aka.. The Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin. This is a story near and dear to my heart reminding me how God works his subtle miracles through 'random' meetings and acts of kindness.
On the roads of ice and snow near Hayward Wisconsin in December 2001 a young mother with her preschool children were heading towards home to the nearby town of Drummond when along the road she sees an older man with the hood up on his car.
This was a typical bitter cold December day, but though she has her young children with her she is impressed to stop and see if she can help.
As she pulls over the old man approaches her car. She cautiously locks her doors and rolls down her window slightly to ask if she can help. The old man does not speak, and tries to open the door, then reaches inside his coat.. making her all the more uneasy.
The old man pulls out a small keyboard from his jacket and types a short message explaining he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) so he can not speak, and would appreciate a ride into Hayward. The young woman opens her car to the old man and drives him home.
This old man was my father Walter Larson, and the young woman was Jen Herricks. Jen was the the Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin 2001. I wonder how many cars drove by before Jen stopped to help. I wonder how many macho northwoods guys in their 4x4 trucks drove by too busy to help an old man in need on a bitter cold winter day? Maybe none, but maybe too many. But no matter, my dad was cared for by someone with a family car, and a kind heart.
Jen later explained to my mom that she thought my dad was an angel. There are a few explanations for this observation but no one before this would have described my dad as an angel. A good man? Yes. An angel.. hmmm. No so much. Maybe there was an angel standing alongside my dad that cold December day. Maybe it was the peace my dad demonstrated in his life just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way it was certainly a divine appointment with an angel that day.
What I know was that this day God impressed on the good heart of a kind woman to be real Christianity that had nothing to do with raising her hands during worship on Sunday morning.
I love the gospel passage that says, “You fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked.” Well if the gospels were written today they would also say “you gave me a ride when I was an old man when my car broke down on a winter road in Wisconsin. For when you do these things for the least of my people, you do it for me.”
So Jen gives my dad a ride home. He offers her money, she refuses, and they go their separate ways. NICE STORY, BUT IT IS NOT OVER!.
A few weeks later my folks receive a Christmas card from Jen wishing and praying the best for them. This was nice touch too, but... THE STORY IS NOT OVER!
My dad passed away from his battle with ALS just a couple short months after this December encounter. The funeral is a celebration of my dad and the good man he was, and a celebration of his life now in Heaven. In the mean time, Jen and her family began attending my parent’s home church in Cable Wisconsin not knowing yet the connection.
After a short period of time this became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church.. and so Jen contacts my mom. This began a friendship that continues today 13+ years after my dad’s passing. even after Jen and her family moved to another city farther away and my mom moved to the big city to be part of our home here in Maple Grove Minnesota.
Now that my mom is 86 and pretty limited mobility, Jen still visits my mom with her kids probably 3-5 times a year. When Jen comes to visit my mom it is with hugs and kisses that are reserved normally for family. Her kids call her Grandma Nell, and this continues to be a special friendship.
God provided for my dad on that cold December road, and he provides for my mom now with the love and friendship of Jen and her family.
Also.. With this friendship God has provided Jen these last 10+ years with my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk and confide with. My mom does not replace Jen’s real mom, nor does Jen replace my sister or myself, BUT this is to me an amazing example again of God answering prayers that we did not even know how to ask.
I am thankful for that divine appointment with an angel in December 2001. Jen thought the angel was my dad, but I believe maybe she was the angel.
Every year I like to recall this story and reflect on God's goodness to my family through this friendship. We look forward to Jen coming to visit us here in Minnesota and so the friendship with my mom continues to be a true blessing from God. Praise God for His love shown to us through his people.
May each of us slow down at times to realize God’s divine appointments with angels in our lives.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson
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