Their train was due to arrive at 5:20 AM at Keleti (Western) railway station in Budapest, Hungary. They were arriving after an 11 hour trip from Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
That is how my workday started last week on a Friday. I had been tasked with meeting two ladies who had fled Ukraine and were connecting through Budapest. They had already made their way through two other countries before coming to Hungary on route to the, hopefully, final destination.
I arrived just in time to catch these ladies as they got off the train. I was to pick them up, drive them to the other station and help them buy their next ticket. However, upon arrival at the station, the ticker board showed a delay from a 5:20 arrival time to a 7:55 arrival time! At this point, I was communicating with my team in Romania who coordinated this to inform them of the delay. I messaged one of the ladies, and she advised me that they had been stopped at the border to show the papers to cross and everyone on the train had to get off and then get back on.
Oh, I had forgotten to mention that it was around -3 Celsius (26.5 F) that morning, and so everyone was cold just from being outside.
So, I waited in my car as no coffee shops were open at this time of the morning for a warm cup of coffee. I set my alarm to be able to greet these ladies at their new arrival time as I attempted to grab a nap. Upon looking at the ticker board again, there was another delay of a further 20 minutes. So, I set up and waited again and just watched as the refugees around the station were greeted with food, hot tea, and even food and free vaccination for the animals.
As the train arrived and people began debarring I kept looking at the photo I was sent to search for these ladies. I then received a text message from the other lady who sent a photo of where she was standing, so I went and met her.
I greeted her and asked her how the trip was and she motioned for me to stop. She didn’t speak or understand any English. So we then pulled out our phones and with the assistance of Google translate, we began to speak. She told me that at the border, they had gotten split up and ended up on different trains. So, her friend was not with her, and we had no idea what train she would be on.
So, now we have to wait for the next train to arrive, which is another hour. I asked if she would like something to eat or drink, and she was able to say “hot tea” to which I knew exactly where to get some!
As I handed this to her, she grabbed it and held it as though it were the only warm thing in the building. After a few minutes holding this warm cup, she started writing on her phone and what I read next was not at all what I expected to see.
She said that the train car she was in for the trip was not equipped with any heating system. So, each person in that car, for the 11-hour trip, was subject to the fringed overnight temperatures. My heart broke as what I had just read made me realize that the cold morning I had been experiencing was only a sliver of what she had been subject to for over 11 hours. I noticed that she was not putting any gloves on after she was done with the tea. So, I assumed that she didn’t have any and offered her my thin gloves. She looked at me with such a thankful face that I couldn’t even begin to describe the feeling that came over me. With her tiny voice, she said thank you and put the gloves on.
We continued to speak about how she misses Ukraine and how everyone who has helped them along their trip has been so loving and kind. I told her that I’d never been to Ukraine and she spoke about how beautiful it is. She then stopped and said how beautiful it was, and how much she misses it and can’t wait for this war to end so they can go back and rebuild.
At 9:15 the next train came in and we were looking around at all the people coming in, trying to pick out her friend. After a few minutes as the crowds started to settle into their places, she messaged her friend, and the train she had gotten on was still 2 hours outside of Budapest.
It was now 9:30 AM and I had already told my boss that I would be late earlier that morning as soon as I saw the second delay. But, I still needed to get into work and so I started calling my friends who I knew might be able to come down to the station and be with the first lady until the second arrived. I was able to connect with my friend Mark, who was able to come down to wait and then assist with the transfer and ticket purchase.
Once he arrived I was able to give him the updates and I then headed off to work and waited for any news. About 1 hour later I got a call and the second lady had arrived and they were able to make it to the next train station. They were unable to catch the train they were aiming for, so they ended up booking one for later that night. Mark asked if they would like to put their bags at the church and walk around the city for a while. They were so happy to have that opportunity, so they headed back to the church.
Upon driving there, they met with my friend and fellow missionary here in Hungary Ryan, who was the first person I had called to see if he would be able to come and help. He was running on no sleep that week and said that if I am unable to find anyone else, he will come down.
As soon as these ladies saw him, they said “we know you!”. Ryan, who had been in Romania the night before serving refugees there, had been serving in the same service that these ladies were in. Out of the 100+ people there, Ryan just happened to find them and spend a few minutes talking. So, with a familiar face, he was able to take them around the city and show them the beautiful sights of Budapest for the rest of the day until their train departed.
This is just a small picture of what God is capable of doing. When God brings us an opportunity to serve, no matter how small it may seem, these things will have an impact on your life for the remainder of your years. Please take every opportunity that God presents to you as you never know whose lives you will touch in the process.
If you have made it through this whole story, please consider donating toward what A Jesus Mission is doing in Ukraine and the surrounding regions. Each Dollar, Euro, or Pound you donate goes toward bringing not only food, warmth, and transport to those fleeing a war zone, but also the hope of Christ to those who are mentally, physically, and spiritually trying to process and manage the world around them.