Travel Stories

Bedless in Belgium: The Adventures in Trust Continue

“I must confess–I’m tired of living by faith,” I wrote during my first evening in Belgium. Sure, I had a roof over my head at the campus ministry leader’s house that night–but where I’d sleep the next night (or five) was still anybody’s guess.

“But no,” I kept writing, “that’s not it. I’m tired of WORRYING while trying to live by faith. –And maybe of always leaving logistics until the last minute.”

I’d just spent a fruitless hour scouring bus schedules, hostel sites, Air BnB options and church Facebook pages, trying to calculate an itinerary for the six days until my next flight would be leaving from London. Maybe if I catch enough overnight buses and then sleep at the airport? 

But five restless nights would never do. And neither would these futile mental gymnastics, especially after the amazing ways I’d already seen God provide me the right places to stay throughout the trip. (See also, Staying with a Stranger: Final Stories and Interviews from New Zealand and When God Works at the Last Minute: An Adventure in Trust.) My journey was in God’s hands; I’d just have to wait and see how He’d lead it.

After breakfast, a student interview, and a string of emails sent to probe further accommodation options the next morning, I struck out solo, on foot, to explore the city of Brussels. And maybe, I hoped, to find somewhere to stay.

A ministry I’d tried to contact earlier about accommodations stood just a few blocks away, so I headed that direction. Please, I prayed, let their doors be open. Considering the undercurrent of peace I experienced, I somehow suspected they would be.

My mom did warn me, long ago, I grinned a little wryly, about not becoming one of those kids who goes off and gets lost in Europe without a plan. But here I am. 

Reaching my destination, I rang the bell. The soul who answered lent a sympathetic ear as I virtually pleaded for a place to roll out my sleeping bag, just for one night. But no–there was no vacancy.

Back on the streets, I felt a little shaken.

Now what?

“Thank You for this opportunity to trust You,” I prayed my recurring theme prayer yet again. “Please help.”

I walked onward in the direction of downtown, quietly singing worship songs to settle my spirit. Repeating the lyrics over and over felt like treading water. My options were worship or drown. But the reality of who God is, a God who sustains creation and ordains entire kingdoms to rise and fall, reminded me how small my dilemma was compared to the grand scheme of His character and story. Would He be any less faithful if I ended up in a hostel tonight? I asked myself. Of course not!

I explored the city for some time, catching my breath at the sight of ornately-masoned buildings colossal in both height and artistry. Then, I headed back toward the campus minister’s house.

When I snapped this photo, I still had no idea where I’d spend the night.

This is a record, I decided. It’s 2:00p.m. and I still don’t know where I’m going to stay tonight. But here was the door.

“Did you get my message?” the campus minister asked when I’d knocked.

“No, what happened?”

“I talked with my mom. She invited you to stay here with her tonight, even though I’ll be gone–so long as you’re able to leave at 6:45a.m., when she has to go.”

“Thank you!”

And thank YOU, God, for a place to stay tonight…and tomorrow night. And all the nights after. 

Not that I knew where any of those other places would be. My next accommodations, in fact, would be harder to arrange than ever. See, the campus minister had to leave, the house had no wifi, and had no data–and therefore, no way to securely book a hostel or bus ticket to Elsewhere. I’ll just have to go outside, look for open wifi, and try to contact my family.

I finally found a street corner outside a closed restaurant where–if I stood on the sidewalk and leaned into a hedge ju-u-st right–I could connect to a spotty signal.

“Heeeeeeey,” I messaged my parents. “I don’t suppose you could help me book a bus ticket or hostel for tomorrow?”

A rather long discussion ensued, punctuated with pauses while I scrambled to find better wifi. I finally stumbled across free internet in a department store, where I expressed to my family how sincerely I hoped to interview Christian students in Paris–and they expressed how sincerely they hoped I wouldn’t go there solo without contacts, considering the travel advisories at the time. However, while I waited by a rack of clothing there in the Belgian department store, my family did contact friends of ours in Canada who knew the email address of Christians I could possibly meet in Paris.

I couldn’t imagine such a complicated plot working on this short of notice, but I had to follow every lead. So–given that the department store was closing–I backtracked to the hedge and emailed the Parisian contacts.

The sun’s already set, I noticed. I better get back to the house.

The text message discussion in the department store hadn’t really gone anywhere, but my dad did offer to help reactivate my Canadian phone plan so I could book accommodations “wherever I felt led to go.”

And realistically, I thought, that’s going to be Great Britain. Go back on the shelf, dreams of visiting Paris. I don’t feel right about going against my family’s wishes. Looks like France is just not the door God has opened this time. 

I fought futilely to break into my sim card slot with a needle, anxious to book that next bus ticket. Nothing. Finally, in a Nancy Drew-like move, I broke a bobby pin, filed down the thin end with my leatherman tool, and successfully opened my phone to message contacts in the UK. Then, as I glanced at a social media feed, I couldn’t help but smile at the name of a Don Moen event someone had shared: God Will Make a Way.

Letting the song play in my head, I opened my email.

“Whaaaaat!?”

The Christians in Paris–the ones I’d just written to while leaning on the hedge–had already written back that I could stay with them the next two nights! God had given me back my dream. Now I needed to give myself a mental facepalm for the stress I’d caused to myself and my family. Once again, Jesus’ words had proved true:

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:27 & 31-34, NIV.)

Worrying is useless. It’s all loss and no profit. It’s tiring. But living by actual faith, trusting God in quiet confidence, and watching His faithfulness play out before your very eyes–that’s fun.

 

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