Wright Words: Stranded RV presents unusual late-night miracle

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

I like to think of the sun as an old-school deliveryman. Each day he delivers a gift. Sometimes you open it in the morning and discover the contents immediately. Other days you don’t know what it looks like until just before your eyes fall closed and you drift into the warm waiting place for the next day’s gift.

Those days are my favorite.

Last week I drove five other friends on a beautiful 90-minute trip to Petersburg, W.Va. We were headed to present a fireside on missionary work.

The hours leading up to the program were nothing special. It was a perfectly fine day, just like the day before and the day after. There were no hints of an experience that would become foundational to my understanding of the art of service.

After the program, we stopped for a long dinner at a Chinese buffet and lounged in the sweet spirit of the night. After, we drove back to the car-pool point and said our goodbyes in a gravel parking lot at the edge of the freeway. Three left immediately for other commitments, and the other three of us took our time parting ways.

Then, without warning, the day’s gift was finally opened.

We were startled by footsteps crunching through the gravel and coming from the direction of the freeway ramp. A man's voice cut through the thick 10 p.m. air. "Does anyone have jumper cables for my RV?”

I didn’t have time to consider whether I did or not. Josh Golden, one of the two remaining with me, was halfway to his car. He returned with cables and led us to the stranded RV at the top of the exit.

The young man and his sweet girlfriend were returning from having purchased the old RV hundreds of miles away in southern Virginia earlier that day. They were 30 miles from home when the battery died and their journey came to an abrupt halt at the exit that would take them down the rural two-lane highway to their hometown in West Virginia.

I pulled my vehicle up to face theirs and while we waited for the batteries to shake hands, the couple detailed how many passed by in the night and ignored the flashing hazard lights and their calls for help.

It didn’t take long to determine that their battery needed more than a charge, it needed a memorial service and a replacement.

The other friend still hanging around for the adventure, Stephen Funk, suggested we drive them to the nearest Walmart. Never mind that he wakes at 5 a.m. to commute 90 miles to the Washington, D.C., metro area for work each day. Never mind that the couple protested in awe of his generous offer. They learned that night what I’ve always known: Never say "no" to the Funk.

We loaded into my SUV and made the 15-mile trek to the nearest Walmart. We learned their names, Alexor, Joelle and Gi-Gi the RV. We talked about our respective religions, families and interests. The charismatic couple couldn’t have been more gracious.

In the store, we picked up sparklers to celebrate with in the event Gi-Gi fired up with her new battery. At the register, Alexor removed a coffee can full of cash to pay for the battery and Funk and I felt the spirit of service pull out our own wallets. While they were distracted counting money, we were already signing the receipt and carrying the battery away from the register.

Back at the dark exit ramp, with the new battery wedged into place, Gi-Gi’s tired engine honored Lazarus and roared to life. It was nearly midnight, and the grateful couple said their goodbyes and rumbled away. Before their taillights disappeared into the dark, Gi-Gi honked her own thankful goodbye.

Though the night soon ended, days later the teaching moment ticks on.

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