It was the summer of 1974. I was thirteen years old and I had been visiting an aunt in Arizona. During my visit, I had an opportunity to attend a Christian camp in Prescott, AZ. A cousin of my mom's was going to be working at that camp. She had moved out of the midwest a few years earlier when she got married so I was eager to see her as well.
The camp was wonderful. A number of young people came to know Christ and many others were leaving with a renewed commitment to God. The night before, my mom's cousin had called her to ask if I could come and stay with her at her home just outside of Las Vegas. She would be heading to Iowa the following week and I could head back with her so the cost of getting me back home would be minimal. Besides, it had been a long time since she'd seen family and she'd love to have me come for a visit.
My mom gave her consent assuming that I'd be riding to Las Vegas with my cousin. She never dreamed that since there was no room for me in the cars headed that way, I would be put on a bus and make the trip from Arizona to Nevada on my own.
I had no problem with doing this. I was a city girl. I knew all about buses or at least I thought I did. Besides, I had just flown from the Twin Cities to Phoenix (with a quick stop in Denver where I stayed on the plane) by myself. I fancied myself an experienced traveler.
My mom's 23 year-old cousin put me on the bus and told me she would meet me in Henderson. I waved goodbye and I was on my way.
An Unexpected Stop
After traveling for some time, the bus screeched to a halt. The driver informed me that I was to get off here. I looked at him stunned. The trip was supposed to take eight hours. I couldn't have arrived at my destination yet. This place looked like it was out in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't much there except I did notice a sign on an old dilapidated building which said Bus.
The bus driver addressed me again. "You transfer here." Now I understood. I had transferred buses before back in Minneapolis. I was supposed to get on another bus. Hmm...I didn't know I would have to change buses. I thought this bus was going to take me to my final destination.
I got my suitcase off the bus and looked around. I didn't see another bus. I walked over to the building with the bus sign and went in.
I Need Information Please
I was smart enough to know that I needed to find out what bus I needed to get on as well as what time it would be coming. It never occurred to me to look at my ticket. Instead, I looked around for signs. I had expected there would be a ticket counter with a clerk who could answer my questions. There wasn't. I looked around for a timetable which might give me the necessary information. There wasn't one.
I looked around the room. There was a man sitting on a wooden chair which was pushed up against a wall. He looked pretty cross and I can be pretty shy. I didn't want to ask him anything. What was I going to do?
I thought about camp and all the wonderful things which had happened. I thought about the new friends I had made. Suddenly, I felt very small and alone. I was hundreds of miles from family and friends. No one knew exactly where I was at that moment. What if I got on the wrong bus? What if the bus I was on had been late and my bus was already gone? Where would I go? What would I do?
I felt panic start to rise up within me. Was I going the right way? Was I really in the right place? Then I remembered that God had promised he'd always be with me. I was not alone even if I felt like I was. I found myself whispering a prayer to Him. All I did was tell him I didn't know what to do and could he please help me.
I noticed a woman and a little boy sitting on a bench. I reluctantly felt myself being nudged toward them. I wanted to run away and cry. Instead, I opened my mouth and asked if this was the right place to catch the bus for Las Vegas. She told me it was. She also told me when it would be coming. She invited me to wait beside her and her son. Little by little she got my story out of me and told me she was traveling just north of where I was going. I was welcome to join them.
The LORD Is My Helper
While this may not sound like this was the wisest thing for me to do, it ended up being the right thing for me to do. I had to transfer a couple more times with one longer lay-over around dinner time. My new friend made sure I got off and on at the right time and places. She took me to a restaurant to get something to eat at dinner time. We browsed in a Christian bookstore for a little bit. Yes, she was a Christian. She also noted that I was probably spending my last bit of money on a book at the bookstore. She was right.
When we pulled up to my final destination, my friend became concerned. My cousin was no where in sight. She pressed a dime with her phone number into my hand. "I'll be home in about an hour. If your cousin doesn't show up and you can't reach her by phone, call me collect. Do you understand?" I nodded my head. "I know how to do that."
I stepped off the bus and sat down on a bench near the back door of a casino. I was a long way from home and there wasn't a friend in sight.
The LORD Is My Defender
The side of the street where I was at was pretty deserted in contrast to the area about two blocks in front of me. I waited patiently for awhile but no one came. I thought about going in search of a phone but there didn't seem to be one nearby. What if my cousin came while I was away looking for a phone? What if she'd had a breakdown on her way home? What if...? "Stop it!" I hissed to myself as I felt panic start to rise up in me once again.
A man stumbled out of an alley and suddenly caught sight of me. His face changed abruptly and he started to move towards me. I looked around but I didn't see anyone else on the street. I felt myself tense up. Maybe he would leave me alone but then again maybe not. Could I out run him and get to where all the people were? Would they hear me scream over all of the noise in front of the casino?
I was about to bolt when I saw a look of sheer terror come over the man's face. He suddenly turned and ran away as fast as he could. I turned and saw a man in a navy uniform standing a few feet away from me. I hadn't noticed anyone there a few moments before. He stared in the direction the man had gone for a few moments. Then without saying a word, he sat down on the neighboring bench. I just stared at him completely speechless. After about five minutes he got up, smiled at me and walked away.
As soon as he left a car pulled up to the curb. It was my cousin. She was sorry she was late. She had fallen asleep and her husband hadn't known what time I was arriving. She hoped I was okay. She hadn't meant to leave me alone like that. I looked at the dime in my hand before staring down the street in the direction my defender had gone. I couldn't see him anymore. "That's okay," I said. "I wasn't alone."
He's With Us Every Step Of The Way
Over the years, as I've recalled this incident it has never failed to amaze me how God was truly with me every step of the way. There are those who would call all of these events a coincidence. I do not. God walked with me when I was 13 and he is still walking with me at 47. I've faced grief, financial difficulties, loss, uncertainty, sickness, threats and even death. I've walked on sunny paths and I've walked on some dark paths filled with pits and stones. God has been on every single one of them as well. I don't always see him, hear him or feel him but that doesn't change the fact that he has always been there and he always will be there!
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 (NLT)
Isn't it wonderful to know God is interested in every detail of our lives and he will never leave us!
Amen, it is ABSOLUTELY wonderful that God is interested in the smallest details of our lives.
What an amazing testimony of His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Much love in Christ,
You just made my day! I am sitting here with a big ole grin on my face for I know when angels are in a story and your "defender" certainly fits the bill!
One way or another God will perform His Word to guide, protect and bless us if we allow Him. If it takes strangers in bus stations or the United States Navy in Nevada (lol), God is there every second to take care of His own.
Thanks for sharing this incredible testimony of our God's faithfulness!