Among the list of favorite films of some of the intrepid Righteous Rides regulars would be the 1941 classic “Sgt. York.” (Considering the nature of our recent narrative, we are fortunate that “Bambi” is not near the top of that list…).  Anyway, in the film, Gary Cooper plays real-life World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York.  Along with a rousing acapella version of “Old Time Religion,” and much mangling of grammar, the film is a study on having faith, even when you find yourself in the trenches.

As Alvin put it:  “I reckon I can just be a-trustin’ in somethin’ that’s a heap bigger ‘n I be.”

Most missionaries might not use “trenches” to describe their life of service.  However, they’re no strangers to “a-trustin’” in the Lord.  Such is the case with van 8396.  If you recall from our previous installment, Ahmet, Rachael, and family, on home assignment from their usual church planting duties, were on their way to Miami when they had an unexpected late-night visit with a deer.  (Don’t you just hate it when people stop by without calling first? Alvin would say he was “a-gin” it.)

According to Rachael, they were about five miles from Walterboro, South Carolina, when you-know-who (The deer, not Gary Cooper…) made the final appearance of his farewell tour in the headlights of van 8396. No encores.  They pulled over and safely assessed the damage as best they could.  Authorities do not recommend pulling over on the highway in the dead of night outside of an actual emergency.  Note:  Traveling around the country with three teenagers is not considered an actual emergency, no matter how many times someone threatens to “pull this van over RIGHT NOW!”

Our five tired travelers decided to limp slowly into Walterboro for the night.  In all honesty, due to a distinct lack of non-wildlife injuries, I believe van 8396 did most of the actual limping…

Rachael reported that they were thoughtful enough to park the van facing away from hotel, just in case Bambi bits on the windshield might put off other visitors.  Not sure about the locals.  I have eaten at places in some parts of our great nation where collisions with the local fauna seemed less a tragedy than an opportunity…

In the light of day, they did further assessment. Yes, Ahmet actually did the fluid “taste test.”  (Personally, I would have made one of the kids go first…)   Bitter.  The fluid, not Ahmet.  He’s a trained missionary.  They’re used to putting strange substances in their mouths.  “Just smile, nod, and swallow, kids…we think it’s Jello salad.” (“For that which we are about to receive, we thank thee, Lord.”   Sorry, different movie.  (Points if you know which one….)  Culinary judgements aside, they realized van 8396 was unlikely to make it much further. So they made the phone call to Righteous Rides.

The bad news was that they were stranded in South Carolina for a few days until Layne and Shirley could ride to the rescue with a replacement.  We are certainly not knocking the fine citizens of the Palmetto State, as you will see.  But Ahmet and family had planned to spend a couple of days with Ahmet’s grandparents in Miami, and now those plans were pretty much … roadkill.

Now this is where the Good Lord wiggles his fingers and things happen.  (He may not actually do finger wiggling, no matter what the Sistene Chapel might claim.  He may make action lists on white boards.  We all know Godly people who love their white boards.)

Ahmet is a modern, connected fellow, even if he does practice an old time religion.  He  posted a picture of the damage on Facebook, and a fellow missionary up in Scotland contacted them to let them know he had family in the area. The missions community can be very tight-knit, even if there’s not much actual knitting involved…outside of places like Scotland.

Rachael was hoping someone could run them to Walmart for basic supplies and a 55-gallon drum of deer repellant, and then perhaps to a laundry-mat.  How many rinse cycles does it take to get Bambi, or washer fluid, or some combination thereof, out of what Alvin would call  your “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes?

The Scottish connection turned out to be the pastor at the Independent Baptist Church in Walterboro.  Said pastor not only put down his knitting long enough to help them make the Wally World run and generously spoil the kids with junk food, (venison jerky, anyone?), but was also kind enough to lend them a car.

So our deer-ly delayed missionaries (Yes, that was awful.  I sincerely apologize…) were actually able to scoot over to Charleston and see friends they had not been able to connect with for eight years.  The delay also meant that their planned Wednesday night church meeting in Miami had to be cancelled.  They were instead able to attend the Walterboro church.  No word yet on whether there was any rendition of “Old Time Religion” sung, acapella or otherwise. (Perhaps they threw in “In The Sweet By And By” in honor of the deer.)

But, as Rachael put it: “Such sweet, encouraging people! They even decided to take us on for support, which is an answer to one of our biggest prayers. We left Walterboro with lots of new friends!”  (One assumes that none of those new friends were actually deer. What can you do?  Some species just hold grudges…particularly against missionaries whose home church is in Slaughter, LA.)

On Thursday, Layne and Shirley trucked in with the replacement.  Ahmet and crew were finally back on the road.  Destination: Miami.

Van 8396?  Destination: Warrenton, to be thoroughly de-Bambi-fied.   (Not sure what the Chilton’s rate is for deBambification.)  The good news: the damage could have been worse, and parts were on hand.  The bad news? Destination: Chicago, for some slightly ironic replacement duty.  It seems another Righteous Rides van has done another Bambi Bump.

Life in the trenches sometimes seems like a never-ending series of destinations.

Rachael puts it this way: “A missionary has a tendency to always be focused on getting to the next destination, and we rarely take time to enjoy where we are. To be honest, we were tired in just about every way you can be tired! But we quickly thanked the Lord for this provided rest. While we were sad to see our time with Ahmet’s grandparents in Miami shortened, we were able to spend the day with them as rested and recharged servants of the Lord!”

Alvin, a more taciturn sort, puts it this way: “The Lord shore do work in mysterious ways…”


Did you miss Part 1 of this story.. check it out HERE.