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An Amazing Story of God Taking a Ride on a New York Subway
Reader's Digest ^ | March 2, 2014 | Ravi Zaccharis

Posted on 11/09/2014 11:39:06 AM PST by buffyt

The true story is told, in Reader’s Digest, of a man by the name of Marcel Sternberger.

Marcel Sternberger took the same subway train every day, on the Long Island railroad. Every day, he was on that same subway. Until, one day, a friend of his was critically ill. Sternberger instead visited his friend in the hospital, and wound up spending the morning. Sternberger then had to take a noon train to work – a train he had never been on before.

Sternberger was confounded by the noon crowds. He walked into one of the subway cars, which he knew wouldn’t have any vacant seats, when one of the people seated inside belatedly realized this was his stop, jumped up and ran out the door.

Sternberger plunged into the now vacant seat. Elbow to elbow, they were all sitting there and one person had the audacity to open a newspaper and start reading it. It was a Hungarian newspaper. Marcel Sternberger just happened to read Hungarian. Sternberger turned to the man seated next to him and said, “I see you are looking at the classified ads. Are you looking for a job?”

The other man answered, “No sir. I am looking for my wife!” “I don’t understand you,” replied a confused Sternberger.

Thus began an incredible story.

“Sir,” explained the stranger, “I used to live in Debrecen, in Hungary. I was happily married, but during the war I was taken away by the Nazis to the Ukraine to bury the German dead. When I returned, I found out the Nazis had come into our home, taken my wife and probably taken her to Auschwitz.

“My only hope is, shortly after that, the Allies had landed, delivered people and that my wife was one of those rescued. I am assuming that if she were safe, she would have been brought here to America. From my home in Debrecen, to the Ukraine, I have come here looking for my wife. I am looking in the newspaper to see if there is an ad placed by her.”

(Auschwitz was one of the most infamous Nazi death camps. Rudolph Hess,who ran Auschwitz for three years, testified at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials that over 2½ million people had been executed there and thousands of others had starved to death.)

Something about the story seemed hauntingly familiar to Marcel Sternberger. Suddenly Sternberger remembered, that some time before, he had been at a cocktail party where he had been seated beside a woman from Hungary. This woman told Sternberger she used to live in Debrecen and had been married to a man who had been taken to the Ukraine. She had been taken to Auschwitz. When she was rescued, she was brought to the New York city, not knowing if her husband was alive or dead.

As this woman told her story, she explained to Sternberger that she was praying that some day she would meet her husband again. As Sternberger thought of the two stories, he wondered if it were possible that there could be a match. He pulled out his wallet, took out a dog-earned piece of paper, and checked the paper which had the woman’s name, Maria Paskin, and her phone number.

Sternberger crumpled that piece of paper, put it back in his wallet and said, “Sir, what is your wife’s name?” The stranger answered, “My wife’s name is Maria Paskin.” Sternberger asked, “What is your name?” “My name is Bella Paskin,” was the answer.

Sternberger then asked, “Mr. Paskin, would you get off with me at the next station for a moment? I want to make a telephone call.” But Sternberger didn’t tell him why. He did, at one point, ask him what his street address had been in Debrecen.

(Incredibly, Paskin got off the subway train with Sternberger, whom he had only met a few minutes before — and without even knowing why!)

Keeping Bella Paskin some distance away, Sternberger then made a phone call. When a woman answered the phone, Sternberger asked, “Who is this?” “Maria,” came the reply. “Maria, do you remember me? My name is Marcel Sternberger. I met you at a party recently?” Maria said yes, she remembered. “Maria, what was your husband’s name?” She said, “My husband’s name was Bella Paskin.” “Maria, what was your street address where you lived in Debrecen?” She gave him the street address. Everything matched. Calling Mr. Paskin over, Sternberger said, “Sir, you are about to witness the greatest miracle of your life,” and handed him the phone. A very puzzled Bella Paskin looked at the phone and putting it up to his ear, said, tentatively, “Hello!”

You can imagine the rest of the story, as Bella Paskin began crying his heart out, and just repeating one word over and over, “Maria, Maria, Maria.”

Listen to how Reader’s Digest ends the article:

“Skeptical persons will no doubt attribute even such a memorable afternoon to mere chance. But was it chance that made Sternberger suddenly decide to visit his sick friend and take a subway line he had never been on before? Was it chance that caused a man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Sternberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bella Paskin to be sitting beside Sternberger, reading a Hungarian newspaper? Was it chance . . . or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon?”

By Ravi Zaccharis:

Ravi concluded the telling of this story with two simple statements, containing a total of only four words, but those words are perhaps the most powerful sermon I have ever heard. Beyond these two statements, nothing else really matters: “God is! . . . God acts!”

TOPICS: Current Events; History; Mainline Protestant; Theology
KEYWORDS: coincidence; god; holocaust; providence; ravi; theholocaust
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Pastor read this story at the end of his sermon today, sermon was about God in our every day life, and No Coincidences!
1 posted on 11/09/2014 11:39:06 AM PST by buffyt
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To: buffyt

Why didn’t he just text her?

2 posted on 11/09/2014 11:45:49 AM PST by 2banana (My common ground with terrorists - they want to die for islam and we want to kill them)
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To: buffyt

A couple of good - and true - stories:

In July 1975, newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic reported the death of 17-year-old Erskine Lawrence Ebbin, a young man who had been struck by a taxi while driving a moped in Hamilton, Bermuda. While unfortunate, his death wasn’t terribly notable—except for the fact that the previous year his brother was killed at the same intersection. And he, too, happened to be driving a moped—the same moped.

But mopeds are dangerous vehicles, right? And this was otherwise a terrible coincidence, right? Wrong. That’s not even the half of it. It turns out that it was the same taxi, with the same driver—and carrying the same passenger—that killed his brother Neville the previous year.

That’s right.
The two brothers were killed by the same taxi.
With the same driver.
Carrying the same passenger.
Almost exactly one year later.

Here’s another:

Did I just blow your mind? To read about such incredible coincidences is one thing but to experience them is quite another. And while they say that travel makes the world grow smaller, I never realized the truth behind that maxim until I’d experienced this incredible shrinking world myself. And that’s where my story of amazing coincidence begins—in Vietnam, of all places.

I first met Richard over lunch in Vinh Moc. He was an interesting dude, a lone thin braid erupting out of an otherwise bald head. He’d been travelling Vietnam for almost as long as I’d been—and in the space of our lunch, I’d learned a lot about this gregarious Australian student. And our relationship would likely have ended there — except that it didn’t.

You see, Vietnam is notable for having a very well defined tourist trail running between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City owing to what—at the time—was the only highway in the country to connect the two cities. As Richard had set off ahead of me and we were both headed south, it seemed that I’d catch him in every city along the way. We’d bump into each other as I was arriving and he was leaving, which was great for me because he’d offer up his suggestions—over a pint or two—of what to see and do at every destination. This coincidence repeated itself again and again. Hue. Hoi An. Nha Trang. Dalat. Our accidental meetings became so commonplace that they no longer surprised either of us. I’d catch Richard walking down the street, hopping on a bus, waiting at the train station. And let’s face it; he wasn’t terribly difficult to recognize owing to his long thin braid, grizzled visage and red flowing fisherman’s pants. He was easy to pick out from a distance.

The last we saw of each other in Vietnam was in Dalat. I knew that he was travelling on to Bangkok from Ho Chi Minh City—and I was headed back north up the Mekong into Cambodia. We said our goodbyes over an extra pint and that was that.

Except that it wasn’t.

About six weeks later, I found myself on Bangkok’s Khaosan Road, a thriving community that caters to the every need of the backpacker. It was here that I was resting up after six hard weeks travelling through the back country of Laos and Cambodia, taking a break from the rigors of vagabonding before heading off to continue my adventure in India.

Walking down the street, I saw Richard in his trademark fisherman’s pants dining by the side of the road.
Amazed by the serendipity, I joined him at his table and he introduced me to his friends—friends he had known from back home in Australia. We got on well—as Australians and Canadians often do—and it wasn’t long before we were well lubricated by several large Chang beers. That’s when Richard’s face froze in disbelief and he muttered: “Holy cripes!”.

It turned out that Richard had recognized yet another person from back home—but one he hadn’t expected to see—his ex-girlfriend’s mother! Before long, she too was seated with us and we were all tilting back Changs.

This is where the world shrinks. In the course of our conversation, I revealed to her that I was most recently employed in Korea—where I had saved enough money as an ESL teacher to travel afterward. “Oh!” she said, “I know someone in Korea!”. Jokingly, I replied, “Who? I probably know them”.

“No!” she replied, “I won’t tell you—it’s too embarrassing”. Intrigued, I resisted the urge to probe further. After several more Chang beers, however, she opened up.
“I met him over the Internet!” she erupted. While we reassured her that her admission was nothing to be embarrassed over, I asked her again, “Who? I bet I know him”.

That’s when she said his name: “Mark. Mark Smith”.
My jaw dropped. I happened to have worked alongside a Mark Smith. “An American?”, I asked.


“From Brooklyn?”

Correct again. What a small world—what were the chances? My mind reeled. An amazing number of coincidences occurred to have finally brought us together over beers in Bangkok. It was incredible.

And the story would have ended there—except that it didn’t.
A year later I returned home from my travels and shortly thereafter met up with the love of my life and fellow blogger, Kathryn. As she was a recent graduate, and owing to the fact that neither of us had any money but were both itching to travel, I returned to Korea—this time with her.

The plan was simple: we’d work a year-long contract, squirrel away funds and travel a bit through South East Asia before returning home with enough money for a down payment on a home.

We enjoyed our year in Korea and looked forward increasingly to our time in Thailand. Shortly after our contract was up, we hopped a plane to the islands and settled on Koh Lanta to recuperate from teaching. It was here we met Phil and Jackie—two retired Australians who spent their winters abroad travelling through Asia. Former hippies, both made a killing in Australi a’s 80s real estate boom and were now living off the fruits of their labours and travelling almost full-time.
We spent a week with Phil and Jackie, swapping stories, swimming, hanging out and drinking. Over beers one night, I related the story as it appears here to them, beginning with: “It was a most amazing coincidence”.

I had barely begun—and was relating to them my impression of that erstwhile traveller, his lone braid, the way he dressed, his fisherman’s pant —when Phil stopped me. Lowering his beer from his lips, he said incredulously: “His name wasn’t Richard, was it?”

To read about such incredible coincidences is one thing, but to experience them is quite another. My mind was sent reeling yet again. There we were on Koh Lanta, having beers with Phil and Jackie—Richard’s parents—almost three years since the incredible coincidence had begun to unravel. And here we were—after all that space and time, at the end of this amazing piece of yarn.

And all of it true.

See what’s here:

3 posted on 11/09/2014 11:48:45 AM PST by vladimir998
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To: buffyt

It may have been an angel. They have been known to do stuff like that.

4 posted on 11/09/2014 11:49:26 AM PST by Slyfox (To put on the mind of George Washington read ALL of Deuteronomy 28, then read his Farewell Address)
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To: buffyt

Great story! Thanks for posting this!

5 posted on 11/09/2014 11:49:52 AM PST by thecodont
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To: buffyt

Great post!

6 posted on 11/09/2014 11:52:53 AM PST by EternalVigilance (Polling: The art of discerning if the people were fooled by your last poll.)
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To: buffyt
Wonderful story thanks for posting.

Some one close to me was driving and singing to Christian music when they had the thought 'slow down at the traffic light'. Since it was out of the blue they did slow down to barely moving as they entered the intersection as a car from the left shot thru the red light at a high rate of speed. My friend would have been hurt or killed for not listening to the Spirit.

7 posted on 11/09/2014 11:53:12 AM PST by virgil283 (No matter how big and bad you are when a two year old hands you the toy telephone, you answer it.)
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To: buffyt

Oh, and the name should be Bela Paskin - with one “l”.

8 posted on 11/09/2014 11:53:43 AM PST by vladimir998
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To: buffyt

Some of the details are different in this telling of the story:

It Happened on the Brooklyn Subway

Marcel Sternberger was a methodical man of nearly 50, with bushy white hair, guileless brown eyes, and the bouncing enthusiasm of a czardas dancer of his native Hungary. He always took the 9:09 Long Island Railroad train from his suburban home to Woodside, N.Y.., where he caught a subway into the city.

On the morning of January 10, 1948, Sternberger boarded the 9:09 as usual. En route, he suddenly decided to visit Laszlo Victor, a Hungarian friend who lived in Brooklyn and was ill.

Accordingly, at Ozone Park, Sternberger changed to the subway for Brooklyn, went to his friend’s house, and stayed until midafternoon. He then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his Fifth Avenue office. Here is Marcel’s incredible story:

The car was crowded, and there seemed to be no chance of a seat. But just as I entered, a man sitting by the door suddenly jumped up to leave, and I slipped into the empty place. I’ve been living in New York long enough not to start conversations with strangers. But being a photographer, I have the peculiar habit of analyzing people’s faces, and I was struck by the features of the passenger on my left. He was probably in his late 30s, and when he glanced up, his eyes seemed to have a hurt expression in them. He was reading a Hungarian-language newspaper, and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.”

The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language. But he answered politely, “You may read it now. I’ll have time later on.”

During the half-hour ride to town, we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Bela Paskin. A law student when World War II started, he had been put into a German labor battalion and sent to the Ukraine. Later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war, he covered hundreds of miles on foot until he reached his home in Debrecen, a large city in eastern Hungary.

I myself knew Debrecen quite well, and we talked about it for a while. Then he told me the rest of his story. When he went to the apartment once occupied by his father, mother, brothers and sisters, he found strangers living there. Then he went upstairs to the apartment that he and his wife once had. It also was occupied by strangers. None of them had ever heard of his family.

As he was leaving, full of sadness, a boy ran after him, calling “Paskin bacsi! Paskin bacsi!” That means “Uncle Paskin.” The child was the son of some old neighbors of his. He went to the boy’s home and talked to his parents. “Your whole family is dead,” they told him. “The Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.”

Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. Paskin gave up all hope. A few days later, too heartsick to remain any longer in Hungary, he set out again on foot, stealing across border after border until he reached Paris. He managed to immigrate to the United States in October 1947, just three months before I met him.

All the time he had been talking, I kept thinking that somehow his story seemed familiar. A young woman whom I had met recently at the home of friends had also been from Debrecen; she had been sent to Auschwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German munitions factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later she was liberated by the Americans and was brought here in the first boatload of displaced persons in 1946.

Her story had moved me so much that I had written down her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family and thus help relieve the terrible emptiness in her life.

It seemed impossible that there could be any connection between these two people, but as I neared my station, I fumbled anxiously in my address book. I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”
He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?”
He looked as if he were about to faint.

I said, “Let’s get off the train.” I took him by the arm at the next station and led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while I dialed her phone number.

It seemed hours before Marya Paskin answered. (Later I learned her room was alongside the telephone, but she was in the habit of never answering it because she had so few friends and the calls were always for someone else. This time, however, there was no one else at home and, after letting it ring for a while, she responded.)

When I heard her voice at last, I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question, but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Debrecen, and she told me the address.

Asking her to hold the line, I turned to Paskin and said, “Did you and your wife live on such-and-such a street?”
“Yes!” Bela exclaimed. He was white as a sheet and trembling.

“Try to be calm,” I urged him. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”

He nodded his head in mute bewilderment, his eyes bright with tears. He took the receiver, listened a moment to his wife’s voice, then suddenly cried, “This is Bela! This is Bela!” and he began to mumble hysterically. Seeing that the poor fellow was so excited he couldn’t talk coherently, I took the receiver from his shaking hands.

“Stay where you are,” I told Marya, who also sounded hysterical. “I am sending your husband to you. We will be there in a few minutes.”

Bela was crying like a baby and saying over and over again. “It is my wife. I go to my wife!”

At first I thought I had better accompany Paskin, lest the man should faint from excitement, but I decided that this was a moment in which no strangers should intrude. Putting Paskin into a taxicab, I directed the driver to take him to Marya’s address, paid the fare, and said goodbye.

Bela Paskin’s reunion with his wife was a moment so poignant, so electric with suddenly released emotion, that afterward neither he nor Marya could recall much about it.
“I remember only that when I left the phone, I walked to the mirror like in a dream to see if maybe my hair had turned gray,” she said later. “The next thing I know, a taxi stops in front of the house, and it is my husband who comes toward me. Details I cannot remember; only this I know—that I was happy for the first time in many years.....

“Even now it is difficult to believe that it happened. We have both suffered so much; I have almost lost the capability to not be afraid. Each time my husband goes from the house, I say to myself, “Will anything happen to take him from me again?”

Her husband is confident that no horrible misfortune will ever again befall the. “Providence has brought us together,” he says simply. “It was meant to be.”

Skeptical persons will no doubt attribute the events of that memorable afternoon to mere chance. But was it chance that made Marcel Sternberger suddenly decide to visit his sick friend and hence take a subway line that he had never ridden before? Was it chance that caused the man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Sternberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bela Paskin to be sitting beside Sternberger, reading a Hungarian newspaper’

Was it chance—or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon’

Paul Deutschman, Great Stories Remembered, edited and compiled by Joe L. Wheeler, Focus on the Family Publishers, December 1996.

9 posted on 11/09/2014 12:02:55 PM PST by vladimir998
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To: buffyt


10 posted on 11/09/2014 12:04:11 PM PST by .45 Long Colt
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To: buffyt
Marcel Sternberger took the same subway train every day, on the Long Island railroad.
The LIRR does not have subway trains.
11 posted on 11/09/2014 12:05:21 PM PST by oh8eleven (RVN '67-'68)
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To: buffyt
I always enjoyed reading Readers Digest stories......

As a side note if God was truly involved, He would have had Maria start placing Ads when she arrived.........

12 posted on 11/09/2014 12:14:38 PM PST by Hot Tabasco (Don't harsh my buzz homie......)
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To: buffyt

Great story, thank you.

13 posted on 11/09/2014 12:20:08 PM PST by Fungi
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To: buffyt

Thank You God

14 posted on 11/09/2014 12:23:14 PM PST by Shimmer1 (Just keep repeating to yourself, “All cultures are equal.”)
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To: virgil283

“Wonderful story thanks for posting.
Some one close to me was driving and singing to Christian music when they had the thought ‘slow down at the traffic light’. Since it was out of the blue they did slow down to barely moving as they entered the intersection as a car from the left shot thru the red light at a high rate of speed. My friend would have been hurt or killed for not listening to the Spirit.”

Almost the same thing happened to me last Spring. At a “T” shaped intersection near our house, I was about to turn from a smaller road onto a highway (not a major highway as it still has traffic lights). When the light turned green, I started to proceed through the intersection only to find that for some reason both my car and the car next to me had stopped inexplicably. I don’t have any memory of whether I stopped the car or it stopped itself, but the car in the lane to my right was just as stopped as I was.

Just as I was about to start trying to get the car moving again a car zipped over the shoulder (in the center of a divided highway) around the cars that were already stopped at the light at an incredibly high speed and zipped in front of my car passing about an inch from my front bumper and with only a little more clearance for the other car that had stopped to my right.

I have no doubt it was a miracle; if my car hadn’t stopped in that intersection I’m pretty sure I would have been killed regardless of any “safety features” my car might have and my son in the back seat would have been seriously injured at the very least. After that, I was expecting to see a bunch of police cars chasing the vehicle, but none came so we all went on our way. Thank God that no one was hurt.

15 posted on 11/09/2014 12:33:04 PM PST by Bill93
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To: buffyt

Emancipated slaves placed want ads in search of family, after the Civil War.

16 posted on 11/09/2014 1:01:01 PM PST by Redmen4ever
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To: oh8eleven; vladimir998

I absolutely love this story but I have to admit that when I first started reading it, saying that LIRR was a subway train really bothered me too. But post #9 by vladimir998 has another version of the story that explains it all. He rode the LIRR and switched to a subway train. Makes a whole lot more sense to someone who lived in NY for many years. But even that small detail shouldn’t detract from a wonderful story about God’s continued involvement in our lives.

17 posted on 11/09/2014 1:03:09 PM PST by Waryone
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To: Waryone

Actually, way back when, I remember that there was a Long Island Railway train that picked up commuters on the North Shore of Long Island, and then when it approached the city went underground into the subway. So it was both a commuter train AND a subway train.

18 posted on 11/09/2014 1:33:18 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: 2banana

Why didn’t he just text her?

It don`t say when it happened but they had not even heard of the kind of phones we have today.

19 posted on 11/09/2014 1:43:05 PM PST by ravenwolf (` know if an other temple will be built or not but the)
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To: oh8eleven


20 posted on 11/09/2014 3:14:11 PM PST by wiggen (The teacher card. When the racism card just won't work.)
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