November 12, 2013

Stranded but Not Forgotten

We never imagined this day would end like it did.

We were invited to visit the immense waterfalls just over the border of Paraguay, where Brazil and Argentina come together.  This "tres fronteras" (three borders) area is only about 3 hours away from us, so we chose a day when our only commitment was homeschooling, declaring ourselves on an official field trip.  Not only were we really looking forward to finally visiting this beautiful place recently named one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, but we were just as excited for the time it would afford us to spend with other missionaries.
Imagine that I took this when we visited the Falls.
I didn't take it.  We didn't visit.  Just imagine we did.

The day before we left, we were roasting in heavy, humid, 100-degree heat.  The wind whipping in from the north felt like a hairdryer at high speed, and we were quite miserable.  We prayed the heat would let up just a bit so we could travel in some semblance of comfort.  And it did.

We started bright and early Monday morning on our trip, filling the truck with gas, topping off the oil, checking the air pressure in the tires, and dropping off our dog with friends a bit further up the road.  And we were off!  Well, for about 2 and a half hours, we were off.  Then the truck cut off.  And then we were off again, but this time, off the road.

Ken knew the abrupt turn-off followed by the oil light and a lot of loud tapping in the motor weren't good signs, so he cautiously popped the hood to give it a look.  Really low oil.  As in, not-touching-the-stick low.  We immediately thought of the heat the day before and thanked God that storms blowing in had dropped temperatures to the 80's, and cool breezes made it feel even better.  We also thanked Him that we had a thermos full of ice water, seeing as we were stranded in the middle of nowhere.  And Ken started his trek up the road to find more oil.

He returned with some empanadas a bit later, added the oil, and determined that the situation was much too serious for a roadside fix.  Time to call a tow-truck, which is, thankfully, covered by our car insurance.  After a few thousand rounds of trying to describe to Miss Insurance Representative exactly where we are, she said she'd send out a wrecker from our home city.  I knew that there were several towns and one major city MUCH closer, so I asked that she send one from there instead, so that we aren't required to sit on the side of a dangerous road the rest of the day (folks don't get in any hurry for things like this, so there was no telling when Mr. Wrecker would actually begin his trip to get us).

Only about an hour before this, we were run off the road by an oncoming 18-wheeler.  Had Ken not acted so quickly, we would have been hit head-on at highway speed. I was still a bit shaken and pretty constantly thanking God we were all alive.  And this lane along the side of the highway is often used by motorcycles, who can't keep up with road speeds and basically get pushed off the highway by larger vehicles.  The thought of sitting idle in this lane for hours, just inches from where the other vehicles were speeding by and where many of them veer over, was not at the top of my to-do list.

Despite my insistence, the lady from the insurance company kept saying that I was very close to our home city, and that I just didn't realize it.  "Ma'am, we've been driving for hours non-stop.  I'm positive that we're nowhere near there.  We're almost at our destination."  She promised she'd look into it and call me back.

Almost an hour later, she'd not called back or responded to any of my attempts to call her.  The other number in our insurance manual was disconnected, so we sat.  Thank you, God, that the cool breezes have come already and the rain has not.

From nowhere, a late-model SUV pulled up beside us.  "Everything okay?"  Wait, I recognize that voice!  A brother from our church, who happens to be the dad of one of  Camille's best friends, had recognized us in passing and turned around.  The strange thing is that Camille and her friend had been texting since we'd stopped--gotta pass the time somehow, right?--but the friend had not mentioned to her dad that we were there.  He just happened to be coming home from a several-day work trip and looked closely enough to see it was us.  

After some discussion, Ken decided to wait there for the wrecker, and the girls and I piled in the backseat of this brother's car with our luggage in tow.  We'd already imagined that after the wrecker arrived, Ken would go with the car and we girls would wait for a bus to take what promised to be a long, uncomfortable ride home. I was feeling unsure about that option, since only one bus had passed in the hours we'd been sitting there, and it would soon be dark. We were quite excited to instead hitch a ride in an air-conditioned private vehicle with Christian music in the stereo and a place to store our backpacks.  God was really looking out for us.

Ken waited there with the car for several more hours and through the rain that finally arrived, until Mr. Wrecker and his girlfriend finally showed up.  His ride back home took a good bit longer than ours and he had the excitement of riding in our actual vehicle WHILE it was being towed, but we did all make it back, safe and sound.  As for the Mission Mobile, well, we'll see what the mechanic says.

I try to over-analyze things at times and figure out why certain things happen.  Did God plan this to keep us from some other evil?  Did we get a random bad motor when we had it replaced last year?  Is this the enemy keeping us from meeting with the other missionaries and enjoying a day of His splendor in nature?  Why would God not stop this from happening?  Should I have eaten a bigger breakfast?  I don't know all the answers, probably never will.  I only know that when things happen to me, for whatever reason, I'm not alone, not forgotten, not abandoned.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Cor 4:8-9


  1. rachel@redclaysoap.comNovember 12, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    Another enjoyable read. Start the book. Please.

  2. o Christie! I was just saying that one would think we'd get use to car problems and the unexpected things like that because they happen ALL the time to us missionaries but the reality is that i'm never desensitized to it! i always have to fight to keep my spirits up and my family's spirits too. i do pray that you'll make it to the falls. hey, by the way, i have loved seeing the new family photo (on FB, I think). your girls have turned into beautiful young ladies with inner beauty that shines through! when your car gets fixed and you're ready for a road trip again, come visit us in the boonies. we leave in july for furlough so you only have a few more months to come! blessings!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Amy. Sometimes I think we're the red-headed stepchildren of the missionary world. Not that I like to hear that you have trouble, but sometimes it is good to be reminded that we're not alone. :) And yeah, it's a mental battle at times to keep the spirits up when it's one thing after another. We'll see if we can work a visit to the boonies in before y'all leave. I miss the campo something awful....


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