Peter & Kelly

on The Way

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Peter & Kelly + Lukas + Emmet + Danai

Going to Heaven: The concept of heaven in the Bible and Christian teaching
Research Paper (All Nations Christian College) 2 June 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?
Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Passages from Colossians and Hebrews compared
Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?
Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

The Gospel and the Religions
Reading Report Theology of Mission (All Nations Christian College) 11 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Efforts towards unity within the church
Assignment Churchplanting (All Nations Christian College) 27 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Jesus: transactional or transformational?
Assignment Leadership (All Nations Christian College) 20 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises
Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Do missionaries destroy cultures?
Assignment Social Anthropology (All Nations Christan College) 6 December 2002 — Peter Passchier

Temple Tumult
Assignment New Testament: Gospels and Acts (All Nations Christian College) 29 November 2002 — Peter Passchier

Initial Assignment (All Nations Christian College) 1 October 2002 — Peter Passchier

A Narrow Escape
A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier

A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier

A Narrow Escape: a true adventure of the Passchier family in Thailand

The rain drummed on our roof and the grey skies made our living room feel as dim as like dusk even though it was not even midday. "Where shall we go today, then?" It was our day off and usually we went out hiking in the local hills. "Let's go up to the Khuntan Railway station to see the tunnel. If it clears up maybe we can go for a walk too," suggested Peter. The Khuntan railway station sits 578 m above sea level in the mountains between Lampang and Lamphun and boasts the longest tunnel in Thailand. The tunnel is 1352.10 m long and was built from 1914 - 1917. As soon as we stepped out of the car the boys spotted the sign. "The tunnel is this way!" they said, hurrying along beside the railway tracks. As we rounded a bend, there it was: the huge dark mouth yawning open under gold and red insignia and the date in Thai script - 1918. "Let's go inside!" the excited boys ran to the mouth of the tunnel and peered into the darkness. "Look - you can see the light at the end of tunnel!" A small patch of daylight was just visible above the rise in the ground if we craned our necks and stood up tall. "Can we go all the way through it?" the boys asked excitedly. "We need to ask the station master first," said Peter, leading us back along the tracks to the station. "Usually it is dangerous to walk into a train tunnel because you don't know if a train is going to come along," I chimed in, wanting to take the opportunity to educate my children. "What would you do if you got caught in a tunnel when a train came along?" "Lie down on the tracks!" offered Emmet. "But think about where the train is driving..." I prompted. "Oh, you'd get run over!" he exclaimed. "Right," I replied. "Squish up against the side of the tunnel!" Emmet amended. "Yes, that would be better. But we don't know how wide the train carriage is so the safest place would be lying down against the wall of the tunnel at the level of the wheels," I elaborated.

We wandered back towards the platform, passing a number of people coming up the tracks with cameras heavy with zoom lenses. On the platform a group of people had gathered at the station, mostly families, with children waiting excitedly for the train to come through the tunnel. Most of the onlookers had driven up the mountain from nearby towns, as we had, to see the tunnel and watch the train come through it. "Is it possible to go into the tunnel," Peter asked the stationmaster, as we all milled about the platform. "The train isn't due for another 50 minutes," he replied, "so it is safe to go inside. It will be dark and wet, but if you don't mind that you are welcome to go in." Lukas and Emmet ran off delightedly along the tracks towards the tunnel. They had disappeared inside before we got to the entrance. Other families, with children pulling impatiently on their parents hands walked towards the tunnel too. Peter stepped into the shadows with Danai atop his shoulders and I followed, listening to the chatter of the excited local children.

It was all very exciting to be walking through a train tunnel. In Canada, we would never even have the chance! From up ahead I heard a long hooting whistle and my heart jumped to my throat until a cheeky giggle followed and I realized that the boys up ahead were making train whistle calls. I noticed that the Thai families slowed down after about 50 metres into the tunnel and I started to hear comments like, "That's far enough. It's time to go back now." But nothing like that from my tribe - keen on adventure they were heading on into the darkness, now and again hooting like train whistles, and laughing raucously at the thought of their joke. Peter was singing to find the echo resonance, with little boy voices joining in with much enthusiasm though less tunefulness. Peter had turned on the light on his cell phone and a circle of dim light showed us where to step to avoid any ties that stuck up above the rails. The rocks had been filled in so the paths along the outside of the rails were quite level, although inside the rails it was rougher. Some of us walked on the left side, some on the right. The boys noticed the wetness dripping down the walls and sometimes even raining down from the ceiling. They also spotted some alcoves set in the left-hand wall at intervals. After we had passed a few of these we noticed that they were numbered, in descending order, and occurred about every 100 m. "One of those alcoves would be an even better place to take shelter in if a train came," I said. Then followed a hypothetical discussion of whether running forward to the next one or running back to the most recent one would be the best course of action if you heard a train coming. But soon the boys were back to making train whistle sounds and casting zombie shadows on the walls in the light of Peter's light as we walked along. As we looked forward, the light at the end of the tunnel grew steadily larger and larger. Daylight reflected on the rails lighting up a trail to the light. It was very hard to judge the distance to the entrance though. Even when we knew there must be about 200 m left, judging by the numbered alcoves, it looked as if we had only 50 m left. But soon we hardly needed the cell phone light any more to monitor the roughness underfoot and shortly thereafter the outline of triumphant rail travellers stood in dark contrast to the greens and yellows of daylight on jungle vines as they stood in the mouth of the tunnel. We had traversed the tunnel!

Here on the other side of the tunnel, the trees and green undergrowth grew down close by the tracks and vines hung from above. Everything looked so lush and green and beautiful it was tempting to take our time and drink in the beauty but there was really no good place to stand except on the tracks, and we knew that we were on a timeline if we wanted to get back through the tunnel before the train came. We were not sure exactly how many of our 50 minutes remained, having forgotten to check the clock at the time the station master told us how much time there was, so we thought we'd better err on the side of caution and head back in plenty of time to keep ahead of the train.

We headed back into the tunnel amid pleasant chatter and speculation about how many alcoves there were in total: Lukas guessed 12, and I guessed 13 based on the 1352 m of tunnel with alcoves spaced at 100 m. We counted the alcoves carefully as we passed each one, looking in to see what each one was like. Some were clean and dry, others wet and dirty, still others littered with rubbish. Alcove #4 was wet and muddy, and Lukas and Emmet were disgusted at the thought of going into it. I asked them, "If you were being chased by a train, do you think it is more important to worry about the wet and mud or to run right in?" Emmet replied, "Run right in!" The discussion had moved on to consider the source of the empty plastic water bottles left in some of the alcoves when I thought I noticed a hum beneath the noise of our chatter which I hadn't noticed before. I was on the point of asking everyone to be quiet and listen when the hum grew louder so that I was sure there was a sound. "I wonder what that hum is," I thought, "Surely it couldn't be the train so soon." From the moment that thought crossed my mind, everything began to happen in swift succession. A train whistle sounded. Someone yelled, "The train is coming!" Someone, maybe me, yelled "Run!" We all started to run. I couldn't remember how far past alcove #4 we were but it was some ways back. I couldn't bear to run back towards the oncoming train, so I grabbed Emmet's hand and ran onwards, heading for alcove #5. Was it 10 m ahead, 20 m, 50 or 70? I hoped it was closer rather than farther! All I could think of was running to that alcove. The humming had now become a distinctive chugging that grew steadily in volume. I ran, pulling Emmet along, calling out to the others to run. Lukas followed after me. Peter, with Danai on his shoulders, was on the other side of the double-inset tracks and would have to cross all four rails, but he had the light so I didn't worry about them and just focused on running for alcove #5. Then Peter called out that he would turn off the light so as not to confuse the driver of the train with light. This meant that he had to cross the double tracks over uneven ground in the dark, with Danai on his shoulders. Thankfully, he did not trip. I shudder to think what could have happened if he had.

Now we were running in the dark, as hardly any daylight reached in so far. I couldn't see the stony ground I was running over but I could just catch glimmers of shadows on the wall beside me, each time hoping it was the longed for alcove, each time disappointed by dripping wet on stone. The chugging got louder and the whistle sounded again. Then Emmet tripped. And Lukas called out as he also fell. I tugged Emmet up and called out to Lukas, urging him to get up and keep running. The relentless chugging sounded louder and louder. I heard Peter call out and noticed a light again. "He must have turned on his light again to see the path," I thought. I didn't know until later that he had not: this light was the train. It never occurred to me to look back and see where the train was - I was locked into the flight. If we could just keep running and get to that alcove. Part of my brain noticed that Peter seemed farther back than I thought he should be but all I could do was run with Emmet and Lukas, stumbling over the the rocks beside the tracks, patting the wall desperately in search of the alcove. Finally, space under my hand. "The alcove!" I called out in triumphant relief. I ran in, pulling Emmet in after me, Lukas hard on his heels. We leaned against the wall at the back of the alcove and panted. The chugging echoed loud in the tunnel. Where were Peter and Danai? I could still hear them but they weren't here yet and the train was getting louder and louder. I called out. Seconds seemed liked minutes. It was now quite light outside the alcove and I could see the opposite gray wall of the tunnel clearly. It never occurred to me that this was from the light of the train, nor to look out and see where the train was, or where Peter and Danai were. Finally they ran past the entrance to the alcove, dark figures against lit tunnel. "In here!" I yelled, as Peter ran past the opening. He turned back and ducked into the alcove with us. All five safe now. "It might be loud and a bit scary," I said to the boys. They had just enough time to cover their ears before the train was at the entrance, all bright lights and loud engines. A blur of lit windows and dark carriages passed. Only three. And then the train was gone, chugging on towards the daylight and the onlookers by the station.

We came out of the alcove, hearts still pounding, and headed automatically down the track behind the train. Then I paused. We had all the time in the world now, why not take a photo of our alcove shelter, to remember the climax of our adventure! As we stepped back inside it, I got a better look at alcove #5 - not one of the clean and empty ones, but one whose floor was littered with all kinds of discarded metal. Thankfully, we hadn't hurt ourselves as we had "run right in"! I turned around and stared out of the alcove into the now dark tunnel, exhilarated, adrenaline still pumping through my veins, smiling wildly into the light on Peter's phone. The boys were in various states of excitement and distress. Lukas had cut he knee and his hands when he fell as we ran and was now bleeding and unhappy. Emmet had grazed a leg too but was OK. Danai was telling about his experience riding on Peter's shoulders in front of the train.

When we emerged from the alcove again the train was already gone from sight. We still had 850 metres of railway ties and rocky ground to walk; still two thirds of dark tunnel to pass until we would emerge into daylight. We headed for the circle of light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like I was in some kind of dream. As we walked along, adrenaline ebbing, I began to feel afraid and worrisome thoughts came tumbling into my mind. What if the train was going to turn around and come right back again? What if there was another train coming? Would we have enough energy to run to an alcove safely again? In contrast, when the train was actually behind us, I didn't feel afraid; I didn't have any room for thoughts beyond running to the alcove and getting everyone there safely in time. Now all kinds of emotions and thoughts milled around in my mind. I wondered whether the people who had come into the tunnel with us but left earlier were outside worrying that we hadn't come out before the train came. I wondered if all the staff at the station was agitated about the foreign family who gone into the tunnel but not come out again. I wondered if we would be in trouble. I was glad to have Lukas in need of a steady hand and repeated reassurance and encouragement to keep going. So we plodded down the tunnel track which seemed longer now than it had before. I noticed that the path at the side of the rails was sometimes quite narrow, sloping down unevenly to the wall of the tunnel. In some places it was even a ditch filled with water and mud and who knows what else. I was thankful that the stretch where we had had to run, though rocky, was relatively even. We kept counting the alcoves, measuring the distance left to go. Finally we passed alcove #12. Only 160 m left. Would there be an alcove #13? There was not. Lukas was pleased that he had guessed correctly how many alcoves there were. I was pleased to be close to the end of the tunnel. But even here, where the daylight reached in to give us lots of light on our way, I worried about whether we would be able to run out over the uneven, narrow path, if suddenly another train should come. And then, we were out in the light again, at last!

I half expected anxious spectators and station workers to be waiting there, peering anxiously into the dark. But there was no one there. All the onlookers had gone. We walked along the track to the station platform. No onlookers there either. Only a few random folk idling time. The station master appeared, greeted us saying something in English about a fan, and disappeared into a room. He emerged again with our umbrellas which we had left on the platform bench before going into the tunnel. It all felt rather anticlimactic. I think the greatest shock we elicited was due to our state of cleanliness. As we stood there, a lady on a bench pointed out that we were quite dirty - we had black smudges on our faces and our clothes. How was it that we had gotten so dirty!?! We replied that we had gotten dirty while coming through the tunnel as we had had to hurry and find a place to hide when the train came through. "You were still in the tunnel when the train came through?" they asked incredulously. As I think back, I am not sure it had entered their minds that we would have walked all the way through the tunnel. Probably most of the locals go in a ways then come back, as did those who entered with us. As it was, they were very helpful in trying to find us some running water so we could rinse our faces and hands. The station master even produced a first aid kit to tend to Lukas' cuts. Then we thanked them and wandered off to find some lunch at one of the food stalls close to the platform they had pointed out. As we finished our late lunch, the station master came up holding out something to Peter - my glasses, which I had taken off to wash the black smudges off my face and had forgotten by the sink. At the end of the day, I am thankful for all the graces we experienced today, from people and ultimately from God. If not for these, we would be short 2 umbrellas, one pair of glasses, some dignity and who knows what else of our health and well-being!

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