It was a beautiful late afternoon drive. The sun was getting low as we traveled through the south Alabama countryside. It had been raining and the wet grass smelled sweet. The clouds had given way to beams of light. The air was clean and refreshing. Yet, ahead there bulged a huge dark cloud. More rain was coming our way.
My wife and I had squeezed all our possessions, along with our two small children, into our green Volkswagen Superbeetle. Our things were packed all the way to the ceiling in the back of the car, so the kids had to lay on top of it all. Even then, it wasn't enough room for everything. Several suitcases had to be strapped onto the luggage carrier on the roof. Our little car was very heavy, so much so that the back wheels bowed outward under the weight.
As we drove south down a less traveled county road, which we had taken as a short cut to our destination, I could hear the plastic wrapping over the suitcases on the rooftop flapping in the wind. They would surely get drenched by the coming rain. I needed to stop and recover them. So, I began to look for a place to pull over and make the adjustments.
Just over a little hill, there appeared an abandoned farm house with a circle drive to the front gate. It looked like a good place to stop, tighten the plastic coverings, then get right back on the road. So, I turned in. As I drove onto the driveway, the car began to sink in the mud. It was slick, silty, soft, clay mud. I tried to drive on through it and get back to the road, but it was too late. The car was stuck! I shifted in and out of reverse to get some traction, but the car only sunk deeper - all the way up to the axles. The dark rain cloud was getting closer. And not a vehicle had driven by us on that lonely road.
I feverishly looked around for a shovel to dig the car out, and on the porch I saw one. I also noticed a man, sitting in an old chair, looking like a vagrant drifter. He was probably using the old house for shelter, but I didn't know for sure. I ran to the porch to get the shovel and asked, just in case it was his house, if I could use it. The man only looked at me. His eyes twinkled with a clarity I didn't expect. He said nothing. So, I took the shovel, went back to the car and started to dig around the wheels.
After what seemed like a very long time, but was only a few minutes, I realized my digging wasn't going to help. As my wife and children stood by, I simply stopped, bowed my head and prayed, "God, help us." It wasn't more than a minute that an orange county road truck came over the hill. I waved my hands and yelled for them to stop, because it looked as if they were going to drive on by us. The truck stopped and winched us out of the mud back onto the road. I tried to pay something, but the driver refused to take money. He simply said, "Don't you know any better than to pull off the road in Lowndes County after a rain?" I thanked him and the truck drove off. I went to put the shovel back on the porch and to thank the man, but he was gone. I didn't look for him. In a way it felt as if he had never really been there at all.
My family and I got back into the car and drove onward with much relief into the rain storm with the plastic covering over the suitcases still flapping. But it didn't seem that important now. Something much greater than anything I had ever experienced before and since that day had happened to me. God showed Himself to me in the twinkling eyes of a homeless man on the porch of an old abandoned farm house by a little traveled road in Lowndes County, Alabama, when He sent a county road truck to pull me out of the mud in answer to my simple prayer of faith. It was more than a prayer. It was the epiphany that changed my life. I would never be the same again.