In the spring of 1975, Jenny and I were living with our three children (Heather, Melissa, and Scotty) among beautiful green forests and farmlands in the Rheinland-Pfalz area of West Germany. Driving home from church one late and rainy Sunday afternoon, we stopped to have a look at an automobile that had rolled off the road and onto its side in the wet roadbed at the edge of a forest. Inside the forest, it was already dark because of the thick canopy created by the trees and the oncoming night.
After inspecting the wrecked vehicle, we returned to our car and discovered we were stuck in the mud. I soon realized I couldn’t back up. My wheels would just spin in the mud. But, I could drive forward. The wet and muddy forest road went down and into the forest. A few weeks before, we had driven down that road and through the forest. In fact, we found that many forest roads were interconnected and would eventually lead back out onto pavement. So, I decided to move forward down the muddy road and into the blackness. Bad decision!
I quickly realized that I had made the wrong decision. The narrow, wet road was now filled with deep muddy ruts, and it just kept leading farther and farther down into the dark forest. The ruts were so deep that the mud was scrapping along the undercarriage of our car. I tried to keep the speed up, fearing that if we stopped, we would become mired deep in the mud. A little ahead of us, I saw a high spot that looked firm enough to support the weight of our car. My plan was to get the car out of the mud to give us time to think. I turned sharply to the right and miraculously the car lunged up and out of the mud.
I turned off the car and climbed out to inspect our situation. However, with the headlights off, I couldn’t see anything. It was total darkness. I turned the headlights back on, grabbed our flashlight, and climbed out of the car again. After looking things over, I decided my best bet was to back slowly into an opening in the trees; and then, make a mad dash back out onto the forest road heading back up the road the same way we came in.
So, I backed as far into the forest as possible. Outside the vehicle, Jenny held the flashlight and guided me as we backed up. Once the car was in place, we climbed back in with the children. I revved the engine a little, put it in gear, and lunged back onto the road …and, came to a full stop sinking even deeper into the mud. Now we were really in trouble. Outside the car it was total darkness and raining. Inside the car my wife and I sat with three terrified children (Note: I later learned that Jenny had recently read the story of Hansel and Gretel to the children).
Anyway, now we were seriously stuck in the mud, and I was out of ideas. I turned Jenny and asked if she had any ideas. After a brief moment, she said “Maybe we should pray?” Of course, that’s what we should do. Why hadn’t I thought of that. Amazingly, the children calmed down almost immediately. I offered a humble but desperate prayer for help. As I prayed, a thought came clearly into my mind: “Put on the tire chains.” I wasn’t even finished with my prayer yet, but I knew in my mind what I had to do!
Standing in 10 inches of mud in her Sunday dress, my sweet wife stood in the pouring rain holding the flashlight while I dug and cleared the mud from around the rear tires with my bare hands. As best I could, I attached the chains on the rear wheels. With faith and renewed confidence, we prayed again and then started the engine. Slowly, the car began to move through the mud (trudge, trudge, trudge). Slowly up the road we went and eventually back up and onto the roadway. It was an exciting moment. We were so relieved to be freed from the rain, the cold, and the muddy darkness.
In the excitement of being freed from the mud and the darkness, I almost forgot how we got out of the dark forest. Our five-year-old daughter Heather reminded me when she said, “Daddy, Heavenly Father really does answer prayers, doesn’t He?”
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