Chapter 12 Unexpected Flashes of Light
Missoula, Montana. The last week and a half had been cold and rainy. I had either ridden or slept in the rain every day. Here in Missoula I was able to stay with a family my aunt knew, a welcome change to cramped and damp camping in the rain.
I rode my bike into the parking lot of the little restaurant my hostess had recommended for lunch. I walked in and looked around. There were two fellows who looked like college students sitting at one table. I walked over and asked if I could sit with them.
“Sure, have a seat,” one drawled. I sat in a chair that had me facing the entrance door.
“Where are you from?” asked the other.
‘I’m from Connecticut, on my way to Alaska.”
“What are you going to do there?” asked the first.
“Hopefully I’ll get a job with the BIA teaching in a village,” I replied.
Just then the door opened and a slight, dark fellow quietly entered. He appeared to be in his late teens. He looked around and brightened when he saw the three of us sitting at a table with a fourth chair empty. He came over.
“Mind if I join you?” he asked.
“No, have a seat,” said the first students.
“Thanks,” said the newcomer, “Say, could I tell you about something that changed my life?”
“Uh oh,” I thought, “He’s going to talk about Jesus right here in this restaurant!” The enthusiasm and the shininess were unmistakable.
“Well,” said the second student, “what is it that changed you?”
The dark stranger’s eyes shone, “I’ve been born again. Jesus has come into my life and totally changed me!” His face beamed.
“Jesus!” exclaimed the first student, “I use that as a swear word. How could He change your life? He’s dead. I suppose that means you got religion.”
“No, I got a relationship. Somewhere in the Bible it says that when we accept Christ as our savior, we become God’s children.”
I spoke up, “That is John 1:12; it says, ‘To as many as received him to them he gave the right to become the children of God.’”
“Are you a Jesus freak, too?” asked the first student.
“Well, ah, no. I was raised in a conservative church, that’s all,” I stammered, embarrassed with my own embarrassment. At the same time I was impressed with the boldness and sincerity of the new comer.
“Well, I don’t have any time for this religious drivel, however you define it,” snapped the second student.
“You sound as unhappy as I was before I believed,” the new comer answered quietly. “Jesus is not religion, He is reality. Somewhere in the Bible he said that He is Truth itself.”
“That’s in John 14:6 where He said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.’” I put in.
The first student glared at me. “Why are you helping him out if you aren’t a Jesus freak?”
I shrugged. “I may not believe it as sincerely as this guy does, but I sure do admire his commitment and willingness to share.” I was really affected by this young believer’s joy and boldness. It made me envious, his being so wholehearted and excited about his faith.
My faith was more on the outside, more duty than desire, position without the inner power and shine this fellow had. His faith showed up mine for what it was: theoretical and weak.
I tucked this encounter away in my mind, along with the tornado, the bears and the near accident. I had a sense that God was doing something here.
“Whew, this sleeping bag is getting pretty ripe!” I said, as I got my bed ready for the night. “I’ll have to air it out when I get to Mrs. Anderson’s house.” Being alone so much, I had taken to talking to myself.
I lay down in the sleeping bag and rolled over on my side. Suddenly I realized that it was not just the sleeping bag that had an odor. I also was pretty ripe myself! This was embarrassing, even if no one else was around to be offended!
“Well, riding in the cold, sleeping in fields and not having had a shower in 5 days doesn’t help,” I mumbled as I drifted off to a strongly scented sleep.
I arrived the next day on a sunny evening at the address of my former high school teacher and her husband. They were away on a trip, but had told me I was welcome to stay in their condo.
I knocked on the neighbor’s door and introduced myself. The neighbor didn’t bat an eye at the scraggly, long-haired, leather-clad motorcyclist. I had the right name, so I got the key to the apartment.
I wheeled my motorcycle into the yard and let myself into the house. After unloading my gear, I went right to the bathroom and took a nice long shower. Then I had a hardy supper of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Before going to bed I had another shower. Even then there was some ripeness left, but I figured there was another day to wash some more.
I climbed into the guest bed, thankful to be there, and was out like a light. Great to have friends from the past.
My pastor had a friend who taught in a Bible college in Spokane and had made arrangements for me to stay with him. The professor seemed happy to meet me when I rolled in.
After a good supper, he looked me in the eye and asked, “So, this trip of yours and your plan to teach in Alaska, are they just a short term adventure, or are you in the process of making serious decisions about life?”
I was taken aback, not having thought at all beyond getting a job in Alaska and helping people there.
“Well, I want to help people and I figured this would be a good place to start,” I answered. That was all I could manage off the cuff, but that question stuck in my mind and later became a beacon, pointing me towards the Truth. Another signpost God put up in my life.
When I told my host that I’d like to buy a rifle, he took me downtown to a hunting supply store where I purchased a big old used 30.06 along with some ammunition and a scabbard to carry it in. I strapped it to one of the forks on my motorcycle and felt even more in control as the stock of the rifle was in constant sight.
Picture of today’s Missoula, Montana