The Woman on the Bus

Greyhound buses in the 1980’s were a humble–no miserable–form of cross country travel. It took around 36 hours to make the 1,200 mile trip from San Luis Obispo, California to Boulder, Colorado in a stuffy bus that was really just a giant ash tray because of the “smoking section” in the back. I was 16 years old and perhaps a bit snobby in my opinion of what was to come on this journey with the lower classes. I supposed that my sarcastic thoughts were justified. There was the silly smoking section for example. Then on the way to Los Angeles a drunk and unruly woman was staggering up and down the aisle, trying to share beers with fellow passengers in an effort to win them over to her party mood. Upon arrival she was met with a friendly police escort to help her safely off the bus.

This kind of judgmental thinking was very natural to me and I wore it like a comfortable glove. But about nine months earlier something life changing had happened to me. Jesus had come rushing into my heart and was in the process of setting up house there. He was slowly giving me His eyes to see, His heart to feel, and His mind to think. Therefore God had something completely different in mind for me on this bus trip.

After a rest stop and taking on new passengers in Los Angeles, I found myself sitting next to an Asian woman. We greeted each other with polite nods and simple words, but quickly fell into silence, absorbed in our own worlds. She was reading a book. I was listening to my (now vintage) bright yellow waterproof Sony Walkman. Occasionally I would glance over to see what she was reading, but I couldn’t make anything of it. It was a small book written entirely in Korean characters, or Chinese characters, or hieroglyphics for all I knew. There was not a single recognizable (to me) symbol or Roman character on it. So there was absolutely no way I could know what it was about.

Suddenly a voice in my head, or maybe a strong impression, or something, said, “That woman is reading a book about Christianity, talk to her.” This was the first time I had heard God’s voice, and yet the accompanying conviction of the truth of these words left no room for doubt. I had to obey.

I took off my headphones and asked casually, “What are you reading?”

She replied, “I’m reading a book about Christianity.”

I felt a wave of goosebumps.

Then she closed the book and began relating her story to me. God knew that this woman needed someone to talk to. Apparently she was reading this book in search of answers to pressing questions. For the rest of the day she unburdened her heart to me and I experienced His leading to bring those answers.

I thought my bus ride was going to be miserably long, but she was only at the beginning of a journey from Los Angeles to New York City. You see, she had just been visiting her husband who lived in Los Angeles, and she lived in New York City. I thought this was very strange for a married couple, so in my 16-year-old simplicity I asked, “Wow, you don’t live together? Don’t you love your husband?”

With a dreamy look on her face, she said, “Oh I love everybody.” That was not the answer I was expecting, and I thought it a bit creepy.

As her story unfolded, it came out that she and her husband had been married just a few weeks before, on July 1, 1982, in New York City at Madison Square Gardens along with 2,074 other couples in a mass wedding performed by the reverend Sun Myung Moon. She had delivered her new husband to his home in Los Angeles, and was now returning to her home in New York. They had never lived together and she didn’t know when or if they ever would. That would be determined by the reverend Moon’s organization, which controlled their relationship.

You see, this woman and her husband were Moonies.

For those readers who don’t know… the Moonies, as they are called colloquially, are members of the Unification Church (or Unification Movement), started in Korea by Sun Myung Moon in 1954, which became a very powerful cult in the United States from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. The movement was loosely based on Christianity, but twisted every major doctrine, and revolved around the personality of Moon, whom the followers regarded as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

This was all new to me. In fact, even following Jesus was new to me. I think I had possibly read through the New Testament once before this fateful bus trip, but it was not very familiar. I certainly didn’t know any scripture references. With a gulp and a prayer for help, I plunged in.

For nearly 8 hours we talked back and forth. It was clear she was questioning everything she had been taught. She would hesitantly state some cult belief, then the most amazing thing would happen to me. Not only would the biblical answer spring to my mind, but I would open the New Testament and turn directly to the supporting text.

For example, when she said that Moon was the second coming of Christ, I asked why it was that I didn’t know about it. Why didn’t everyone on the bus know about it? Why didn’t the whole world know about it? It seemed to me that her god was too small if only those in the Unification Church knew about it. Then God led me to open my Bible right to Matthew 24:27.

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:27 NASB

Another example is when she explained that the cross was an unexpected interruption in God’s plan for Jesus. Apparently Moon had been appointed to complete the original mission, which was to get married and be the “true spiritual parents” of humankind. (And also apparently to enjoy the material fruits of that elevated status, such as businesses and real estate all over the world, Roll Royce cars, etc.) Again this struck me as too small a vision. The Holy Spirit led me to explain that the whole point of the Good News was that we could be in right relationship with God in spite of our sin, and that restoration was accomplished at great cost on the cross. Once more I flopped open my Bible, this time to John 19:30 where Jesus said, “It is finished.”

This pattern was repeated for hours. The fact was that I was learning nearly as much as she about the things of God from the Bible. Time and time again I would think, “Wow, that’s good. I never knew that.”

I don’t know what happened to that woman after that. Our conversation ended naturally when the bus stopped for dinner, after which we slept through the night. But she did look at me earnestly and thanked me profusely for going through the Bible with her. She said she had much to think about. I hope to meet her one day in heaven and learn of all the mighty and wonderful things God did in her and through her.

That bus ride was a foundational event in my walk with Jesus showing that He does lead us and speak to us. It also proved two important points. First, that the Holy Spirit will give us what to say, right when we need to say it (Matthew 10:19), and second that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).