As my girls get older its clear that they are heading out on their own, and my influence is winding down, or at least its going to change. Which means that I find myself wondering if I have passed on everything that I can, that truly makes a difference.
That leads me to think about the things in my life that have truly made a difference. When I filter out my thoughts to those things, I am left with an odd but profound assortment of stories. I want to write out those stories for now, for tomorrow, for the next decade… so that my kids can come back here one day and remember who they are and where they came from.
When I was 22, I was newly married and had my first daughter on the way, and I was a youth pastor in Vancouver. We had no money and were in-between places to stay and were crashing at my in-laws’ house in Langley (about 40 minutes east of Vancouver). I got it into my head that I could be lead by God in my day-to-day activities and I would think about this while I was driving. I would ask God to lead me, and show me where to go and then I would be driving down some street and “feel” like I should go right, and so I would take the next right and I would “feel” the next turn and the next turn until I was either mostly lost or trying to turn up a one-way street or something.
No matter how many times I ended up somewhere ridiculous I became committed to this experiment… and it was obvious that I was not hearing God almost ever. In four or five months, I probably made 20 or 30 of these side trips that went nowhere.
Then, one night I was driving my brother in law home and I was within a few blocks of their (our) home and I “heard” something that sounded completely different than all the other times and it said, “keep going straight”. I told my brother in law about my experiment and he was excited about it and so I kept going, and it kept saying “keep going straight”. The road went from being a major road to a smaller road, to a residential lane, and I was about to give up when I saw.
On the corner up ahead of me was a strange scene. There was an old phone booth with a girl inside. Outside the booth was a car with two people, one inside the car and one outside the car. The girl in the booth was crying and had her foot up holding the booth door closed and the guy outside the car was screaming at her. I knew right at the moment that I saw that scene that we were there to save that girl.
My brother in law got out and started talking and then yelling at the people in the car, while I convinced the girl in the car to come with two new random strangers. She did not need any convincing and ran to our car. My brother in law and I got back in and drove away and made some attempt to make sure that we weren’t being followed.
Here’s her story.
She was from Kelowna and had run away from home. She arrived at a big mall in the Vancouver area and was befriended almost immediately by a guy with a small entourage of friends. They gave her food and a place to crash and some clothes and probably some drugs and it was great for a few days. Then the guy explained to her that he’d had a bad turn of events and needed her to do something to pay for all the stuff he’d done for her… and she got scared and somehow got away from him. I have no idea how she got to a phone booth deep in rural Langley, but somehow she did and the people in the car were ‘his’ people and had tracked her down and were trying to get her back.
We took her to my in-laws’ and my mother in law looked after her and she acted like it was the most peaceful moment in her life. It was very late, but we called her parents and they were overjoyed to hear from their daughter and they drove all night to come get her. They were there early in the morning. And I never heard from that girl again… can’t even remember her name.
I don’t know if she had any clue the living hell she was about to enter. I don’t know what kind of hell she lived in that made running away seem better. I don’t know a lot, but what I did find out for the first time, is that an average guy can be lead by God if he listens. And I learned a lot about how God values people, because it was His direction to save that girl.
I wonder how different the world would be if more people tried to listen and offered up a little time once in a while to do something unexpected. I wonder how different the world would be if I did that a little more often. I wonder what ever happened to the girl. (If anyone in the Kelowna area knows a lady in her 30s that has the other side of that story, I would love to meet her again.)
But, for my sons and daughters, this is one of the things in my life that changed me and made me a bit of who I am.