What I Learned On A Late Night Subway Train

It’s 4:33 AM and, after a long subway ride, I’m ready to crawl into bed. I remember how my trip started. In rainy Harrisburg, I was waiting at the bus station for the eleven-o’clock bus to pull up. It was running late.

The bus finally pulled up and we quickly boarded so as not to get too soggy from the late-spring thunderstorm. I settled into my seat and dozed off, using my backpack as a pillow. 

Three hours later, the lights switched on and the driver rattled off an announcement in Chinese. We were in New York, “the city that never sleeps.” I stepped off the bus and around the late-night taxi drivers who were waiting for their next client. As I walked down the dimly lit streets of downtown Manhattan, I prayed that God would give me courage to practice what I had just preached. 

The night before, I had the opportunity to share at my niece’s graduation. I was assigned the topic, “You Are The Light of The World.” I shared the message God had given me, and felt His presence as I shared. 

I was convicted by the message. Ian, are you living what you preach? Are you letting your light shine in dark places?

As I walked the late-night streets of New York City, looking for the nearest subway ride home, I asked God to give me opportunities to shine the light. I didn’t have to wait long for Him to answer my prayer. 

As I waited on the subway platform, I noticed a young guy and girl who were waiting for the same train. I wandered over and handed them a tract. The guy asked what app I use to listen to music. I told him I use Spotify. 

“Check out Jolo James*,” he said. 

“Oh, you’re a singer?” 

“Yeah.” 

The train screeched to a stop in front of us and we boarded. I promised I would look him up. 

Google search, Jolo James*. I discovered he is a Brooklyn rapper. A few years ago he was found guilty of shooting another rapper down south. 

“God, thank you for the opportunity to shine light.” I prayed God would use the tract to speak truth to Jolo James.*

Next subway stop I decided to switch train cars. I sat down beside a young Asian guy and handed him a tract. He looked at it and then handed it off to his friends sitting beside him. “You guys need this, I already know this,” he told his friends. 

“Oh, you know Jesus?” I was curious to hear more from this fellow late-night traveler. 

“Yes, I’ve known Him since birth. I was born Catholic.” 

He paused, then asked, “What’s the difference between Catholics and Christians?” 

I had the opportunity to share the Gospel in a nutshell with Kenson*. And all of a sudden, we were at my subway stop. I quickly challenged Kenson to think about what I shared and I stepped off the train. 

“Thank you Father for the opportunity to shine light.”

As I walked the last mile home, I prayed that God would show me His heart for my neighborhood. I walked past three homeless men sleeping on church steps. Taxis patrolled the streets, looking for their next passenger. 

I walked past a nightclub. “Father, please break the bondage in this neighborhood and bring about transformation!”

It was 4:33 AM and I had made it home. God had answered my request. He had given me opportunities to shine the light. 

This was just an ordinary, late-night bus and subway ride home from Harrisburg to New York City. What was so extraordinary about that?

Nothing.

Then it hit me. How much more light could I shine in dark places if I would just ask God to give me opportunities along the everyday path of life? 

I’m ready to crawl into bed. It’s past 5:00 AM now, but I feel spiritually refreshed. God used me to shine light in dark places. Seeds were planted. And only God knows when the fruit will come. 

But I already see fruit–fruit in my own life. I let my light shine brightly tonight and I was the one who received more than anyone else. 

“Thank you Father for the opportunity to shine light!”

* Not real name.

Ian Miller lives in Queens, NY with his wife Marci and young daughter Aliyah. Ian serves in administration for a non-profit organization while working a part-time job and finishing up his college degree. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.

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