For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… Psalm 91:11 (NIV).
The thought of praying for adventure may seem a bit hedonistic to some. I didn’t pray the prayer, but when my friend did, I accepted it as a gift from God. I have learned that God orders all our steps (Ps. 37:23), is never surprised at occurrences in our lives (Isa. 46:10), and doesn’t just stay in a church building (Ps. 139:9-12). Furthermore, he has given us all things to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17). It’s when we start looking for him in every circumstance that we begin to see him (II Kings 6:17). And that’s what we were doing on this memorable vacation.
Peter and I were stranded on the side of the autoroute just outside the little village of Givors, near Lyon, France. The sun was going down, and a soft rain had begun to fall. When the carjackers left us, they took everything: passports, airline tickets, French francs, and our suitcases full of clothes. We must have looked strangely out of place there on the edge of the road: two Americans, one in a business suit and tie and the other in slacks with a bright orange turtle-neck jumping up and down with arms frantically waving.
I was the jumper. Surely, I thought, some kind person will be attracted by my bright sweater and obvious distress. And, eventually, someone did stop—a curious young man who listened and was sympathetic to our plight. He took us to the emergency telephone, called the police, and waited with us for their arrival.
For the second time, we told our story to the dutiful gendarmes who meticulously wrote every detail on their little pads. By the time we were safely in their patrol car, the rain was pouring, and I was seated by the broken window that refused to close. The whole plot was beginning to remind me of Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame. Naïve tourists carjacked, aided by friendly passerby, rescued by energetic policemen.
Even though I was being inundated, our brave heroes insisted on driving back and forth down the autoroute to ascertain exactly where we had been carjacked. (Jurisdiction is extremely important in the Givors village, and the police didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.) Only when it was determined the precise spot where we had been hit and robbed did we proceed to headquarters.
Peter patiently spent the next several hours filling out reams of reports and answering the eager policemen. (This might have been the most excitement they’d had in weeks.) I worked with another team of police trying to reach home to cancel our credit cards – they were also in the stolen car. I tried to emphasize the importance of quickly canceling the cards and the need to reach my mom, but the dauntless policeman insisted on making the call himself. In heavily accented English, he said the few words he knew telling my mom that he was a policeman and had my daughter with him. My mother, thinking someone was pulling a prank, hung up on him. Several tries later, I was actually talking to Momo, explaining what had happened and thanking God that we hadn’t been hurt.
Later, the police released us for the night saying they would conduct further investigations the next day. We got into the squad car, stopped at a drug store for toothbrushes and toothpaste, and were soon deposited at the Hotel of the Station (Hôtel de la Gare). With great warmth we were bid à bientot and left to register and find our way to our room.
Since it was after midnight, the proprietor was probably asleep, but he courteously guided us up the darkened spiral stairway to our second floor room. When the door handle fell off in his hand, Peter did laugh, and we settled in at the Hôtel de la Gare . Throughout the night, the room vibrated as every train going through Givors passed under our window. And the rain was falling.
In the darkness, laughter and a song kept bubbling up, “All day, all night, angels watching over me, my Lord…” With his typical dry humor, Peter intoned that we have would no longer have to worry about the crazy drivers on the autoroute.
Numbers of trains later, we joined our police friends in the bar where they were drinking coffee. We had a quick breakfast and were prepared to return to headquarters when the gendarmes announced a change of plans. The hierarchy had determined that the crime had not occurred in their jurisdiction, so we were being turned over to the police nationale.
After a drive up into the hillside, we arrived at the headquarters of the police nationale, a butter-colored manor house with patrol cars scattered about. The officer in charge greeted us, spoke briefly to our departing friends, and we exchanged au revoirs. Then we turned to the new agent de police who beamed at us and directed, “Follow me to zee bedroom.”
Join me on Thursday to see how God’s providence not only protected us but provided more than we could have asked or thought.
Father, thank you for parents who taught me that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. And thank you that you blessed me with a healthy sense of humor. You have enriched me at every turn. AMEN.