After months of riding city buses, my technique had improved. No longer did I ask before boarding if the driver was headed to my destination. Even if he could understand my Spanish, I often could not understand his. It was never just a or no answer but rather always something in between that left me clueless. My decision to board would then be made under the duress of his glare and the honking cars behind us—stressful and unnecessary.

My new method was simple. When an approaching bus looked hopeful, I climbed on. If it took me to the right place, I logged the bus number and scored a victory. If the bus turned an undesirable corner, I jumped off and repeated the process until I scored a victory. If the bus ended up at the terminal with one lone and confused passenger, I observed bus-washing between rounds before finally scoring a most-appreciated victory.

Indeed, it was a victorious adventure learning to ride the buses in Santiago, a city of five million when I arrived in 1992. You wonder why I did not get a listing of the bus routes? Such a listing did not exist back then. That is okay. A little risk and a lot of mistakes are great teachers of humility and dependence on God, and a healthy dose of both are needed by anyone serving Him on foreign soil.

One day while riding to my friend’s apartment, it was not the bus route that challenged me but rather rush-hour traffic—especially the traffic inside the bus. Traveling at this time of day means you are almost guaranteed to have to stand in the aisle, where you will slowly shuffle to the rear of the bus as the crowds ascend and compact. If you end up within three feet of the back door when your stop approaches, you’ll make it out with a manageable struggle. However, if you are still wedged in the center of the bus, you can only wave as your destiny comes and goes—and I had waved a few times too many.

That is why I held tightly to the pole near the driver’s seat and ignored the dirty looks of those who boarded after I did. Where I stood it was not unusual to be bumped by school bags or gouged by umbrellas. What I could not understand this day was why someone from behind so harshly shoved me without passing by. Puzzled, I turned to look. A man’s eyes met mine with a stare that had words. What were they? Something told me not to ask.

Ten minutes later in my friend’s apartment, I set down my over-stuffed purse and did a double-take when its contents peeked out the side. Then I understood. The six-inch slash explained the man’s push and mysterious expression.

Quickly I looked for my wallet. It was still there! Thank You, Father! That’s when I realized what had foiled the would-be thief: Grandma’s hymnbook. Her treasured gift had blocked his path to everything else in my purse.

Over soothing tea, my friend and I rejoiced in God’s loving and timely protection. It was the only time I had carried Grandma’s hymnbook in that purse. It was the only time someone had tried to rob me on a bus. While it was not the only time, I really did need a new purse.

Thank You, Father, for being with us in all our troubles—whether we see them or not—and for limiting the harm that can touch us. Though we cannot understand Your filtering process, help us to trust always in Your goodness, compassion, protection, and sovereign control. In the midst of our troubles today, we praise You for the hope and certainty of Heaven.

©2014 Thrive