desperate journeys

Kate Shelley High Bridge, Boone County, Iowa. Photo Credit: K. Rummer

Desperate journeys

And a word of blessing

by Ken Rummer 

Aunt Betty came down to the depot to see us off. We didn’t have any food with us. It was raining…. By the time we got to Columbus we were all starving, so Dad got off to get us something to eat. He missed the train.

I’m reading my grandmother’s story of how her parents, Thomas and Maggie Martin, along with their seven surviving children, came to Kansas. 

Mother was so worried. Finally the conductor came and gave her a telegram. We were to change trains at St. Louis, so we were to wait there for Dad who would be on the next train. Dad had all the money and the tickets.

The year was 1909. My grandmother would have been about ten.

Arriving in St. Louis we were getting hungrier by the minute. Finally Mother and Maggie got us all to lie down on the benches and sleep. It seems hours before Dad arrived the next day. After all of this I don’t remember getting anything to eat.

Barely scraping by in Indiana, my great-grandfather, Thomas Martin, the son of an Irish immigrant, had staked the family future on an uncertain 800-mile journey and dreams of a better life. 

We were altogether again and on the train heading west. Dorothea was less than three months old. She cried and cried and no one could do anything with her. Now I realize that she was probably starving also.

Grandma’s story has me on the verge of tears, again.

It brings to mind another desperate journey, one that happens in the Christmas story after the curtain closes on the traditional pageant. 

The Magi head for home and an angel warns Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13 NRSV). 

Joseph escapes with his family under the cover of darkness, heading for the border and a place of safety beyond.

Did they have enough food? Did the baby cry? Were they afraid? 

Was there trouble at the crossing? Where did they sleep? Did anyone show them a kindness?

Matthew’s answers don’t cover all my questions.

In the end, Joseph and Mary and Jesus do make it to Egypt and Matthew gets to write 26 more chapters of the gospel.  Maggie and Thomas and their family do make it to Kansas and little Agnes grows up to be my grandmother.

But the scary part of desperate journeys is that the outcome is in doubt at the time. It could go either way. Tragedy or happy ending. Or the same mess in a different place.

So let me offer a blessing for my family Martins and for the Holy Family and for others on a desperate journey: 

May kindness seek you out.

May your courage rise with danger.

May comfort find you when other comforts fail.

And may the light of heaven guide your way.

Ken Rummer writer

Ken Rummer, Teaching Elder PCUSA, Honorably Retired

Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. His previous posts are available at