On that particular day I was a little worried as I was bouncing along a dusty Mexican road in a Chevy pickup. Last week I had been guiding a group of forty missionaries in the hills of Puebla, Mexico. Work was being done in two different sites about five miles apart. Slowly, two small homes for poor families were being raised. I was daily going back and forth to each site and the day wasn’t going as planned.
I had just checked my gas gauge and the needle was on the red. I wasn’t familiar with the truck and didn’t know just how long I could keep going until I ran out of fuel. I was ten miles from the nearest gas station, so I decided instead of heading to the next work site I would have to coast the truck as much as possible into the town and pray that I would make it. That was my plan. God had a different one.
My plan included no stops or interruptions. God’s plan included a young woman with a baby in her arms. She appeared around a bend in the road. She pleaded with her eyes for me to stop, and obeying a natural instinct to help someone in need I promptly brought the truck to a halt. It seemed like she was going my way, it was a hot dry day and she needn’t have to walk all the way to her destination on dusty roads if I could help.
However, her road wasn’t exactly my road. She opened her bundle to a very frail and sick looking baby girl, about 6 months old. I had seen so many frail children in Haiti and Mexico that I knew this baby had to get to a doctor. The mother began spilling her story in a breathless account. The baby had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat or drink and had a high fever. One thing was certain; the baby needed an I.V. right away. I told the young mother I was going to take her to the town where the gas station was located and we could get help. However, she promptly said no, she had to get to a village in the opposite direction, called Santa Marta. I mentally located Santa Marta on the map, and in Santa Marta there was no gas station.
So, a dilemma made itself present…
Not wanting to abandon the mother nor wanting to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without gas, I had to choose. I guess God helped at that moment. I looked down at the gas tank and saw the needle now hovering just above the red line. Was it a sign? Maybe I did have enough gas.
I grudgingly pulled the truck around and headed up a different road confident that God was going to have to get me there. As we traveled up the road over the hill I tried to flag down some other cars but none could take the mother and child. As we got to the top of the hill and the worst of the journey behind us I thought that maybe I could leave her to walk the rest of the way down to the village. However, on top of the mountain was a crew of rough looking miners who were working on an oil pipeline. She immediately begged me not to leave her among them as they couldn’t be trusted. I peered out of the truck at them and sure enough, they were a scruffy bunch. I couldn’t leave her in that situation so we kept going on. I kept looking every few seconds at the needle, praying it would keep above the red line.
As we traveled on, I was imagining the worst, getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and spending the rest of the day walking for gas with all the missionaries oblivious as to where I had vanished.
As we bounced along my water bottle bounced to the floor and I picked it up. As I held it in my hand a brief brainwave entered. Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit. Water and a sick baby, all in one truck. Baptism! I turned to the mother, is the baby baptized? “No” was her response.
I brought the truck to a halt and went around to the passenger side. I opened the door and there with my water bottle I baptized Heriberta. She was now a daughter of God, eternity had entered into her life!
As I got back into the truck, finally becoming myself thankful to God for having this woman cross my path, soon a truck pulled up and most willingly took the mother into the town. I turned the truck around and everything became bright and cheery. I was no longer too worried about the gas either. What was walking a whole day for gas when we now got Heriberta the greatest gift of her life? Even the miners waved to me as I drove by.
I kept coasting as much as possible and nursed the truck into the gas station much to my relief. As I headed back out to the mission site with a full tank of gas, I realized how God’s ways aren’t our ways. If I had stuck to my plans, however rational and logical they were, I would have not picked up that woman. If I had my way, maybe the work on the houses would have progressed a little more and I would not have risked running out of gas. But that would be merely boring human achievements.
When God takes over and is at work there is always the unmistakable mark of the Divine. Where God is allowed to work in a soul, beautiful things can happen, not just merely human things. Heriberta’s baptism was the most beautiful event of that whole day. God does write strait with crooked lines. Sometimes it is only after many twists and turns on the path that we come into the light and see clearly. God was writing the story that day and I am glad I let him do it.