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Seeing through the snowstorm

By Tom Kovach

The first few years after I returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, I bummed around the country, staying with relatives sometimes, taking odd jobs, not really caring about anything.

While living out West one winter I got word that my father — who was in his 70s and still farming with my brother — was feeling ill. (My mother had passed away when I was quite young.) I decided to head back to my father and our farm in Minnesota.

The only problem was that I was a little short on cash and had to hitchhike. I’d done this before so it didn’t really bother me. Sometimes I got rides and sometimes I didn’t. This was fine in warm weather, but it was winter. As I was wandering across an open stretch between two towns, a snowstorm blew up.

I started getting a little worried. I wasn’t dressed that well and the wind and wet snow were making me extremely cold. As the snow continued to cascade down, I began to feel some panic. I pulled my collar closer to my face and said a small prayer.

My family believed very strongly in God and His Son Jesus Christ. When I was growing up we had prayed every day. I had gotten away from my religious roots, but I prayed now. In my fear it was almost automatic.

It wasn’t long before I saw a huge semi-truck and trailer barreling through the storm. Up to now there had been no traffic on the highway.

I wasn’t sure if the driver would be able to see me in all the blowing snow. Not wanting to get too far out on the road in case he ran me over, I stood to the side, waving and praying. He went by me and my heart fell. But then I saw through the snow that his brake lights were coming on. Slipping and sliding I ran toward those lights.

As I clambered up the passenger side, the door was already being opened for me. A huge meaty hand reached down and helped me up into the wonderful warmth of the truck’s cab.

“Thanks,” I gasped, wiping the wet snow from my face. The driver nodded. In the dim light of the cab I could see a huge man with a baseball cap on his head. From what I could see he looked like what I thought a typical truck driver should look like: big, gruff and hard-core.

But when he spoke, his voice was deep and comforting. “What are you doing out in a storm like this, son?” he asked.

I explained my circumstances.

He waited until I was done before he replied. “I used to be like you,” he said. “When I was young I wandered through the country, doing this and that. But then things changed.”

“What happened?” I asked, making conversation and just trying to thaw out.

He seemed to change the subject. “None of my business,” he asked, “but do you smoke and drink?”

 I nodded in the dark of the cab. “Yeah,” I admitted, “when I can afford a pack of smokes and when I can get to a bar.” I thought that was kind of funny, so I chuckled to myself.

“I used to think that was pretty cool too … once. But when I was about your age I had a little too much to drink and I was driving down this road and decided to light a cigarette. I took my eyes off the road and my reflexes were slowed from the drink and I ran over a fellow walking on the road.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He nodded. “The fellow lived. But he was hurt bad enough that he can’t work anymore.”

“What happened then?”

He paused for a second and then said, “If you reach in the back there I’ve got some sandwiches and a thermos of hot coffee. There’s an extra cup back there too.”

I did as he asked.

As I did so he continued to talk softly. “What happened then was I found salvation in Jesus Christ. I’m not trying to preach to you, son. I’m just sharing the greatest thing that ever happened to me. The most glorious moment of my life. Oh, I went to jail for a while. Paid my fine — my debt to society as they say. But I still had to pay that debt I owed myself. I started out slow, but finally saved up enough to buy my own rig. And I’m still paying some of what I make to the fellow I hit. But he’s doing the best he can. And he’s forgiven me.”

The storm was still bad and he saw my concern. “Don’t worry. We’ll be all right.” Then he smiled. “Even though I put my trust in the Lord, I don’t take foolish chances. I’ve been on this road a thousand times. I know what my truck can do and I know what I can do. I don’t foolishly challenge the weather. If this storm had been even a little worse, I’d have stopped at the previous town and waited it out.”

That thought made me shudder. If he had stopped, I would have been lost out on that road.

He seemed to read my mind. Placing his coffee up into the holder on the dash, he said softly, “I think the good Lord made me go these extra miles. He knew there was someone waiting up ahead in the storm.”

We traveled through the stormy Western night. As the windshield wipers kept up their slow, methodic swishes, I felt myself getting drowsy. But a peaceful feeling came over me. It seemed as though all my cares and worries were lifted from my shoulders. When I woke up I could see through the snow. There were lights ahead. We were approaching a town.

That wonderful driver took me as far as he could go in my direction. Then he gave me enough money for a bus fare and meals to get me home.

I made it home safely and farmed for some years with my father before he died. But that snowstorm, that drive and the whole incident changed my life too. I found a direction. I found that through the guidance of Jesus Christ anything is possible and that there is comfort even in the most trying times. Not everything in life will be good or easy. But when times are tough, when our minds are troubled, when things are not going our way, with Jesus Christ and His Father you know you are not alone.

Their strength, power and goodness are always with you.

Tom Kovach lives in Park Rapids, Minn.

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