Runnin' on Empty
I still remember the incident with a small pang of regret. It was one of those, "God, can I please have a do-over?" moments.
We were standing in a circle holding hands at a Vacation Bible School. The electricity was out. There was no way we could proceed with VBS unless God turned the lights back on. A group of teenagers had bravely asked me to say a prayer asking God for help. "Yeah, but what if I say the prayer and nothing happens?" I thought to myself. I mumbled a few feeble words and that was that. Not very inspiring. Fortunately, in the next room, the rest of the kids were praying with a bit more confidence and, moments later, the electricity returned, praise God.
The electricity was back, but I felt like I'd missed an opportunity. I told myself that next time I'd have a bit more courage.
My "do-over" opportunity presented itself after the recent Pacific Area MBA Campout in May, 2014. The theme was "Courageous" inspired by 2 Timothy 1:7-9
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
I found myself driving through the desert of Southern California after the blessed campout weekend with a van full of cheerful teenagers. We'd left with plenty of fuel to get back to the Arizona border where I had hoped to take advantage of lower gas prices. The miles whizzed by when it suddenly dawned on me that we were surrounded by saguaro cacti, a species nowhere to be found outside of central Arizona. Had we already passed the border town gas stations?
Glancing at my dashboard, I was alarmed to see "Low Fuel" glaring at me in bright red letters. Someone consulted their smartphone and confirmed that we'd passed the last fuel stop 30 miles ago and had another 50 miles to go before the next station. I had no idea how long the fuel light had been glaring at me. It was certain we'd run out of gas very soon.
At this moment, my "VBS prayer" memory jumped to mind. This was the "do-over" moment I'd been waiting for.
"Jared, say a prayer aloud that God will watch over and protect us. We need his help, so let's all pray together," I instructed my younger brother. Jared offered a simple, sincere prayer, as everyone in the car turned their hearts to God. After the "Amen," a few of the teenagers texted their friends to pray for us while I switched on my hazard lights, cranked the cruise control down to 55 mph and shut off the AC to conserve fuel. Still, I knew it wouldn't be enough and we all racked our brains as to what more we could do.
Suddenly, we were inspired with a thought. Brother Ken and Sister Sharon Staley, a couple from our branch in Mesa, AZ, had called us earlier that day letting us know that they had visited friends in California that weekend and were heading home along the same stretch of interstate. Of course, they had left California sometime before us, but perhaps they weren't too far ahead to turn back to help us. It took a few minutes of scrambling to acquire their phone number (not only had I forgotten to re-fuel, but my phone battery had died as well...) but finally we got Brother Ken on the line.
"We're running out of gas, Brother Ken. We're in trouble. We're at mile marker 87," my brother explained. I could imagine Brother Ken squinting to see what mile marker they were passing at that same moment.
"Mile marker 87...wait, we're at mile marker 87. Are you driving a white van with the hazard lights on? We're right behind you!" he replied. A glance in my rear-view mirror revealed the Staleys' silver sedan pulling up directly behind us at that very same moment. We all marveled that God had answered our prayer in a miraculous way!
To make a long story short, some 10 minutes later, our van sputtered to a standstill within sight of a gas station and the Staleys assisted us in refueling. What could have been a scary and potentially dangerous incident — stranded on the desert highway in 100 degree weather — turned out to be a minor delay of only about an hour.
God had miraculously provided. I thank Him for His protection in the natural sense, but more so I thank Him for the opportunity to share a testimony with the teenagers in my car that God does provide and that we can always have the confidence to cry out to Him in times of need, expecting an answer.
Summer Reading Challenge Daily Assignment
2 Nephi 26-27
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