how Jesus is the best thing that had ever happened to me and is my Best Friend. Suddenly in the middle of the conversation, the man in front of Eric began to talk about Jesus, too. He said that Jesus is the only “god” who ever died and came back to life.

I smiled and said to Eric, “Do you think this is all just a coincidence? God knew that I would be sitting next to you on this train, and that man in front of you. He put us both by you so we could tell you about Jesus. None of this is an accident, Eric! God loves you and wants an intimate relationship with you through His son Jesus! He wants to save you. He has a great plan for your life!”

Via train

Eric didn’t say the “sinner’s prayer” on the train, but I have no doubt that what I shared, and the man in front of him did, greatly impacted his life. I shared the good news with him. I planted the seed, someone else will water, and God will cause the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6) It was obvious God had touched him and made him really think about things.

The “angel” on the train

As I shared, there was a man in front of Eric who began interjecting about Jesus during the middle of our conversation. I’d seen the man when I first boarded the train. He was very tall and skinny, dressed in scraggly clothes with a camouflage hat.

I confess that at first, I avoided him because from his clothes, he looked like a homeless person and I didn’t know if I could trust him or if my belongings were safe around him. Later, God really convicted me for this initial judgment for his appearance. He turned out to be such a good person and he helped me so much!

After he shared about Jesus’ resurrection with Eric and Eric got off the train the next morning (with me giving him some last encouraging words about God’s love for him), the man stood up and asked our French cab attendant Sylvie if he could move over to the seat across from him, in front of me.

She said yes, and he turned around and looked at me, saying with great authority, “Ask and you shall receive.” (Matthew 7:7)

This startled me and at this point, I began to wonder if he was an angel in disguise. (After hearing the story, one of my friends is CONVINCED he was an angel! She said, “Do you REALLY think this man traipsed all over Canada and North America on EVERY single train ride with you all the way to Kansas City, helping you, and he was just a man? This was an angel!”)

The Bible says in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

I watched him intently. I noticed that he spread peanut butter on thick, wheat slices of bread and ate cold corn out of a can with a plastic spoon. WHAT?!

I couldn’t turn off my analytical, logical, inquiring mind. Why would God send an angel on a train who was dressed in scraggly clothes and who ate corn out of a can? Yet, what a better disguise? And the Bible says that God uses the foolish things to confound the wise. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

Stay tuned for part 4 of my Canada Blog Series, where I share more about this man who was a divine appointment.

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