I was supposed to return home on Monday morning for Memorial Day with the rest of the family, but we were stranded with a broken down van in California. I had six children, no place to go, mechanics off for the weekend, at a loss of what to do.
We’ve been in worse situations before. Wendy and my book, Love in the House, opens with this story of breaking down in the middle of an Indian reservation (I added the excerpt below). The teenagers that were with me in California remember the dire straights we were in. Such dilemmas put a lot of stress on the family.
I have found that in times of stress and worry, God’s people come out of the woodwork and lend a hand. Let me tell you the story, and let a few of its details settle in.
First, there was our host housing that we stayed at all week long. Luis and Melissa were Facebook friends who gave us the key to their house while they vacationed for a week. The home was a beautiful home within 20 minutes of the national debate tournament we were attending. They returned the night before we were supposed to leave, but they were extremely gracious and understanding as we “hung out” a little while longer till we figured out our car situation.
Let this settle a bit: we met on Facebook, and they gave us the keys to their home.
Next: my friend Dave, the truck driver. His kids attended my debate camps years ago and he was in town with a shipment. I gave him a call to see what might be done with my car (because truckers are quite the knowledge base when it comes to mechanics). We weren’t able to diagnose the problem, but he was willing to turn around and come and get all of us to bring us home.
Let that settle a bit: He was on his way home to his family, but he was willing to turn around and get my kids and me.
I had one more option to try, and that was to call the friends whom we had previously schedule to have dinner with in Temecula. Here was the plan:
- Go to the beach for a couple hours.
- Go to our friends in Temecula.
- Go home (we like to drive through the night).
But, as you know, the van broke down. So I called Shawn and told him the news. Speaking of trucking, Shawn is in the commercial real estate business specializing in trucking, and he knew some area mechanics personally. Being Memorial Day Weekend, all shops were closed, but not for Shawn. He had the personal cell phone number of “buddies” in the business. We had our van diagnosed that day.
The plan changed:
- Skip the beach.
- Drive the car to Temecula Auto (we could still drive it, but only at low speeds and it was getting worse).
- Stay at Shawn and Kelly’s house till finished.
Skipping the beach was tough on the kids. They were so looking forward to it. Also disappointing was the parts didn’t come in as planned, pushing the fix day till Tuesday. We were stranded, but our friends made sure we felt most welcome. Our kids are best friends in the speech and debate community, so we had a blast together: dinner on the lawn, fun skits in the living room, and even a trip to the beach to surf the waves on Memorial Day morning.
And let that settle a bit: they took their Memorial Day Weekend to spend with us.
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty that life throws us, I am constantly amazed at how great God’s people are. The love these families showed us — strangers in a strange land — was over-the-top awesome.
Let this awesomeness settle in a bit. The Jeubs are most grateful. If we are half as generous and hospital as these folks were, the world would be most richly blessed.
I thought you’d appreciate the story of when Wendy and I and the kids were stranded in New Mexico. Taken from Love in the House (Available on Kindle here):
Late one night, the Jeub family was traveling through northern New Mexico on the way home from a visit to Arizona. Our transportation, a converted 1984 GMC school bus, broke down in the desert south of Shiprock. The engine made a large bang and went dead. The 18,000-pound tank of steel managed to barely clear a hill, at which point gravity took over. We coasted down the hill and into the parking lot of a Mustang Gas Station. The station was closed, so we rolled up next to a semi truck and parked. It was 1:30 a.m.
Most of the kids were asleep as we popped the hood and tried to determine the problem. The engine would not respond, so we decided to get some rest and call a tow truck in the morning. We were about 600 miles from home, traveling through a Navajo Indian Reservation, a nation within a nation, in the middle of an unfamiliar culture and set of laws.
The next morning, we discovered that our bus had died at the intersection between a factory and several hundred Native American homes. Truck after truck of Navajo men rolled through the gas station, fueled up, grabbed coffee and breakfast, and headed to the factory. We brought our blonde-haired children (11 at the time) into the gas station to warm up and eat breakfast. The local residents couldn’t have been friendlier. The cashiers—though busy—made sure we had the information we needed for towing services. Gruff-looking factory workers smiled at us as they made their way through the store. An elderly woman—perhaps in her 80s—asked Wendy if all these children were hers. “You are a blessed woman!” she said with a smile. We realized that our anxieties about being stranded in the middle of an Indian reservation were based on our fear of the unknown and personal prejudice. We were strangers in a strange land, but our concerns were largely unfounded.
An oversized tow truck arrived within a couple of hours, and our entire family squeezed into the back for the 30-mile trip to the repair shop.
We phoned a friend from our church in Colorado to let him know of our predicament. After telling him where we were, he said, “I think there was someone who visited the church yesterday from that area!” A few phone calls later, we connected with a local family who offered us a warm meal and a place to stay for the night. We ate heartily and enjoyed rich conversation while the bus was repaired. We set off early the next morning with freshly baked cookies for the ride home and new friendships to ponder.
We’d been stranded in the desert, in the midst of a “foreign nation,” traveling with 11 children all under 13 years old, but we had little reason to fear. Reflecting back on the entire situation, we saw that God had taken care of us every step of the way. The Mustang Gas Station was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, yet we managed to coast into the parking lot. The intersection was packed with friendly people who helped us in our time of need. And our home church—some 600 miles away—had the day before welcomed visitors who lived just a few miles from the repair shop. The mechanic, too, was a gift—our bus has been running great ever since.
For many parents, traveling with children is a highly stressful experience. They worry about the unexpected, that they will be stranded without any help or, worse yet, in real danger. Add children to an anxious situation and with it comes an incredible burden of responsibility. Our experience in New Mexico is one of many experiences where God’s hand was in all our adventure—especially during the anxious moments.
Many people suffer from a fear of abandonment, yet our faith reminds us to pray for “our daily bread”—our basic needs—and trust God to provide. God calmed our fears by providing our needs. Yet the fear of being unable to provide—or the fear that God won’t do so—leads many to limit their family size. Though they know in theory to trust God for “our daily bread,” in reality they do not. We read in Scripture that children are blessings from God, yet we often fall short of believing that God will provide the means to feed, clothe and house these blessings. The media reinforces the notion nowadays that having children—let alone raising them—is a daunting prospect. Indeed, we have also faced this fear, but we are living proof that it is without merit, especially in our world today. The rest of this chapter will build the case that parents today are in the best cultural situation to bear and raise children.