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Tow Truck Angel
by Teena Stewart
My husband, Jeff, and I had three days to select our new house in Colorado before heading back to pack and gather our kids. By Saturday afternoon we were so exhausted from the hunt, we decided to take a break. As we passed through another little mountain town in our rented car, we saw a sign for Mount Falcon State Park so we drove up the narrow dirt road.

"Let's check the trails." Jeff said and enthusiastically headed for a nearby path. Our walk became a hike as the trail twisted and turned upward. We panted, sucking in the thin air. Just as I was ready to turn back, the trail spilled into a sun-drenched clearing. Perched atop the mountain were the charred ruins of a once-stately, stone mansion. A sign displayed the mansion's photo and a brief history of the owner, John Brisben Walker.

Walker made his fortune through shrewd investments such as Cosmopolitan Magazine and lost it again through foolish ventures such as the purchase of the Stanley Steamer Automotive Company. Lightning struck the mansion and burned it to the ground during a storm in 1918, just months after Walker moved in, a perfect summarization of the tragic downfall of its owner. Our playful mood turned somber with sudden awareness of the man whose dreams had been crushed by finite limitations. The panoramic view of mountain tops and valleys reminded us of God's power. Man could plan all he wanted, but in the end who was really in control?

By Labor Day weekend, we'd lived in Colorado for one week. With no relatives nearby, no friends to visit, we decided a Sunday afternoon excursion into the mountains would ease our loneliness. Three kids, one Scottie dog, my husband and I piled in our aging minivan. We headed to Mount Falcon so our children could share our earlier experience.

The mountain road was hard on the brakes. On the second long downgrade, Jeff threw the automatic transmission into first gear to avoid overheated brakes. Coming out of a coast, he tried shifting the van into drive. It whined unresponsively. We chugged up the mountain, gearshift stubbornly stuck in first gear. Jeff grasped the stick firmly and boosted it upward. Suddenly, it flopped like a noodle. My heart pounded heavily as I realized the lever was useless.

On another incline through a small town, I held my breath as Jeff nosed the minivan to a standstill on the narrow shoulder. The loose lever simply wouldn't engage. Jeff rolled down the windows, then turned off the engine. Not in neutral or park, now there was no way to restart it.

We scanned our surroundings. A pay phone stood by the Laundromat up the hill. We knew no one to call for help aside from our real estate agent and her husband. Jeff fed quarters into the phone like a slot machine. AAA promised to locate a tow truck but the holiday weekend made it more difficult. He called several rental car companies only to learn we weren't in their service area. He dialed our real estate agent, no answer. He called our church, but was put through to an answering machine. Desperate, he tried a local church listed in the Yellow Pages. "Sorry we don't offer that kind of help," he was told.

Jeff moved slowly to the van. "It doesn't look good," he said. "Even with a tow truck, we can't all fit in the cab. We have no way to get home. I don't know what to do. I've never been in this situation before." He ran his hand through his hair, rubbing the back of his neck in frustration.

The morning sermon on trust flashed through my mind. "Maybe we should pray," I offered.

He nodded and took my hands. "Lord, we're in trouble. We need help. Please send some our way!" It was short and desperate, but all we knew to pray.

I waited expectantly. I was sure a passing motorist would stop and offer help, but the cars whizzed past. After phoning again about the tow, Jeff returned, heartened. "A truck is on the way!" Nearly an hour later, it ground to a halt in front of our minivan.

The driver and Jeff talked about a broken gear shift cable. I watched as the driver hopped out of the truck and released a tow chain. Visions of the rest of us spending the night by the side of the road with no way home came to mind.

About to connect the cable, the driver stopped. "There is one thing I could try," he told Jeff. Soon he was tinkering under the hood. "Try it now," he said. Jeff started the car and could move it forward. The tinkering had shifted the van into drive. He instructed Jeff on manually changing gears. The van wasn't "fixed," but could be driven home for repairs. The rest of us excitedly piled in the minivan.

"Thank you. Thank you." We yelled to the driver as he turned his truck around. He flashed a bashful smile and waved, then disappeared around the bend.

We never reached Mount Falcon that day, but we shared the same extraordinary lesson Jeff and I learned there earlier. We can plan all we want, but in the end, we aren't in control. I believe that day God sent a "tow truck angel" to remind us He is really in charge of our lives. When the finite connects with the Infinite, His presence stays with you a lifetime.

� Teena Stewart
jntstew@mindspring.com
When Teena Stewart isn't freelance writing and managing her own communications business, Smart Words, she is consulting and speaking for Ministry In Motion which offers spiritual gifts/ministry discovery seminars, and leadership and ministry resources for church leaders and volunteers.