In the summer of '98 I found myself, once again, in Estonia, a small country on the northeastern shores of the Baltic Sea, just south of Finland. My job was to take care of the dozen or so summer missionaries sent by Baptist Student Ministries around Texas. What it amounted to was a whole lot of travel to places where I just made sure everything was running smoothly.
I let the two students in Nova, a tiny fishing village in the remote northwest corner of the country, know I'd be there on a particular day to visit them. After spending a good half-day in Tallinn, the country's largest city, trying to communicate my need to find a bus to Nova, I was on my way through the forested regions of nowhere. I was able to ask a little old lady on the bus to let me know when we arrived in Nova. Two hours later I asked her again, and she pointed that it was still ahead a bit.
A couple of hours before sundown the bus stopped and the lady gestured that I had arrived at my destination. I looked around and saw absolutely nothing. The last area that looked anything like a town was many stops ago. But she insisted, and I got off.
And I was alone. In the middle of a lonely world, I was alone.
I remember a slight feeling of anxiety that I would not be found. I gave the students I would be visiting a day, but I had no clue what time I would be there. This was before the wide use of cell phones (and there probably wouldn't have been a signal that far out anyway,) and there was no town anywhere to be found to use a pay phone.
So I walked.
The small cringe of fear slowly gave way to a sense of freedom. I was walking down an old abandoned road in a corner of the world that is unknown to most people. No place to rest and the possibility that I was in the wrong part-of-nowhere and would not be found for some time. But still, freedom.
I guess helplessness can do this to a person. When you are in a place where there's really nothing you can do but wait for help, you are free to simply walk.
A lot is made of the fear that must have been felt by Mary and Joseph, carrying a child they had done nothing to receive, stuck in a world without a place to lay, without any hope that things would get better. Maybe this is what kept them walking.
Maybe this is why the angels told them to not be afraid.
Anyway, I was eventually found. Just as we all were at the end of Mary and Joseph's journey.