The Night Shift

Prodigal:  The sun is about to set.

Me:  Yes, but God works the night shift.

Prodigal:  Praise the Lord for that!

This is from the book God Works the Night Shift by Ron Mehl

It was midnight in Last Chance, Colorado.

There wasn’t much moving but an aging International Travelall with four sleepy, long-legged Bible college guys stuffed inside. Representing our college in that summer of ’64, we were traveling cross country on a public relations tour.  We were on the basketball team, sang in a quartet, and took turns preaching and running the slide projector.

We were on a narrow stretch of Highway 71, approaching Last Chance.  My big buddy Herb–all six-foot-nine, 240 pounds of him–had a girl-friend who lived down the highway in Sterling.  We planned to camp in her living room that night.

I guess it could have happened to any of us, since we were all dead tired, but our driver fell asleep at the wheel.  In the back seat, I woke as the Travelall lurched suddenly to the right, then back to the left.  I hollered something, then blacked out as our van launched itself over a sheer embankment, rolled again and again and came to rest, upright, facing up the slope.

When I came to, the van was still rocking and dirt seemed to be sifting down on me from the ceiling.  I became aware that the little dome light was on, that I had a lap full of broken glass, that my back hurt, that the luminous hands on the dash clock pointed at 12:02, and that I was all alone.

Alone?   Why was I alone?  Where were the guys?

The rear passenger door next to me suddenly popped and swung wide open, but there was no one there.  I got out.

Am I hurt?  Where am I?  Where is everybody?

A full moon shone down on the grassy slope, but I couldn’t see anyone at all.  Shock and a growing sense of fear began to claw at my insides.

Then I heard something.  Some kind of moan or sob.  I followed the sound and found Joe.  Joe was a big guy, too–six-six, 250 pounds.  But this thing on the grass didn’t look like any Joe I’d ever seen.  His face, in the moonlight, was a mask of blood.  He was staring at me.

“Ron,” he moaned. “Ron. Help me.”

He lifted his hands to me and blood ran down his arms.   He looked like a monster out of a horror movie.  I remember wanting to run–to just turn around and run from the whole scene as fast and as far as I could, and somehow block it from my mind.  I’d never been so scared in my life.

“Ron,” Joe cried, holding out that bloody hand.  I took it and held it.  Then I heard someone else moaning in the distance.

“Hang on, Joe, ” I said, “I’ll be right back.”

Thirty yards on the other side of the van I found Herb.  His leg was twisted at an unnatural angle from the hip, and he seemed in horrible pain.  Jim was lying nearby.  But neither of them looked as bad as Joe.

I went back to Joe and sat by him, sure he wouldn’t–couldn’t live very long.   From somewhere, I remembered that you were supposed to keep injured people awake.  I said, “Let’s quote some verses, Joe.  Do you remember one?”  I started rattling off all the Bible verses I could remember.

As I sat there holding my friend’s hand, I began to realize what a horrible predicament we were in.  It was the middle of the night.  We were out on the dark prairie.  Highway 71 was a lonely stretch of road.

I started to pray.  “Lord, it’s dark and we’re in trouble.  No one knows we’re here.  No one travels this road.  No one will come by here.  But Lord, You see us.  You know where we are.  Help us, Lord.  Please, help us.”

Five minutes later I heard something in the distance.   A car?  I climbed up the bank and staggered onto the roadway.  It was a car!  I could see approaching headlights.  Standing in the middle of the highway, I waved my arms like a wild man.  The car stopped and a young, frightened-looking man rolled down the window and looked at me.

“We’ve had an accident,”  I gasped.  “We’re young preacher boys…our car’s down the bank…my friends are badly hurt.  Thank the Lord you came along!”

The man stumbled down the bank with me while his wife drove to the nearest farmhouse to call an ambulance.  While we waited, the man talked to me.

“Let me tell you what’s amazing about this,” he said.  “My wife and I were at a camp meeting tonight.  After the service, we just looked at each other and said, “Let’s take the long way home.  It’s such a beautiful moonlit night–let’s go for a little drive.”  It’s strange because we never drive this road–especially at this time of the night.”

All I could think of was that God had heard Ron Mehl’s shaky prayer–in our danger, in our hurt, in our isolation, in the dark.  He was on duty.  He was putting in another night shift.

1 John 4:18-19

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.

Jennifer Van Allen

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