Remember, we began sensing there were problems with the van before we even got out of Baltimore? Well, as the miles ticked by, we began to be more and more unsure we would make it home with the van.
We prayed, we tried to not worry. Paul had checked all the fluids and done every thing he knew to do while traveling, so we would just have to keep pushing on in faith.
Just as we nearly crested the top of the hill just on the Maryland/West VA border on I68, our van lost power so fast that we couldn't even get the van to a point where there was a shoulder! We were in a precarious position still really on the road. Paul put the van in "park" and went to get out to try to figure out what to do--only he realized the van was rolling backwards! "Park" would not hold the van! Paul managed to jam the Emergency Brake down, but even that did not seem like it wanted to hold the van well, and the trucks and cars were whizzing dangerously close to us in the dark. "Out! Out!" Paul ordered us! "Get walking on the other side of the guard rail and get up to the Welcome Center."
Bless my children--Charity, Chad and Katya all grabbed their back packs and water bottles and crawled out and over the guard rail and began walking in the dark and rain. Later, looking back on it all, I was amazed at how fast they moved. We trudged through the dark, slipping and sliding a bit on the hill and loose gravel. It was certainly not a very comfortable walk, and Katya was rather agitated at first, but with the others staying calm and positive, even she cheered up! Eventually we got to the Welcome Center and went in to settle down for who knew how long of a wait in one corner of the place.
Charity pulled a book out of her backpack and offered to read to Chad to help distract him and pass the time, and that left me free to supervise Katya and keep checking in periodically with Paul to try to figure out what to do. He informed me he was trying to keep people from hitting our van in the dark and rain by using his flashlight to motion them to get over, meanwhile he was making calls, trying to locate help for our stranded family.
Time drug on and we finally rummaged in our back packs to check on what few snacks we had. We all had a few things and laid them out. "I don't need mine," Chad manfully declared! "Let someone else eat mine!"
As time drug on, we began to envision spending the night in the Welcome Center. Our spirits lifted after one of the care-takers, a kindly older gentleman, came around to check on us. "Don't worry!" he solemnly assured us. "You are safe here and if you need to spend the whole night, that's OK. I'll make sure you are OK!"
After a call to one of our pastor's to see if they knew of anyone in the area who could possibly help us, Paul got a call from someone who said they were coming to help us but it would take them about 45 minutes to get to us. When this dear man showed up, we had been waiting at the Welcome Center for about two hours, hungry and tired, but even Katya was really an amazing kiddo the whole time! While waiting, she let me take a nice photo of her at the tree.
Well, to make a long story short, the kindly gentleman who showed up and rescued us, turned out to be the father of the new wife of one of our pastor's! So that was a fun bit of "connection"! At great risk to his own life and limb he towed our van to the Welcome Center (He and Paul just narrowly escaped being hit by a tractor trailer in the process of hitching the van up to his truck). Then, he put himself totally at our disposal and said he would do whatever was best for our family--either take us home to his own house for the night or take us to a hotel--whichever we desired. While Paul and I were debating which would be the best plan (we had lots of angles to consider due to our kiddos needs), this gentleman asked, "How far away do you live?" When we told him we had several more hours to go, he offered, "How about I just load you all up in my truck and take you home?!" And bless his generous heart! That is exactly what he did! We had a tight fit with the 5 of us and the Mr in his truck but Katya (in car seat), Chad and Charity all squeezed into the back seat, and the Mr., Paul and I all squeezed into the truck front seat.
We had a time of blessed fellowship and rejoicing in the Lord as we traveled back home. And even though we arrived way, way late and very tired, our hearts were full of warmth and gladness due to the kindness of this man and his caring heart. He would not even allow us to give him anything for his gas and bother, but blessed us and turned around to begin his long drive back home through the dark and rainy night.
The next day, Paul and a friend of ours went and towed the van back home--indeed, the transmission which was less than a year old had gone completely out! In fact, it had gone so completely and thoroughly out that "park" did not work at all, so had it not been just almost at the crest of the hill when it happened, rather than going down the other side, we could have had a very different ending to our story--because as it turned out--for whatever reasons, the emergency brake did not work right either and just the "jostling" that occurred when hitching the van to the gentleman's truck to tow it caused, the van started rolling backwards and Paul had to run and brace it with his body while the man ran to his truck to start pulling the van forward before it gained enough momentum to pull both vehicles back down the hill. That was a night to remember, that is for sure!
We are very thankful for God's mercies to our family and for how he provided one of the kindest, most gentle man of God to come to our aid when we were stranded! And so that was how our trip to Baltimore and home again went.