Sunday, November 6, 2011

Desde el Monte... Joy Bus

Previous installations of Desde el Monte...


The same year I went to Uruguay, one of my favorite movies, Armageddon, came out. In one scene, geologist-turned-astronaut Oscar (played by Owen Wilson) is trying to explain his feelings pre-blastoff. He tells his friend, 
I got that "excited/scared" feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it's more - It could be two - it could be 98% scared, 2% excited but that's what makes it so intense, it's so - confused. I can't really figure it out.
That could basically describe how I felt by the time our plane landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a layover. We had a large group and everyone was excited and chattering. Sometime just either in Dallas or Buenos Aires I was recognized by a member of the Abilene Christian University choral group, His Singers. It turns out that Wade Spaulding and I had attended the same church when we were younger. He is about 6 or 7 years younger than I am, but he recognized me and renewed our acquaintance. Wade also introduced me to his beautiful fiance, Molly. I felt that was a nudge from God saying, "Hey, it's not going to be that bad."

I also met my roomie for the duration of the trip, Catrina McDaniel, who was a student at Texas Tech University. It seemed likely that she did not bite, so I got even more enthused about this trip being okay even though I was thousands of miles from home, in a different hemisphere, and did not speak the language of any country remotely close to our destination.

Me and my roommate Catrina McDaniel

What happened next might not have had anything other than a slightly amused effect on the rest of my fellow travelers, but it had a profound effect on me and my belief that God planned to bless me on this trip. To explain the significance I will have to backtrack about twenty or more years...

When I was a little girl, many Churches of Christ had what was called a Joy Bus Ministry. The purpose of the ministry was to go pick up children (and an occasional adult) who needed a ride to church. Most of these children were living with only one parent who did not attend church. At our congregation, my Dad was the Joy Bus driver. Early on Sunday mornings, we would drive just outside of town to the bus barn and pick up the bus. We loaded up ice chests full of little milk cartons and several boxes of donuts. As we started picking up children and giving them a little breakfast, our friend Robin would get on the loudspeaker and start leading us in singing peppy Christian songs. I think milk, sugar, and singing were actual requirements for a Joy Bus. I did not like getting up at o'dark-thirty on Sundays, but I loved riding on the Joy Bus. I was sad when we stopped that ministry. I think I would consider doing it today if I had a bus.

Jump back into 1998. A few months before the trip to Uruguay, I had discovered an acappella singing group called Glorify Him. The guys in this group had either been helpers in the Joy Bus Ministry or been some of the kids picked up by the bus. They had written a song called (you guessed it) "Joy Bus". It was a fast, fun song that really nailed the purpose of the ministry without having to exactly describe it. I fell in love with that song.

So let's get back to the trip.

Just a short hop from Buenos Aires we landed at the airport in Montevideo, Uruguay. If I remember correctly, a little shuttle took us from the plane to the terminal where we went through customs inspections. The man there to meet us, Ronnie Rama, was a missionary being supported by the South Plains congregation in Lubbock. He was a friendly man and very excited to see us, but he kept apologizing over and over. He was just so very sorry, about our transportation it turns out. Ronnie had made arrangements months prior to have a bus pick us up and transport us to our hotel. What he had rented was a modern bus comparable to what a Greyhound bus looks like - nice bucket seats with storage underneath the bus for luggage. Evidently, that is not what had shown up to take us to the hotel and Ronnie was furious and apologetic all at the same time.

What we got was confirmation personally to me from God that I was in the right place at the right time. The bus, which was a dingy red color, looked older than any school bus I had ever seen. And there was NO storage beneath. Ronnie was unsure what we would do, but our group was so excited to be in Uruguay that we did not miss a beat and figured out the logistics right away. A few people would get in the seats furthest back. Then we would shove some luggage down the center aisle, which blocked those people in. A few more people in a few more seats, a little luggage down the aisle. Repeat until full. We prayed a little that we would not need to escape the bus quickly. We also prayed when we looked down at our feet and could see the ground through cracks in what looked suspiciously like a plywood floor. We took photos for proof. If you look at the photo below, you will see the aisle full of luggage and our friend AJ at the back of the aisle taking a picture of whoever was at the front taking photos (not sure if it was Ronnie). 

(that's me on the right in the dark sunglasses)

Everyone else was laughing at our transportation and looking out the windows to see what this new-to-us country looked like. Me, though, I was being transported on angels wings. The moment I saw that old red bus, "Joy Bus" had started as a soundtrack in my head, and I was sure God was sitting right beside me (He got skinny enough to get between me and my seatmate Mike). I just knew that this old bus was confirmation that, just like when I was small, I was now going out to bring the joy of the Lord to people who had not been shown the way by their parents or anyone else around them. 

I realize that this is such a tiny snippet of a three-week trip to be sharing with you, but it meant the world to me to be met by God like that in the midst of my fear. Please understand that when I feel fear, it can be almost paralyzing (it's been that way since I was small). The Almighty knew that and sought, because of His great love, to reassure me. I have no doubt that if the bus-rental company had come through with what Ronnie had actually asked for that God would have met me some other way, but this was just perfect in my mind. And music in my head was awesome.

For anyone who is really interested, here is a low-quality recording (with me coughing in the background at one point) of "Joy Bus" by Glorify Him.


Tune in again next Sunday for another installment of Desde el Monte... (from the mountain).


  1. "I realize that this is such a tiny snippet of a three-week trip to be sharing with you,..."

    Nice story Carolyn - and you hsve skillfully left the audience wishing there was more. Guess I;ll be tuning in next week too :-)

  2. I think one of His endless specialities is The Just-Right Thing.

    Like this red bus.

  3. @RB, I count on you tuning in. You have no idea how much.

    @Sheila, isn't that the truth?!? I am thankful for that red bus. I actually had the photo enlarged to 5x7 and put it in a mat that I had decorated with the words, "we're gonna ride on the Joy Bus".

    For both of you, after much wrestling and inputting and outputting, I have managed to get the song "Joy Bus" recorded and loaded onto the end of the post if you want to come back and listen to it!


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