Monday, September 5, 2011

Fire on the Train

By Mary Vee

Gladys Aylward's Thoughts

photo courtesy of
Guiding one hundred children as they board a train is not an easy task. 

Especially when the group of children didn't understand what a train was. None had heard the thunder of a train approaching, the pshshshshs of the brakes engaging, and the clatter of the metal wheels on the train rails before.

With God's help, one hundred little faces sat with criss-crossed legs on the floor of a train car. Since all seats had been removed, more people could crowd into the car. Other refugees sat with us which made wiggle space pretty tight.  We sang songs and played guessing games for about one hour before the train conductor shouted, "All aboard."

Train wheels tugged forward and the car rocked sideways.  The children giggled when they fell to the right or left onto each other. Fortunately, I had planted older ones among the youngers to help with safety. After all, a foot in the eye is not a pleasant experience!

The train picked up speed, rumbling faster and faster along the train track. The other refugees in the our train car laughed as the children smiled, squeeled, giggled, and tumbled with the new train sensations.
The rumble noise of the train made speaking difficult. Every time I tried to give directions to the children, the sound overshadowed my voice. Still, I managed to keep some control.

About two hours after the train left the platform an older Chinese man called to the children near him. He acted like he wanted to do a magic trick. The boys and girld were intrigued by the man's wiggling eyebrows. I must admit, I was interested in what he wanted to do, also.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a candle. It was a stubby piece of wax obviously used many times before. He motioned the children to scootch back a little. They squirmed about one foot away.

The Chinese man set the candle on the floor then slowly lit the wick.

I don't know what the children thought at first but it wasn't a happy one. The children had witnessed bombs go off near them, seen their homes and crops on fire, and heard gunfire.  Any surprise, big or little, could scare them.

As fire burst from the wick, three of the little boys scurried toward the candle and blew hard. The fire disappeared the same instant the train car plunged into a tunnel!

It was dark

Don't breathe dark.

A cold, scary dark leaped at our faces.

The little ones screamed as though they had been seriously hurt.

Their scared, high-pitched voices filled the car.

The older children and I reached out to the little ones to calm them. Other refugees helped. Then, as quick as the dark blasted, a spark of friendly light came from the Chinese man's candle. He held it in the air to help the children see their train car.

The little ones stopped crying when they saw the light. They sniffed and breathed sobbing breaths until their bodies let them rest. Each little one had an older one to hug.  Each older one held their charge close and spoke softly to calm him or her.

We rode on the train four days, rocking and rolling with the train car. Sometimes we stopped at villages where the people shared their food with those of us on the train. While the children ate, I slept until we needed to reboard the train.

I was so thankful the candle's little flame did not start a big fire.  Once again, God protected us.

Next time I'll tell you about the blown-out bridge that stopped the train.

Gladys Aylward

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