Are You Mr. Browning?

Experiences touched by divine providence reveal the intimacy of God. 

Does God really care about the minute details of your life? Is he really in control of everything, some things or nothing? 

For many years I traveled in the worst and most dangerous places on the face of this earth for as many as 250 days of each of those years. Anna Marie would drop me off at the Denver International Airport, and we were aware that it was very possible that with that kiss goodbye we would never see each other again. Some of the times I was most vulnerable were when I traveled alone into a third world country for the first time, depending on someone I never knew to be there to pick me up at the foreign airport. 

From Singapore I boarded Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur. From Kuala Lumpur I changed planes to Madras, India. It had been agreed that I would be met in Madras, a metropolis of about 10 million people, by a "Mr. Browning.” I had been advised that arriving in Madras in the middle of the night would be extremely dangerous. He would be carrying a placard displaying my name and would be standing just outside the customs exit. 

I was traveling with only two carry-on bags, so I went directly to immigration control, bypassing “luggage pick up.” I was one of the first to leave the secured area and was dumped into the crowded mass of Indian people waiting for the arriving passengers. It was well past midnight. The suffocating crowd included many beggars and lepers. My eyes raced across the crowd searching desperately for Mr. Browning and a placard bearing my name . . . no one. I was trying to be careful not to step on the lepers sleeping on the concrete walkways. As I got closer to the outer edge of the crowd, a small band of desperate-looking Indian teens in ragged clothes began to surround me covetously eying my two carry-on bags. 

I had an instant flashback. My mind took me back to a safari in Kenya. Our guide was explaining to us how the cheetahs and female lions watched the eyes and behavior patterns of the gazelles or water bucks. The ones they picked out to ultimately attack were those perceived to have a flaw, or a weakness or lack of confidence. I thought to myself, "No way! If out of desperation you are looking for panic or lack of direction in someone's eyes you will have to find it in another victim's eyes." I confidently walked straight for an abandoned luggage cart and placed my two bags on the cart as if it had been planned for a year. I turned the baggage cart back toward the terminal and the crowd. There was another entrance to the terminal but it was blocked by Indian police. I pushed my way through the crowd and back into the security of the building. I searched the line again . . . no one! 

The only thing predictable about desperate people is that they are unpredictable. I decided to stay in the building. "Where in the world was Browning?” I spotted an older Anglo-looking couple. I pushed my cart through the crowd right up behind the couple. I reached over a row of short Indians and laid my hand on the old man's shoulder. “Are you Mr. Browning?” I asked. 

"No, I'm Mr. Selz, from Utah, U.S.A." “Well,” I answered. “I am Jim Jackson from Colorado; we are neighbors. I explained my situation to my new friend. “It doesn’t look like my party is here to meet me. This is my first time in this part of southern India. If no one shows up, where would you suggest I stay for the night?” Mr. Selz stroked his stubble-whiskered chin. “Be careful, but I think it would be good if you went to the Trident Hotel . . . that’s what comes to my mind.” With that exchange, the Utah couple found their arriving passengers and disappeared with them into the night. 

I was trying to find a taxi driver who would accept my fare in US money, when I spotted a bus coming across the parking lot. “Trident Hotel” was written on the side. I ran over and stood in front of the bus until it stopped. “My name is Jackson, and I need a ride to the Trident Hotel.” As the driver was putting my bags into the bus, a young Indian fellow called him over to the side, and my ears flapped when I heard the name "Jackson." I knew that I was being set up. The young man came onto the bus where I was sitting, stuck out his hand and asked, "Jackson?" 

I replied, "Are you Mr. Browning?" “No, but earlier this afternoon I made reservation for you at the Trident Hotel. Then he went on to tell me, "I knew if I waited for you to get on the Trident bus I would be able to meet you.” 

“But,” I protested, “I didn’t know The Trident Hotel even existed until a few minutes ago when a stranger from Utah, US innocently suggested I might like the Trident Hotel. He could have suggested the Hilton Hotel. And what gave you the idea that you could wait out in the parking lot and watch me get on the bus when you had no clue as to who I was or that I would ever run out, stop that bus and get on? None of that is connected.” He kindly smiled at me, sat down and rode to the Trident Hotel with me. We both got off together and he walked me to the front desk and disappeared. It was after 2:00 a.m. when I settled into my room. On a small table next to the bed was an ornate basket of fresh fruit and biscuits. Even at that late hour, I ordered a fresh pot of hot tea and went over and over the details of the night in my mind. None of the events made logical sense. I fell asleep that night thinking, “I don’t pretend to know just how all these things work, but I am eternally grateful that God knows who I am and enjoys taking care of me.” Experiences touched by divine providence reveal the intimacy of God.