Chico the Angel

Every parent with a child who is away from home, for whatever reason, be it university attendance, a trip with friends, or running an errand, has “what if” thoughts. What if the car quits running? What if someone runs a red light? What if someone tries to hurt her? If we start walking down that road, it gets wider and more terrifying with every thought.

We were once confronted with a frightening and dangerous situation. Our daughter was on her way home from her university in Indiana. The Chrysler LeBaron she was driving had almost one hundred and seventy thousand miles on it. We hadn’t yet experienced any problems with it, but our luck was about to change.

As she was driving north on Interstate 69, the car began to overheat. She pulled to the side of the road, and as she did, the car died. She tried restarting the engine, but it didn’t respond. Getting out of the car and opening the hood, she could see oil had sprayed all over the engine. She was stuck, alone, no exits closeby, and those were the days before cell phones.

Our daughter hadn’t pondered her predicament for ten minutes before a truck rolled up behind her car and stopped. A young man got out of the truck, walked up and asked our daughter if she was having car trouble. He took a look at the engine and told her the problem was serious. He offered to take her to a telephone so she could call for help. She accepted his invitation.

Hold it right there! Stop! Wait! What the heck?! Isn’t this the terrifying opposite of what we drill into our children’s heads? Don’t we do our best to frighten them into refusing all help from strangers on the side of the road? Don’t we remind them, even with tears in our eyes, recalling horror stories we have seen on television, the world is a dark place with scary people who look for unsuspecting victims?! Don’t we plead with them to stay in the car until a police officer stops to rescue them?!

Our daughter got in the truck, and the man continued driving north.

“My name is Chico. Where are you coming from?” he asked.

“Marion, Indiana. I go to Indiana Wesleyan University,” she answered.

“You do?” he asked. “Then you won’t mind of I play this tape.” He punched in a cassette tape of a Christian recording artist named, Carman. He then told our daughter about the three Promise Keepers conventions he had attended.

Our daughter called Mary and told her about the car breaking down, and about the man who picked her up. She said he was taking her to a mall in Lansing where we would be able to meet her. The story scared Mary but the details about the man playing a Carman tape helped her feel confident everything would be fine.

At the time, Carman was a very popular Christian singer. We had several of his albums and played them all the time.

We drove to Lansing and found our daughter at the mall, just as she said we would. When we had her safely in the car, she told us the story.

“Dad, I think God sent me an angel,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised,” I said.

We were so thankful to have our daughter close to us again.

Early in the week I contacted the company at the number Chico had given to our daughter.

“We don’t have an employee by that name,” the man told me.

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