Today’s Reading: Revelation 21-2.
(Context: Two of the most descriptive passages on heaven are scripted by the Apostle John, with as much insight and color as he can bear give us. It is a fitting way to close Scripture, whose purpose is to go from “Paradise Lost” to “Paradise Regained”, as the entire Book hinges on the Reconciliator, Jesus Christ. He who, being God, reconciled us to Himself by shedding His own innocent blood. We lost heaven, He gave it back to us, the undeserving human race.)
I left on a journey from Camiri, Bolivia on Wednesday, January 2nd, and arrived at my final destination, Trujillo, Peru, on January 4th. 3 full days of travel! I want to detail my trip for you, in a specific light, in order to later make a parallel with Revelation 21-2:
1. On Wednesday afternoon I took a cramped bus from Camiri to Santa Cruz, 5 hours North. It was hot, it smelled bad (as always), and the bus driver took his sweet-old-time getting us to Santa Cruz.
2. I scampered into the packed-out bus terminal and began frantically looking for a bus ticket to Cochabamba. They wouldn’t sell me one over the phone. All the tickets were sold out, and to get one for Thursday morning would mean getting lucky in long lines at 5 am. I went to plan B, I went to the street and tried to find a “trufi” (a mini-van which they pack with 7 passengers). They were all sold-out, but I finally spotted one pulling up. With 10 other people seeing what I saw, we “ran for it”. Then the driver told us the price, 4 times the regular fee! I signed up, what could I do.
On the trip, 8 hours through the night, I had to sit next to two over-sized men, who left me half a seat to sit on. The driver’s window was open and my jacket did little to keep me warm. Some obnoxious party music was blaring, to keep the driver awake, and so what else could I do but stay awake? At around midnight the trufi’s back tire blew-out, a cheap Chinese-made tire. The group in the car moaned and the driver swore. Quickly enough we replaced it, but we eventually had to find another trufi to take us the rest of the way (there was no spare now), so at 2 am we all climbed into another trufi. It was slightly better.
3. At 4 am, Thursday morning, we arrived in Cochabamba. I grabbed my bags and ran for the terminal. After all it is just after New Years, and tickets are hard to find for sure. Thankfully, in half an hour I was on a bus to La Paz. This trip was uneventful, though I had to keep taking aspirins as we climbed to over 13,000 feet.
4. After 7 hours arrived in La Paz in the evening and I went off to find a ticket to Puno, Peru. All the tickets were sold-out, yet I continued going from office to office in the crowded terminal of Bolivia’s capital. Finally I found a ticket and bought the last available one (God is good!). In between buses I finally had a break for a couple hours, so I sat down to have some supper–my first meal in almost a day.
When I got on the bus to Puno, I immediately noticed a difference. The bus was spacious, filled with tourists, and there were only 3 seats per row. I looked down at my watch as the bus left on schedule and marveled–that doesn’t happen often! As I settled further into my seat, the air conditioner started to blow, a relief after the hot hours past in the hot and humid weather.
I was about to shut my eyes to get some rest when a man walked by me with a little box with a sandwich and a drink in it. It was complementary, not something I had seen in over a year. I smiled and enjoyed the meal.
Later on I got to talking with some of the passengers on the bus, as we talked religion and philosophy. They were mainly atheists, but were genuinely interested to hear about my faith and work. We later got off the bus and walked through Peruvian Immigration, at the border. In short order we were back on the road, a few hours from Puno. I started to feel excited, I was more than halfway to my destination!
5. Once in Puno I went to the ticket counter at the very clean and artistic terminal and looked for a ticket to Arequipa, Peru. I had to be there by 4 pm the next day, and I knew that this trip would only take 6 hours. There were many options here and the lines were short. People kept their distance and obeyed the lines. I decided to buy a ticket for the next morning at 10 am and head to a hotel to spend the night.
I found a nice little hotel, more of a hole-in-the-wall, just around the corner from the terminal. It was enough, with a hard bed, cold shower, and cable TV. I turned on the TV and attempted to take a shower, but it was just too cold! Oh well, at least I washed-up some; hopefully now I looked a little less like a homeless man!
The Oregon Ducks were making a mockery of the uninspiring Kansas State team in College Football, and I smiled as I took pleasure in analyzing my favorite sport.
6. At promptly 10 am I took off for Arequipa. At 4:30 we pulled in and I soon found a taxi to take me to the airport. The Arequipa Airport was very classy, clean, and accommodating. I was checked in after only 15 minutes by the LAN Peru assistant and I made my way to have a nice cup of (expensive airport) coffee. There I plugged in my nearly-dead phone and gratefully pulled-up the internet, to see what had happened since I had “been gone”. Not much it turns out, thankfully it doesn’t depend on me!
7. Right at 7:10 pm my flight to Lima, Peru took off and we landed an hour later. At the airport I passed by Dunking Donuts and Starbucks, and I was thoroughly tempted. Yet, I resisted, seeing that I needed to reach my next flight in short order.
8. An hour after arriving in Lima, at 10:40 I boarded my final flight to Trujillo, Peru. The stewardess brought me a coffee and I leaned back in my chair, thankful to my God for taking care of me in this long journey.
9. 11:25 pm, Friday January 4th, Trujillo: my final destination. I collected my bags quickly and was greeted by a missionary who had come to the airport to meet me. He was the first friendly face I had seen in three days! He took me to his house in Trujillo, where I took a hot shower, laid in a soft bed, and fell fast asleep.
What can be learned from such a long and monotonous trip? Well, not much I suppose, but God never does things on accident.
There was one thing in particular that stood out to me, did you see it? That’s right, it’s the title: “from rags unto riches“. I couldn’t help but think of Christ, that He, having it all, gave up glory, honor, and blessing to be born in a simple manger. To be raised by a poor laborer’s family, to be carted around from Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Nazareth. To come to His People, Israel, only to have His own people rejecting and despising Him. For Jesus it went from bad to worse in this life, and yet for us, it is from “rags unto riches”.
His cross brings us forgiveness from our sins, His righteous life makes us innocent before God the Judge, His homelessness and poverty promises us eternal glory and blessing in the Home which He left.
Jesus gave us a perfect world and placed us in His Garden, His Paradise, and we ruined it and forced ourselves out of the Paradise in our pride. Little did we know just what we had lost. And yet the Creator did not forget us, but He Himself spoke to us in many ways, finally coming Himself, to become the poorest of the poor, the slave of men, and the despised criminal on the shameful cross. He then offered us a peace offering, a chance at redemption and reconciliation, at salvation out of our desolation, lostness, and hopelessness. He offered us the best He had, His Home, Himself, and His Resurrection. He offered us Paradise again, Paradise regained.
He received rags and we received riches. Thank you Jesus.