The Christmas Stranger

This is a true story. I know because I was involved.

In the last days of apartheid in South African, no black man allowed to complete a degree. So missionaries arranged for one young man to spend three months in Germany finishing his theological training. They arranged that he would spend the Christmas holidays with a recently-retired missionary couple in Sussex.

But the German travel agent booked him on a non-existent train to catch a non-existent ferry, and as a result he arrived in Dover docks at 9 pm on Christmas Eve. There were no trains or buses running until Boxing Day.

He rang the folk he was to stay with but there was no reply. He tried many hotels, but none would take him in. By midnight he was sitting on a bench near the coach stop, with his head in his hands in despair.

At that point, a car pulled up by him. It was the local police. They asked him what he was doing there, and he explained. The also tried to contact his hosts, but there was no reply. So they told him if he didn’t mind a hard bed, they could take him to the station, where he could have one of the cells. At least he would have a good meal and be warm! He went with them, and was well looked after.

On Christmas morning he was given breakfast and he asked if there was a Baptist church in the town. It was just along the road from the police station, so he came along to see if there was a service. There was, and he joined us. At coffee after the service he told his story, and it was arranged that he would come home with our family until the trains restarted and we could get in touched with his hosts.

Later in the day we had a phone call from his hosts. It turned out that one of the couple had been ill, and they had been at the hospital when everyone was trying to contact them. When they got home they thought to ring the Dover Baptist minister, and so contact was made. It was arranged that he would stay with us for a few days before going on to Sussex, much to the delight of my two boys, who thoroughly enjoyed showing him round the area!

And the name of this stranger, who found no room at any inn, but who was taken in by thoughtful police?

It was Emanuel.

(If you would like to listen to me telling this story live on Radio Orkney, go here. My bit starts about 16 minutes in…  The program will be there until 7th January 2013.)

And finally, a few photos from Flotta Kirk, very early on Christmas morning. We have a watchnight service starting at 11.30 pm, and at 12 midnight, the bell is rung, and we all leave out pews to join hands and sing O Come all Ye Faithful. Then we party!

Flotta Kirk 5

Flotta Kirk 3


Christine Rosie, who organises the service is in blue
Christine Rosie, who organises the service is in blue
Phyllis Gee, who organises and bakes the food with Christine.
Phyllis Gee, who organises and bakes the food with Christine.
Our Advert Wreath, with all 5 candles alight as it was then after midnight!
Our Advert Wreath, with all 5 candles alight as it was then after midnight!

7 thoughts on “The Christmas Stranger

  1. Liz I linked your story to my blog. Something very (almost eerily) similar happened to my grandparents when I was small – although the young Tongan did not spend a night in a police cell! What a wonderful experience for you all though – a real Christmas!

  2. Thank you for sharing that story; I did listen to it as well, and agree that it is a story well told. Best wishes for the new year!

  3. I see catdownunder has already commented. I came across from the friends of …lace club to your details and blog and realised I had already read this story last week on cat’s blog! Small world. I’m in NSW while she is in a different state.

  4. Shalom! What an awesome story! Thank you for sharing!

    Makes me cry and smile at the same time. Some things never change in the world – even centuries later.

    Blessed be.

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