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A Story by Donna Benson “Oh, Holy Night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Saviors’ birth.” The radio played as Franklin Hampton drove his 18-wheeler down the dark interstate. It was late, much later than he usually drove. Christmas was this weekend and he needed to get home. The kids were coming home this year. He smiled as he sang along in his clear tenor voice. He loved Christmas; he just did not like the weather that came with it. However, tonight was a beautiful star lit sky, very beautiful but very cold. The temperature hovered around two degrees. Franklin was thankful for his heater. He came around the next bend in the road and saw a car with flashing lights barely blinking on the shoulder of the road. What a cold night to have car trouble. He slowed his rig watching for signs of movement in the car. He could not in good conscience, leave a stranded traveler in the cold. At first, he did not see anyone in the car but just as he passed, he saw movement in the back seat. He immediately pulled to the side and stopped. Pulling on his heavy coat and grabbing a blanket off the bed in the sleeper, he climbed down and walked back to the car. Janie Weber stirred when she heard the air brakes engage on the truck. She was cold, colder than she had ever been. This was an awful time for her car to conk out. The tow truck was supposed to be here any time. She hoped this was it. She had crawled into the back seat, wrapped in her coat and put some of the clothes from her suitcase on top to stay warm. As she sat up, she realized it was a semi truck, not her tow truck. She did not want to roll down her window and let even more cold inside, but she could not be rude. She spied the blanket older man carrying. She smiled as she rolled down the window. “Hello, missy. Car trouble?” “Yes, I think it’s the alternator. The lights went dim, and then it just conked out. I called the auto club and the tow truck is supposed to be here anytime.” I don’t know how I am going to pay for it, but maybe it won’t be too much she thought. “Well, wrap this around you and come get warm in my truck till it gets here. It’s too cold for you to stay here with no heat. And don’t you worry about me; I have a granddaughter about your age and great grandkids to boot.” Janie hesitated but realized she was getting too cold. Soon she would begin to get hypothermia. “All right, I am really cold.” She climbed out a little awkward as her limbs refused to move normally.
“My name is Franklin Hampton.” The older man said as he wrapped the blanket around the small woman. He guessed her to be in her mid-twenties. He held her elbow to steady her as they made their way to his truck. Janie had some difficulty climbing into the cab, but Franklin knew he could not help her. He stood behind her in case she fell. She made it into the warm cab and sighed with relief as she sat in the passenger seat. Immediately she began to shiver. Pin picks of pain knifed in her hands and feet, she must have been colder than she thought. Franklin saw her shiver, “Why don’t you get in back and climb under the covers. I know, I know that would make you uncomfortable, but you need to get warm as soon as possible. I will stay up here and keep a look out for that tow truck.” Again, Janie hesitated. She was so cold. She could be with a rapist for all she knew. However, Franklin looked just like he said he was a grandfather and a nice one at that. Nodding she rose painfully and climbed into the bed bedclothes and all, burying under two blankets and still wrapped in the blanket he brought to her car. She fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Franklin knew Janie was asleep, so he did not wake her when the tow truck arrived nearly an hour later. Franklin gave the driver directions to have the car towed to his brotherin-law’s shop nearly an hour away. The tow truck driver grumbled as he finally agreed after Franklin offered to pay him for the extra miles. Franklin knew George’s shop would get the car fixed as soon as possible and Janie would be able to get on her way. It was nearly midnight, but the shop was a twenty-four hour truck stop shop. Janie did not wake as the semi-truck moved out to follow the tow truck towing Janie’s car. Two hours later she woke a bit disoriented but immediately remembered her car. She sat up quickly and looked out the window. She was at a truck stop. She could see her car in the shop with the hood up and a technician working on the engine. She could see Franklin standing to the side talking with the worker. She looked around for her purse and remembered she had left it in the car. She must have really been out of it. She tidied herself as much as possible and made her way to the shop. She felt better. She was not cold any longer and though she was tired she felt better. “Well, hello there.” Franklin said watching as Janie entered the shop. “George here will have your rig ready in about three hours. You got the best here, the owner. His tech got sick so he is filling in tonight. Luckily, his brother owns the local auto parts store, so he was able to get the part. He has keys to the store, just let himself in and left a note telling them what it took. He’ll settle with them later. Why don’t you and I go inside and get some coffee?” “Ah, sure.” Janie watched the technician as she walked away. He never looked up as he said, “I’ll call you when I’m finished.” Janie turned back to her car, retrieved her purse from the floor in the back seat and followed Franklin inside.
They sat in a booth facing one another. “I cannot thank you enough. I think I might have frozen if you had not come along when you did. I did not mean to fall asleep and leave you to handle things.” She said a little sheepishly. Franklin ordered coffee and Janie tea. “Don’t think anything of it. I was glad I was there to help. Others have helped me in the past and now it’s my turn.” “You are different than I thought truckers were. I always thought they were dirty, foul mouthed fat men.” Janie put her hand over her mouth as she realized how that sounded. “I am so sorry, here you help me and I insult you.” Franklin laughed, “Oh there are lots of those kinds of drivers, always have been and always will be. Actually, I used to be one of those foul-mouthed drivers, but not anymore. As for other drivers, more and more family men are driving these days, as well and husband and wife teams. There are even a few single women out here. They are clean normal people just trying to make a living. Anyway, Jesus found me out there on the road and I have never been the same again. Actually, there are many believers out here. Are you a Christian?” “I guess, I mean I was raised in church. I haven’t attended regularly in several years.” She was not sure she wanted to talk with some Jesus freak, but he had helped her so she would listen. Besides she always thought of herself as a Christian just not one that talked about her beliefs. ”What made the difference? What changed you?” She was curious about the answer. “Well, my wife was going to leave me. She called one Saturday night and said she was tired of being alone. I was gone most of the time. The kids were grown and she was lonely. I was devastated. I just dropped my load in Pomona California, so I went to the truck stop in Ontario. I was depressed. It was Sunday morning and as I walked to the restaurant, I heard music coming from the chapel. It drew me, so I slipped in the back row of chairs. Chaplains Ron and Gladys were singing. It soothed my soul. I don’t even remember what Ron spoke about, but I realized half way through the service, I wanted a change in my life.” “Any way, after service they invited everyone for a barbeque lunch. Ron barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs, Gladys made homemade chili; it was quite a spread. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt welcomed. In the mist of my pain, God brought me to a place I could find some peace. I enjoyed the talk around the table. There were ten or eleven drivers talking about the life on the road, their families and their faith in Jesus. I was touched in a way I had never been touched before. Later that afternoon I had the opportunity to talk with Ron and Gladys by myself. You could feel the love in them. They loved me even though they didn’t know me and I could feel their love and concern. I poured out my heart. They wouldn’t allow me to make excuses for my mistakes or blame my wife or family. My decisions affected my family and I had to take ownership of them. Later I could not believe I actually told them everything going on in my life, but I am glad I did. They gave me good council. On my way home, I realized I wanted what Ron and Gladys had. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I wanted it. Oh, I know that doesn’t make much sense but that’s what I felt.” 3
Janie nodded. She did know that feeling. She could see a spark, a life inside Franklin and there was a longing inside her that wanted what he had. As he spoke, she could feel the spark of desire growing within her. “I went home, convinced my wife I loved her and asked her to consider getting her license so we could work together. She didn’t even hesitate, she said yes.” He paused smiling at the memory. “Sarah saw a change in me and after I explained about meeting Ron and Gladys, she wanted to meet them. We went back to Ontario after Sarah finished driving school and became my co-driver. Ron and Gladys led both of us in the sinners’ prayer. My wife and I gave our lives to Jesus and we haven’t been the same since. We went to see them and worship with them every time we went to southern California until they retired a few years ago. Special people they surely are. Sarah and I drove together and ministered to others on the road until two months ago. Sarah wanted to retire, but our company is small and they needed me until the Christmas delivery season was over. I just finished my last run.” Curious Janie asked, “Just accepting Jesus made a difference?” “Oh, no; there are many Christians that believe in Jesus, but they never allow him to completely change their lives. Their life is pretty much like it always was. The only difference is they pray some, attend church here and there, but you can only see minor changes in their lives. Ron showed us there are many references in the Bible about Christ living in each believer. He called him the Holy Spirit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit, but some allow him complete change in who they are, how they think and what they do, others do not. What I mean is when you accept Jesus as your Savior; you are reborn. God removes the old sinful nature and replaces it with a new righteous and holy nature. Then the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside you guiding and directing you. Some people allow the Holy Spirit to change them completely, others only allow some change, and others very little change. The choice is yours. I wanted a complete change, a complete transformation by the Holy Spirit. I don’t want people to be able to tell the difference between Jesus and me. We have the same spirit, the same love for others and the same devotion to God the Father. If I can do that, I believe I can finish my life happy.” They sat quietly for several minutes. Each lost in their own thoughts. Janie wanted what Franklin had. Never had she felt so much care and consideration. His words touched her more than any she had ever heard before. Was it that easy to accept Jesus? Would it make a difference in her life? Would having Jesus give her peace and a renewed heart for others? Something had died within her after her parents’ divorce. Now life was such a struggle, school, boyfriends, her family. They all seemed to want something from her until she felt empty. Something needed to change in her life. Franklin’s cell phone rang startling her out of her thoughts. She heard him say, “Okay, you know what to do. We’ll be right out.” He turned off the phone and said to her, “Your car is done. You have a new alternator, regulator and belt. George charged your battery, cleaned the posts and now you’re good to go.” 4
“It’s done already?” Time seemed to have flown by. She glanced at her watch and realized that two and a half hours had passed in a flash. “Yep, it’s done.” Franklin waved toward the waitress to bring their bill. Janie smiled, but cringed inwardly. She hoped she had enough on her credit card to cover the bill. “Great,” she said with a slight grimace. Franklin noticed the expression, but just smiled as he left bills on the table to cover their drinks and a good tip. He always tipped better during the holidays. He appreciated anyone who worked during the holidays while others did not. They rose and headed out to the garage. When they reached her car, George stood smiling as he handed her the keys. “Here you go little lady. I checked things out; you shouldn’t have any more problems any time soon. I even changed the oil and filter. You’re in real good shape now.” He turned to walk away, “Oh and Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you.” “What do I owe you?” She asked as she hurried to catch up with him. He turned and smiled. “Oh that’s all taken care of. You be safe now, ya hear.” Janie felt her mouth drop open as she stared incredulous after the man. She turned questioning eyes to Franklin. “Did you do this?” “Well not entirely. George did the labor for free, his brother gave us the parts at cost and I did the rest?” “But why?” She asked feelings of surprise and thankfulness filling her heart. “You needed the help and the Holy Spirit asked me to do it. I shared with the others and they did their part.” Janie was so over come she opened her car door and sat feet hanging out, put her face in her hands and cried. Franklin knelt in front of her, patted her shoulder and prayed for the vulnerable young woman God had brought into his life. “I don’t know how to thank you. I did not know how I was going to pay for the repairs. I could barely afford the gas to get me home for Christmas, but I haven’t been home for Christmas in a long time.” She raised a tear streaked faced to her new friend, her new brother in Christ. “When you have walked with Jesus as long I have, he tells you when you need to reach out and help another. He did this for you; I was just the person he used. So save the thanks for him.” In that moment, Janie knew she needed Jesus in her life. She wanted to be like Franklin, someone God used to help others. She wanted Jesus to be real and alive in her life. “I want to accept Jesus into my life like you have. Would you help me? What do I say?” 5
Franklin’s smile was radiant. “Well, of course little lady, it would be my honor.” During the next few minutes, a new member came into God’s family. Janie’s heart swelled with love, hope and the beginning of a great faith. Then in the course of a few minutes, they exchanged phone numbers and a quick hug and went their separate ways. Both hearts were light and filled with thanksgiving. Janie drove away knowing her life would never be the same. She would become like Franklin, allowing Jesus to live within her. She would grow in her understanding, knowledge and faith in Jesus. She would never forget the man Jesus lived within that changed her life. She knew she would stay in contact with him as long as he lived. Maybe being a Jesus freak would not be so bad she thought smiling to herself. Franklin climbed into his 18-wheeler smiling and rejoicing at a new life coming to Christ. He was humbled and grateful Jesus had allowed him to be the one to minister to Janie. No Christmas gift he would receive would equal the gift God gave to him in allowing him to lead someone to Jesus. No gift except the gift of his salvation would ever be as great.
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