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A Timely Stranger

Most businesses have upturns and downturns, but I know for sure that the used car business is a lot like bronc riding. The ups and downs make your head swim, and when you hit bottom, it’s like you land on your back after sailing through the air for two or three minutes. Once following such a landing, I walked down a country road late at night to have a talk with the only One with answers. Not knowing what direction to turn and seeing no path to follow, I cried out, “Why, God, if you are in the lead, am I losing so much money with no end in sight?”

It was in the early 1990s and the Persian Gulf War was in full swing. People went home from work to eat, turn on the television, and then watch the footage of the war. It was a new phenomenon that we hadn’t seen before, and it was spelling doom for little dealers like me. No one was interested in buying a car! My discouragement was evident—I was sure—to my employees, customers, and all who were around me. I didn’t have enough money to last another month.

I usually closed out my books late at night when my family was in bed and no one was at the office to disturb my work. This particular night, I was in my office with the door closed and curtains pulled, posting another month’s miserable figures, when about midnight, there was a knock at the door. Thinking it was a policeman checking on my “lights on,” I went to the door to see an older woman who had something on her mind. “Yes, how can I help you?” I asked. “I need a brake job,” she said. In a “I can’t believe my ears” tone, I replied, “Ma’am, we’re not a garage, we’re a used car lot, and we only work on our own cars. Besides—IT’S MIDNIGHT! My mechanic is at his house sleeping with his family, the parts store has been closed for hours, so there’s nothing I can do for you. If you come back in the morning, I’ll try to get you some help.”

“I know you can help me, and I need your help tonight,” she urged. Seeking to put an end to her persistence, I invited her into our utility room where we keep a few parts. “See, here in this cabinet, “Ma’am. We keep a few parts that have inventory numbers, but I don’t know what they fit.” I picked up a box of brake pads to show her. On that particular box, my mechanic had written, “76-80 FORD PINTO.” At this point, I was red-faced, as her car was a ’79 Pinto. Having worked myself into a corner, I said, “OK, pull your car in and I’ll install these for you.” The installation went quickly, and after a test drive, I told her that I would only charge her $29 for the parts and call the labor free!

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t have any money, but I do have a word for you. There’s a purpose in your being here—this is where you need to be. This community benefits from the work you do, and I want to thank you for helping me.” And with that, she walked out of my shop.

Later that evening, I began to muse over the words of this woman whom I had never seen before. They were full of clarity and meaning, and they encouraged me. I had asked God for an answer—not an intuition or some whimsical feeling that could be overturned with another bad deal. I needed an in-your-face, neverquestion-it-again answer that I couldn’t blow off. That night I got it! As a result of the stranger’s words, I found new confidence in my approach to selling, my inventory increased, and the figures returned to the black.

Who was this person who came to my shop at midnight? A messenger, certainly, and maybe even an angel. Her message was definitely an answer to the prayer I had delivered to the Lord in tears.

May we all have eyes to see the many ways God is at work in our lives.

Tom Buttram is a retired teacher, businessman, and missionary. He continues to witness, preach, and print gospel tracts. Receive a free sample tract from tombuttram@gmail.com.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20240204
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Apr-Jun 2024. CCMUSA.