I try and share this important story every Christmas season
aka The Northwoods Good Samaritan of 2001. This is a story near and dear to my heart that I like to share most every December. THIS WAS NOW 21 YEARS AGO!
Back in the December of 2001 on the roads of ice and snow near Hayward Wisconsin a young mom with her preschool children loaded in the family car was heading home to the nearby town of Drummond when along the road she spots 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, 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 plays a pre-typed short message explaining he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) so he can not speak. He then types needs a ride into town. The young woman opens her car to the old man she does not know and drives him home.
This old man was my father Walter Larson, and the young woman was Jen Herricks, and Jen was the Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin 2001. I wonder how many cars drove by before Jen stopped to help. How many macho Northwoods guys in their 4x4 trucks drove by too busy to help an old man stranded on a bitterly 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 had described my dad as an angel. A good guy for sure, but an angel? .. hmmm. Not so much.
Maybe an angel was standing alongside my dad that cold December day or the peace dad demonstrated just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way today was certainly a divine appointment with an angel named Jen.
I love the gospel passage Mt 25:35-40ish “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 a nice touch too, but... THE STORY IS NOT OVER!
My dad passed away from his battle with ALS just a couple short months after their December encounter. The funeral was a celebration of the good man my dad was, and his reward in Heaven. 'Irony' or providence has it Jen and her family began attending my mom & dad's church in Cable Wisconsin still not realizing the connection.
After a short period, it became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church.. and so Jen contacts my mom. This began a friendship that continued until my mom passed away in December 2016.. 15 YEARS later. This friendship continued after Jen's family moved 70 miles away, and my mom later moved 150 miles to the Twin Cities. I mean, c'mon this took this good Samaritan thing too far... they must have actually become close friends. Correction they were the best of friends.
When Jen came to visit my mom it is with hugs and kisses that are reserved normally for family. Her kids called her Grandma Nell, and many of the trips included sleepovers in my mom's little apartment This friendship God has provided Jen those 15 years with my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk and confide in.
My mom as I mentioned passed away in December 2016, but you can not take away the blessing of that God-orchestrated ride 15 years earlier for my dad, or the wonderful friendship over the next 15 for my mom and for Jen. God is good even through tough times.
BUT IT IS NOT OVER!. Jen and her husband Todd now serve the Lord in Uganda working with a ministry called 'Woven2gether' serving expecting mothers valuing the born and unborn, and becoming strong families while sharing the Gospel.
Thank you, Jen & Todd. May God bless and use you both in ways that are beyond your dreams.
So as Christmas approaches, please take time to slow down and notice the angel appointments in your life.
one last BUT IT'S NOT OVER... This December, Jen & Todd adopted Caleb Kica HERRICKS! It’s officIal!
We want to thank everyone who supported our journey and have loved Caleb both near and far. God says prefect religion is this that we care for (bring into our home) the widows and orphans. We are so blessed to call Caleb our son officially.
God has moved mountains along the way to bring him to us permanently. We are so blessed that he chose us to be his parents.
Thank you to those of you who prayed with us and guided us and took the time to talk with us and encourage us in the process. Your heart and stories completely impacted ours.
We are grateful for this part to be accomplished. We now have to work towards his medical visa to address his diagnosis of craniosynotosis. God will make a way.
Caleb Kica we love you. We declare over you that you will love God all the days of your life. That you will serve Him And glorify Him throughout your days. You will love God even if no one else does. You will not stop seeking the kingdom of God until you get your full inheritance of what God has promised you. In Jesus name.
As Caleb says best, Amen!
and I am sure as I end this blog.. THIS STORY IS NOT OVER
Hi, my name is Paul and this is my story how I found happiness. Before my trip to Damascus I was a big shot Pharisee type. I was an important man in the Jewish community with a focus at this time on putting an end to this Jesus movement.
Then came that day on the road to Damascus I saw the light (both literally & figuratively). Of course my momma always said don’t look directly into the sun or you’ll burn out your eye balls.. well.. momma was right.
But this light stopped me dead in my tracks like a traffic light on main street .. and there was a voice from the light calling me by name “Saul (my friends used to call me Saul).. why are you persecuting me?” because at this time I was described as.. a man breathing murders and threats against Christians .
This light, this voice, this Jesus had my full attention. So here I am blind as a bat with cataracts and have to be led the rest of the way to Damascus. This is where I met God and to show God’s ironic sense of humor I was instructed to resign from my position as ‘Chief Church Prosecutor / Persecutor’ and make a 180 degree change to my new calling to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles.
Once my sight returned I could not stop preaching Jesus Christ. I was of course at first received cautiously by Christians who were unsure of my motives. I guess breathing murders and threats up until this point made a negative impression. GO FIGURE, and now I was a mystery wrapped in an enigma with my Pharisee Lodge brothers.
But in time Christians saw my love for Jesus was real, and the Jewish community realized this was not just a Pharisee mid-life crisis. My life would never be the same. It was a very dangerous, but miraculous time to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
There was even a time where differences between myself and Silas resulted in us prayerfully and respectfully going different directions but still both serving the same God. You might want to call this the beginning of denominations. The church was truly now one body of many parts.
It was a time to sing , and a time of high drama , and a time to stand up to share truth that Jesus is the Messiah!
Side note: I also remember when a young man named Eutychus fell asleep during one of my sermons, fell from a balcony to his death, but .. got better?
Anyways let’s just say from this day forward this young man was known as the unofficial patron saint for those who ‘sleep in church’ . And no hard feelings towards Eutychus, I tend to get a little long winded when I preach.
It was the Tale of Two Ministries where it was the best of times, and the worst of times. It was a time of both great revival and great persecution. And no matter the price or personal loss the gospel message of Jesus Christ must be told to both the Jews (God’s chosen people) and the Gentile (that is everyone else).
It was a time where zealous anger of the religious establishment had me arrested while others plotted my death .
Funny thing is.. these were the best years of my life.
Of course prison life, and being hated by those in power was not on my 'bucket list'.. BUT God was able to use these times to share his Gospel truth like only He could. While I suffered, God gave me peace that none of this was about me, but It was about sharing the greater hope in Jesus Christ.
I even endured a storm at sea , and was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. I believe the name of the boat was the S.S. Minnow, and if not for the courage of the fearless crew we would have all perished . Special thanks go out to the Skipper and his first mate.. who I think the professor called.. Gilligan.
Then while around a fire on this island I was bit by a poisoness snake . Of course God protected me again.. I shook off the snake and the only frustrating after affect was that several of the crew took this as a sign to start a ‘Snake Handler Church’. Oh brother!
After 3 months on this Island we set sail again and made our trip to Jerusalem where again I could plead my case for Jesus and the truth that he was the son of God who came to earth, lived, was crucified for our sins, and was resurrected, and now is in Heaven with the Father.
What a great honor for God to choose me the once great hater of the church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! God is so good, and I am blessed.
To sum it all up after the Damascus Road I was blinded, beaten, hated, ship wrecked, snake bit, and had a discount punch card for all my time spent in jail… BUT truth be told.. I was too busy serving to really notice.
My prayer today is that God blesses each of your lives with opportunities to serve Him and others in ways that make your lives full and complete. In ways that are beyond your dreams.
Be faithful in the moments that make up your day, and may your happiness never be measured in comfort or wealth but in service to God and others. When you discover this, then you also will be living the best years of your lives.
(loosely translated by some guy sitting in The Back Pew)
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson