Christine McAteer is one of the team of National Express West Midlands Bus Chaplains
Have you ever played the game of wondering what it would be like if you suddenly recognised or ‘saw’ Jesus in a busy situation? What would Jesus look like? What would he be doing and what would he say?
Years before I became a Bus Chaplain I used to sometimes play that game whilst sitting on the bus. I would gaze around at people and look at each individual and wonder, “What if that person was Jesus?” I found that my attitude towards that person subtly changed. I was reminded that that person was a cherished child of God, “fearfully and wonderfully made”, not the Son of God himself of course, but nevertheless, I could see something of Jesus within them. It was as though they were suddenly suffused with an inner glow.
Now, I don’t want you to run away with the wrong impression that I am some kind of living saint always infused in prayer at all times. That would be an amazing state of affairs possible only with the help of God. Sadly I can be a right old grumpadump at times, irritable and judgemental but I do try to ask God now and then to help me to become aware of his presence in my brothers and sisters.
One Saturday morning as I began the bus chaplaincy and started to pray on the Number 11 bus I began to play my imagination game. What if Jesus was driving the bus? What would Jesus look like? How would I be able to tell that this was Jesus? I spent a few minutes feeling rather peaceful as I sat quietly. Then I entered the rough and tumble of Acocks Green Garage.
For a while I forgot about my prayer as I listened to talk about the changes to the bus timings, and how the drivers
were feeling. As I entered the canteen I politely greeted a driver with ‘Good morning.’ The driver replied, “So you are the bus chaplain? I have been waiting to meet you for a long time but I have never seen you. Can I buy you a drink?”
I felt as though I was right inside the story of the Woman at the Well from John’s Gospel, standing on holy ground. The driver said that he wanted me to ‘mentor’ him and I wondered what would unfold. The driver began to tell me something of his faith journey; of how he tried to make time for Sunday worship by popping into every single church that he had seen on his bus routes whenever he had a free Sunday morning. His aim is to visit all the churches in Birmingham, regardless of denomination.
As he spoke I had a great sense of his tremendous faith in God and of his intimate knowledge of the Bible, far more extensive than my own by a long, long way. He spoke of how we all operate from different reference points and perspectives. The driver always carries his Bible with him in his bag when at work On The Buses and tries to live his life with integrity.
One day whilst he was driving the Number 11 he challenged a man who got on with an out-of-date ticket. The passenger refused to pay the extra £1.80 needed and said, “I will never forget your face. The next time I see you driving the bus I will kill you.”
The driver felt genuinely frightened by this encounter and he is a tall, powerfully-built man. After a few days he began to relax and to forget about this when, as he was driving the 11 in the opposite direction, the same man got on his bus. They immediately recognised one another.
“So,” said the man, “Are you going to make me pay? When I get off this bus, I will kill you.” The driver looked at him and said nothing as the angry man sat down. All of the passengers were silent and watching what was happening.
At that moment however the driver paused to think for a moment what he should do and then felt a nudge from God. “Come here for a moment, sir,” the driver called out to the man. “I have something I want you to read.” He took out his Bible from his bag. He slid the Bible under the gap beneath the cab window with the page open at Psalm 23. The entire bus was silent and waited.
“OK.” The man took the Bible. When he reached his bus stop the man passed back the Bible and said, “Today I shall sleep well and in peace because I now know that God will take care of me in the valley of death.”
When the bus driver had finished his story a single tear rolled out of his eye. He has given permission to share his story. Please keep him and all the bus drivers in your prayers.
For more news and stories from workplace chaplains download the CIGB November newsletter.