It was a rainy winter day in Cape Town. The kind of rain that pours sideways. The gloomy day was chilly and overcast. My Brazilian friend Diogo and I decide to spend the day at Access Park. Access Park is an outlet shopping center we had seen a number of times while riding the trains from Cape Town to Muizenberg. The outlet had always provoked interest we decided to weather the rain to check it out. We mostly wanted to get out of Muizenberg to avoid a three hour staff meeting but also the shops looked cool.
In order for us to get from the Muizenberg to the mall we had to take the train. We made or plan to meet up and sojourn to the outlets. We boarded the busy train thankful that the planned strike that day did not happen after all the fuss. The workers planned a week long strike which would have left us to that staff meeting and ping pong (table tennis) until dinner. We were elated to escape. The train that day was full and it was not even the normal rush time of people going home. We stood by the door opposite of the one we entered.
Diogo and I both quietly observed the other passengers. You learn quickly to be aware of those around you on trains in Cape Town. I usually scan trains nearly unnoticed as an outsider until I speak. My accent has a way of giving me up. This time we observe quietly. All of the passengers sit quietly. I hoped not to be discovered as an American and he to fit in as just another passenger.
I enjoyed riding the train and being apart of that world. I took in the whole experience of the ride. Stepping in, getting use to the smell of the train. Admiring the presence of its passengers. Third class has a culture all of its own. I have now come to love it. The smell of the township reminded me of why I was there. The sounds of the different but native languages and the movements of the big African mama’s remind me of all that is Africa. We had stepped into a different domain.
On the second stop after we entered the train a man with a guitar boarded. I watched him as made his way to see his seat. I noticed that he was using his hands to feel his way around. He was blind. I thought, here we go, I wonder how this one will sound. I had grown accustomed to the train performers who perform for money. Often the songs brought more sadness than delight and you give more to keep them moving than to help them. Sad truths when the poor become nuisances in the hearts of the ones who are to bless them.
I awaited the man to begin his show. This gentleman would usher in a sound that will change the whole flow of our ride. He began to strum his guitar on our quiet train ride and as he did he took us on his ride. He had become the piper and we followed without choice. Our feet began tapping as others begin humming as he sang. As he sang he carried us all away. The Spirit was moving through the train.
We all followed without trying, effortless. He did not ask for anything nor was permission given for the experience but he was like a seed sown. We, the passengers, had become soil and the sound was like water causing the atmosphere to be fruit. It made everyone come alive without effort. We all partook.
A Gogo (grandmother) seated across from where we stood made her way to him. She was a large woman. She is what I envision “Papa” to look like in the book The Shack. She staggered over and dropped coins into his box. When she returned she joined him singing the song he sang. He was obviously singing some kind of gospel. She took her seat and began to sway back and forth singing and clapping. Everything happening quickly.
The lady sitting next to her joined in singing and swaying. I looked around to see the other passengers. Toward the other end of our cabin I saw feet tapping and women clapping. I looked around too eyes closed and people singing with the Guitar Leader. The man that stood across from us moved so much he almost danced. I think he was unaware of how much he was really moving. The Spirit was moving in a way that took us all unaware.
The Gogo that sat across from us started preaching in Xhosa and pointing. People became even more engulfed in the movement that was happening. I looked to the ground to see my right foot just as much apart of the motion. I lost count of how many stops we made I had no account of who had entered or left the cabin.
I looked back up to the Gogo and she was preaching again while pointing at Diogo. Her face was full of life. We had no idea what she was saying but it made the God in me arise. Something about it just yielded life. When we arrived at our destination I forced myself to leave. The atmosphere was we left our cabin but carried that experience with us. It was infectious and crept into the remainder of the day.
I think about that train ride often. It challenged me. It makes me think about how evident the Kingdom being among us can be. It challenged me to be responsible for what I bring into the company of others. What we carry in us has the ability to change and challenge individuals around us. I am responsible for what spirit, energy and what life we carry into the space of others.
On the train ride that day the Guitar player came into the cabin and infected it with life. As he strum and sang what he carried was spread. We did not understand the words of the song. We could not interpret the meanings but the energy of it caused the mood of the place to shift. It caused others to move with him in the flow of life.
Someone who carried life well was the Gogo on the train. She was a passenger just like us. I doubt she expected her ride to turn out the way that it did. However she decided to take apart and with her energy and life she evoked the life in others to rise. Imagine the outside of the train the cold winter rain of Cape Town. The clouds gray and gloomy, the wind blowing fiercely and you have walked through it to board a busy train. That was her journey before she boarded the train.
This lady has entered the train carrying bags. As if it was not enough to be traveling in that weather alone she is lugging groceries and whatnot’s for the her family. She enters the train and when the music begins she welcomes it . She leaves all the gloom and travel outside of the train and taps into the flow. As she points and speaks what she carries infects those that surround her.
I think about the Apostle Peter and his interactions with Jesus. In the bible Jesus celebrates and rebukes Peter in less than one chapter. I am sure we have all heard the story of Jesus asking the disciples, “Who do man say I am?” Peter answers, You are the Christ, Son of the Living God and Jesus seems to him Blesses him. Later when Jesus is telling his disciples of the suffering he is to undergo Peter pulls him to the side to rebuke him, telling him this should not be. Jesus says to him get the behind me Satan.
Peter in two instances reveals two different kingdoms. He brought to Jesus words of Faith in one encounter and then an ariled rebuke covering fear of losing his friend. We also carry in us the ability to bring an energy that yields life in others or fear and negativity. My fellow passengers chose to bring life into the train ride. Exciting how the Spirit will move when you least anticipate it on rides you doubt you will enjoy and in people you least expect. I always want to be apart of the flow.
The guitar player and the Gogo seemed to carry Kingdom. They lived in it and and because of that they were able to bring the Kingdom into the train. I left the train knowing I had encountered a different domain. I want to carry that with me.