I don’t understand lots of things about God; but this was a God-thing that happened to me. On July 16, 2009, I drove across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, on mission for the Christian Peacemaker Teams. By nine o’ clock that night in the rain I was rounding the ring freeway around Indianapolis, still headed east, and I was becoming afraid. The last money I’d made had been in Oklahoma painting an outbuilding for Pastor Nagel. There was a quarter of a tank of gas in the truck and twenty-three dollars in my wallet.
The freeway around Indianapolis was under construction, and I was jockeying around a bad spot beside a big truck. The road was bad. It was raining. It was dark. I was tired from driving all day, and just all of a sudden the fear was there. It started to get big, and then like it happens, I started to get afraid of the fear. That’s the scariest part for me, when the fear crouches in my mind and growls at me. So I did the only thing I knew: I prayed to Jesus to take the fear. I also told him how I saw things, too: I said, “Look you, you know what’s in my wallet. If you want me to keep doing this CPT mission-thing you’re going to have to pull a bunny out of your hat.” Which made me laugh.
After awhile, I was out of Indianapolis, cruising east on the night freeway. I couldn’t see how I was going to get to the EFI-ER Yearly Meeting in Canton in eastern Ohio, let alone to New England YM. Let alone home. I thought, “I’ll just get inside the Ohio state line and look for a place to park the truck and get some sleep.” A few miles from Ohio I started seeing signs for Richmond. Richmond, Indiana.
I was getting really tired, eyes grainy. A sign announced an exit for Earlham College coming up. The information was slow to penetrate. “Earlham?” I thought, “Earlham School of Religion or something…? Didn’t half the Quakes I know go to Earlham?” There was the exit; I was going to miss it. I crossed two lanes of freeway and got off. The gas gauge was just a smidge above E. I cruised down dark quiet streets. The clerk at the convenience store gave me directions to the college. I parked in the back of the parking lot, made up a bed under the canopy in the back of the truck and fell asleep listening to the rain.
In the morning it was clear and pleasant. I made coffee on the propane stove on the tailgate, got out the guitar and worked on one of the songs I was writing that summer, wrote in my journal, read some from the Psalms. I was taking them in order, and that morning it was Psalm 91. I read, “For he will give his angels charge over you, to guard you in all of your ways, on their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Ps. 91:11-12.
I thought perhaps I would do some busking while the kids and professors ate their lunch—and gave me money—and fed me lunch. But no. The woman coming in to work that morning said no, school’s out, no kids. While I was talking to her I heard a voice call, “Derek?!?! Derek Lamson!?!?” I turned around. It was Derrick Watson. I had sung at his wedding, a thousand years before. He had invited me to do music at his middle school class. I had sat in a clearness meeting for him.
I asked him if he was real. He laughed and hugged me. He reminded me he’d been on staff at Earlham for years. “No miracle,” he said. Then he took me home to meet his wife and baby, and do my laundry, and shower, and eat, and sleep between clean sheets. The next morning he handed me five crisp twenties. “Go with God,” he said.