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!