Risk-Taking Courage Needed for Leadership Development (Miracle on the Orient Express Part 2)
Miracle on the Orient Express Part 2 (A Leadership Development Story)
“In your leadership development journey, what are you scared spitless to do…even when you know God is calling on you to do it?”
This is the question I ask in the first postof this 2-Part Series.
This true story about delivering Bibles into a Communist country is not about my courage.
It’s about the a risk-taking courage that is a gift from God.
It’s about the driving force that propels leaders forward, when we, as ordinary people, are afraid to do what we are called to do…yet, do it anyway.
I recall numerous times in my life when I was stuck. Usually it’s because I’m frozen with fear. This fear isn’t always brought on by a legitimate physical threat. Mostly it’s the enemy within me, creating this paralyzing fear…
- What will others say if I do that?
- What will happen to my career if I do this?
- What if this is the wrong decision?
Leadership Development Reminder
Then, I remind myself that we are most fruitful as spiritual leaders when we:
- Humbly hear, and
- Courageously obey.
Based on the chaos rampant in today’s world, it is clear that each of us responds differently to chaos and confusion. However, it’s crucial that we, as Christian leaders, respond with wisdom and courage.
Now is not the time to sit around, sing a few feel-good songs, and wait for someone else to do something!
Our leadership matters greatly at this time in history.
Your leadership matters greatly. The eyes of the Millennials, GenZs, and many others are locked on you.
In Part One of Miracle on the Orient Express, I summarized some of the challenges with delivering Bibles into a communist country in 1980. If you’ve missed Part One, get it here.
The final part of this Leadership Development Story
As my colleague and I enter our train compartment on the Orient Express, a sense of foreboding immediately comes over me.
In this business, all border crossings are risky. There are so many unknown factors. Will the guards examine every square inch of the vehicle, suitcase, and your clothing? Or, will they be in a jovial mood? Will they be upset at the previous tourist, and take it out on you? Or, will they be intrigued that you are American and let you through quickly?
The tension mounts as we roll into the Hungarian-Romanian border at 1 am.
I find it impossible to relax. We’re in a train compartment with four strangers. Are any of them spies? I have no idea. I only know we need to be vigilant all the time. But I’m also exhausted. So are my companions. We’re all trying to get some sleep. It’s hard doing that in a sitting position, there’s no space to lie down. However, we must have dozed off, because, as the train pulls into the border station, a guard bursts through the door, waking all of us.
Leadership Development Lesson 1
He turns his attention to the elderly woman sitting across from me. He gruffly commands her to pull down her brown, tattered suitcase from the overhead compartment. She feigns being too weak. Irritated, he instructs the successful-looking businessman sitting next to her to help.
The man, dressed in a blue, pin-stripe suit, gets up, lowers the suitcase, and sets it gently on the seat. The guard instructs the old lady to open the suitcase. She fidgets, struggling to do so. Finally, she haltingly zips the suitcase open, raising the top. I have a clear view of the suitcase. I can see that it is loaded with electronic parts. It’s not one of the four big no-no’s, however, it’s still contraband in these parts of the world. What will the guard do now?
The silhouette outside the train station doesn’t calm me. The imposing guard tower against the full moon reveals a barbed wire fence, a menacing guard dog, and an armed border guard.
After staring at the content of the suitcase for a few seconds, the station guard steps outside the compartment and calls his assistant. I can’t understand what he’s saying, but the tone of his voice is unmistakable. He is angry! The assistant picks up the suitcase and exits our cabin. The fuming guard grabs the poor woman by her arm. Without a word he hauls her off. I am stunned.
Really, who would expect this innocent looking “grandma” to be a smuggler?!? I guess you can’t tell my looking at the outward appearance, can you?
Leadership Development Lesson 2
The guard returns, without the old lady, and now moves to the most well-dressed of the three businessmen. Again, he commands the man to pull his suitcase down from the overhead compartment. As the bag opens, I see the same type of electronic components that “grandma” had. However, this time, a bottle of whiskey is lying on top of the contraband. The guard casually takes the bottle, slips it into his shoulder bag, and gives a nod of approval to the well-dressed businessman.
The situation repeats itself with businessman number two and three: get suitcase down, open suitcase filled with electronic contraband, the guard takes the bottle of high-end liquor, followed by a nod of approval.
My tension increases with each passenger check – I realize that I don’t have a bribe for the guard! Important lesson to learn!
Leadership Development Lesson 3
Finally, the stern-looking guard motions to my partner, glance at our passports, and then points to our bright orange backpacks in the overhead compartment. Even though they are packed to the hilt with Bibles, my partner and I pretend that they are light. As they clunk to the floor, we look to the guard for our next set of instructions. We’re hoping and praying that something will happen and he won’t require us to open them and reveal the Bibles.
But then the command comes…
With an impatient gesture, he instructs us to open the backpacks. As we slowly begin to unlace and untie them, he’s getting irritated with us. I take a deep breath, say another silent prayer, and begin to slowly raise the top flap of my orange backpack.
Just as the flap is about to expose the massive stash of Bibles, there’s a shout at the other end of the train. Another guard is shouting, “Help!”
Our guard pauses for a second, then indicates to us to stay where we are.
We wait five minutes, and no guard. Ten minutes, no guard. Finally, after fifteen minutes, the Orient Express begins to roll out of the station. I realize that the guard isn’t coming back.
With a feeling of utter disbelief, I realize that I’ve been a part of a miracle! The guard isn’t coming back! Miracles still happen in today’s world!
Leadership Development Lesson 4
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear….” Psalm 27:1, NIV
As the train pulls away from the border, I fight to contain my relief and joy, not wanting to alert any of the other passengers or possible spy’s. Quickly, I turn my back
on them, facing the window. Tears stream down my face as I reckon with God’s miraculous protection and faithfulness.
Through tears of thanksgiving, a scene of promise becomes etched into my heart – A brilliant full moon outlines a barbed-wire fence, where the guard watchtower is staffed by a line guard with a large machine gun and a ferocious-looking Doberman.
Even today, when I see a full moon, I am reminded that God is the God of the Impossible. I can implicitly trust him to accomplish all that He calls me to do, when I humbly hear and courageously obey.
Leadership Development Epilogue
The Orient Express is now out of service, but not forgotten.
I’d like to think that our risk-taking Bible missions inspired Christian leaders to take action in Eastern Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain.
Regardless of the political ripple effects, the leadership lessons I learned during these treks continue to challenge me today to:
- Humbly hear, and
- Courageously obey.
Your Leadership Development Story
How about you?
What is important in your life, but requires risk-taking courage?
What is more important than your fear?
Drop me a line and tell me about the scriptures that remind you of God’s risk-taking courage. What other practices do you have to find the courage to move forward despite your fears? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Leadership Development Lesson:
We are most fruitful as a leader when we humbly hear…and courageously obey.
Leadership Development Question:
What are the areas in your life where you need God’s risk-taking courage?