When I was packing the truck on Wednesday night, I had a gut feeling that I was in for an adventure. A dad, two pre-teen sons and an 800 mile ride to Branson, MO was feeling like a combustible mixture. I wasn't sure what to expect, I just knew that 11 hours in the truck was going to be a challenge.
Although I had prayed for protection and guidance before we left, I had no idea just how much I would need it. On the first leg of our trip we made it to Des Moines, IA and decided to grab a hotel room as my eyes were heavy and my mind was tired. I met a sweet, dear lady named Mavis at the Quality Inn. She could tell I was tired and made my unexpected check in go smoothly. She asked if I preferred pancakes or biscuits and gravy for breakfast, so of course I said biscuits and gravy. "I'll take that to mind in the morning. Have a good rest."
After 5 of the best hours of rest ever, the boys and I were up and gone by 6 AM, on the road again. We had a beautiful morning for traveling and made very good time into Missouri. We stopped about 150 miles shy of our destination for a stretch and bathroom break. We also gave Grandpa and Grandma some extra time to catch up to us! We got back on the road for the last leg of our trip and the boys were pumped! The end of the trip was near. As we were cruising along I saw the folks pull up behind us on the highway. Grandma was driving now with the pedal to the metal. We traveled together for a while before they needed a pit stop, so we joined them. We got out of the truck, said our hellos and exchanged hugs and went into the convenience store to hang out until they were done with their break. Here's where the story gets good.
So, we load up one more time for the final leg into Branson. Since Mom has been there dozens of times, she takes the lead and we are off. The boys and I are jamming out with stereo cranked, laughing and singing. Thank goodness for XM radio on road trips! We're down the road about 25 minutes and I see my phone light up with an incoming call. I look at the caller ID and don't recognize the number, but do realize it is an Alexandria number so I answer it, "Hello this is Dr. Powell." "Hi Mike, this is Beth from the Alexandria YMCA" the voice on the other end says. "Well, hi Beth, how are you?" I spout back in my finest southern drawl. "Say, Mike, I just received a phone call that someone has found your wallet" she says. "Well, that's impossible Beth because I'm in Southern Missouri right now", I continue with my local dialect. Laughing, she says, "Well, I just got off the phone with a guy named Bill from Missouri and he has your wallet. He found it laying in the middle of the highway." "WHAT!" I yell and hit the brakes and pull to the shoulder. (Good thing no one was behind me or we would have been in big trouble!) "I have his cell number here, he wants you to call him," she replies. "Oh my God, Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you!" She reads me the number as I write it on my palm with a Sharpie. First sign from God, the YMCA.
Meanwhile, my folks have pulled over and wonder what the heck is going on in our vehicle! I get 3 missed calls and a text from them during that brief phone call all wondering whats up. I call them and take 30 seconds to fill them in then hang up on them before they can start in with questions. I dial Bill and he answers with a deep, drawn out "Heeellloooo, this is Bill." "Hi Bill, my name is Mike and I understand you have my wallet", I said. "Well, ha ha ha, I sure do Mike. Found it plumb in the middle of Route 44 bout 3 miles back. Where are you now?" he asks. I had no idea where I was so I said, "I'm in Missouri." He laughed, "I know that but where ya' headin'?" Embarrassed I said, "We are on our way to Branson." "Good," he replied, "you must be just a head of us. What town are you near?" I had no clue so I expanded the screen and saw the next town was Bolivar, about 3 miles ahead. I said, "Well it looks like I am 3 miles North of Bolivar." "Okay," he says,"when you get to Bolivar take the first exit to the right. At the top of the ramp there's a filling station. I'll meet you there. I'm drivin' a white Pontiac and there's a red 1/2 ton pickup with me. I believe we are about 5 miles back from ya'll." "Great," I sparked out, "I'm in a white Chevy Avalanche. I'll be waiting." I hung up and took a deep breath.
Now my mind kicks in. What if this guy is psycho? I have my kids with me, oh God, please help me. A hundred different scenarios run through my mind and I finally come to the conclusion that we'll be alright. So next I get on the phone with my bank and start putting a hold on all my cards. I had every credit card and $200 cash in my wallet, ready for a great vacation and this happens! How am I going to get more cash without my ATM card? And no credit cards? Seriously, what am I going to do? I remember saying a quick prayer as I saw the exit approaching, "Lord, all things are possible with you. May your hand be in this situation and may it have a peaceful, happy ending that might glorify you. Amen."
So we get to the station, and wait. The longest 15 minutes ever! With every white car or red truck, Gramma hollers out, "There he is. Here he comes." But, no, none of them were the right vehicle. After pacing and developing a strong urge to vomit, a white car and red truck combo come pulling off the highway. It was them. As they pull in to the lot, I take a deep breath. "Mom, give me $20 bucks to give him for helping us out." She did and I thought it was the least I could do and that it might be needed to get the wallet back. So out steps Bill, all 70 years of himself, trucker ball cap, cowboy shirt, blue jeans and boots and with his slow drawl, "Well, you must be Michael." "I am sir. And you are Bill?" I replied. "I am and here's your billfold. It's a mess but I think I got everything up off the road fer ya. There was pieces everywhere. If it ain't in there then I guess the good Lord don't thinks ya need it" he says. I take the torn up wallet from him and open it. Every last dollar was there. Some were torn and tattered, but it was all there. My bank debit and credit card were in pieces, but there, as it looked like they were run over. My American express card was missing the magnetic stripe. My ID was there. And the poem about being a Dad that my Father always carried was even there. Not a thing was missing. I extended my hand and said, "God bless you Bill. This is an amazing thing you did here, thank you." "Well, I figured someone was gonna miss it so I stopped. I had to beat another lady to it, but I did. She asked if it was mine and I said 'It is now'" he said chuckling. "This is a miracle Bill, thank you" I said. "Well Michael, we all believe in miracles down here" he said with a cheeky grin, "I hope you enjoy our Missouri hospitality and can relax now." "I will" as shook his hand and gave him the twenty. Of course, he didn't want it, but I made him take it.
It was an amazing experience that confirmed my belief in the protection of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer. As I reflected on the events of the day later that night, I found what I believe to be the hidden gem in all of it. I'll share that with ya'll tomorra!
God is good. He loves me and He loves you. Thank you Jesus for your miracle in my life.