My parents moved from Detroit to Philadelphia in September 1975. I started university the same month, and I supported myself (tuition, room, and board) by continuing my high school janitor job in Detroit, about a half-hour drive from Ann Arbor.
That September—forty-six years ago this month—I drove my white, 1967 VW Beetle to visit my parents to hear my dad’s first sermon. It was a six-hundred-mile drive. Three short miles from home, my poor old Beetle’s transmission shifted its last gear, grinding itself to death.
My parents picked me up, we had a great weekend, and I hitchhiked back to Ann Arbor after hearing my dad preach.
My dad was a pastor of a small church, and my parents lived paycheck to paycheck. They couldn’t afford to help with tuition (which is why I drove to Detroit on weekends), and they certainly couldn’t help with my car repair.
I was in a bind. I needed my car so I could drive to work, so I could pay tuition, but I only had $800 in the bank for repairs.
Mom Did What She Could
My mom couldn’t help me with money, but she offered to find a local repair shop. She sat by her phone all day Monday calling shops. She made over fifty calls, but the best price she could find was $2,000 for a rebuilt transmission (with a two-year warranty) or $1,500 for a used transmission (with a one-month warranty). Both prices were beyond my budget of $800.
She went to bed that evening feeling sad for her son (thanks mom!) and frustrated with repair costs. The next morning, she realized she had tried hard to help but she had forgotten to pray. She shifted into reverse, and dashed off a prayer for help.
Immediately (she claims it was three seconds after her “amen”) the phone rang. The caller asked for, “Costa’s.” She said, “Sorry, wrong number.” Thirty minutes later someone else asked for Costa’s. The phone continued to ring, and by noon she had received a dozen calls for the same company.
Mom reported the problem to the telephone company. They said they had published the wrong phone number in a new directory, giving out my parent’s phone number instead. The operator gave my mom Costa’s correct number in case anyone else called.
Out of curiosity, my mom called the number. It belonged to a repair shop that specialized in “foreign” cars. It was located three blocks from my parents’ home.
Mom asked if they could repair a VW Beetle transmission. Costa’s said that they had a rebuilt 1967 VW transmission in stock, one that someone had reneged on. They could install it for $750. Mom said my car was three miles away. They said they could tow it for $50.
The next weekend I hitchhiked back to Philadelphia, wrote a check to Costa’s for exactly $800, and drove my Beetle back to Ann Arbor with a rebuilt transmission, warrantied for two years.
Last Friday, my mom reminded me of that wrong-number car repair from forty-six years ago. I immediately recognized three important lessons.
First: before moving forward, God often asks me to shift into reverse (that is, repent!) and just ask God for his help. He loves it when I acknowledge my total neediness.
Second: the most common commandment that I break is God’s commandment to “Remember!” I’m beginning to make a list of big and small answers to prayer since my youth. Just shifting into a little remembrance has renewed hope for my current drive. Why do I continually forget to remember?
Third: I have to ask myself, “Was that wrong number just a coincidence?” If so, maybe I need to down-shift from praying for more miracles and into asking God for more coincidences.
LEONARD I WISNIEWSKI
Sam, I no longer believe in coincidences, since coming to the Lord in 1977. One of my central beliefs is that ” God, either brings about or allows all things in my life, for His Glory and my benefit”. This may be too much for many Christians to accept but my walk with the Lord is absolute proof. Calling out to God in prayer for a need to be filled ignites our Father’s desire to bring our need to past. I did not learn this in a book or listening to a sermon. Now that I am a senior citizen [ turning 73 ] my “coincidences” have dwindled down! Why? I allow doubts to seep in and pray less at times. I could easily write a book filled with what God has brought about when I least expected it. Amen Len Wisniewski – Tucson
I (obviously) also don’t believe in coincidences. But I have to keep reminding myself that God is the same yesterday and today (and tomorrow).
Mary Beth Wenger
Thank you, Sam. Enjoyed this encouraging testimony of God’s provision. Amen to more God-incidences!!! He is so amazing in how He provides. I often see His humor in His reminders that He keeps His word to care for His children. A wrong number leading to the right repair shop? No problem! Can do.
Hi Mary Beth,
You hit on the miracle: A wrong number leading to the right repair shop!
God is really amazing.
Great story, thanks! Journaling our answers to prayer is something I wish I had kept up with. One of the most special times we had as a family with three small boys was renting a cottage at a park about an hour and half from our house. We did all the outdoorsy things and played games at night. On the last night, we began to brainstorm answers to prayer that we had seen God do in our lives. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to write them down. Unfortunately, by the time we got home, I had lost the paper. Even so, it had been a great experience to rejoice over the Lord’s blessings in our lives. Maybe now that the boys are older with families of their own, we need to reconvene and re-record those special answers to prayer. Thanks, Sam!
I think we would all benefit from keeping that kind of journal you talk about.
The Psalms sort of do that for Israel. Time and again they lead back to the Exodus and God’s faithfulness. They also remind themselves of the times they “forgot” what God did, and how that led to their own unfaithfulness.
May we remember!
Absolutely love this! ❤ I remember an old choir song we used to sing “He’s an On-Time God”. On-time indeed.
I never heard that song before. I love it!
thanks for your always good insights on both life and Scripture, Sam. Am enjoying your book as well. Your bug gave me a flashback to my white bug when in grad school and I drove back and forth from Texas to Philly. It was faithful til it simply had enough! Curious to know what church your dad pastored in Philly as that was home through college and Dad pastored a church in the suburbs. Didn’t know we had both a bug and Philly in common! 🙂 thanks again for your good work!
I never knew we had those connections. My dad pastored a church in Bala Cynwyd for five years before he moved to Lancaster and Pastored Westminster Presbyterian Church for about twelve years.
Thank you for standing in faith.
My wife and I have been married 51 years and we have had too many coincidences to count.
Terrific, “too many to count.” But I hope you tell as many of them as you can. We all need to remember and be reminded.
Shared. Love this story.
Me too 🙂
Even after all these years, I’m floored.
Tremendous story! Thank you, Sam. It was an excellent reminder of how there is no such thing as coincidences with our Father!
Brilliant Sam, love the article and love the Beetle. (I’m British and grew up wanting to own a Beetle one day myself – not happened yet, but who knows! )
God answers our prayers in the most amazing ways…
May God grant you a beetle.
They are great cars!
Great Post, Sam! I call them .”God-incidences” rather than “co-incidences”.
God will often intervene with an answer to prayer, … Particularly if you did not create the problem yourself. LOL ?
He often intervenes even when I DO cause the problems. He’s gracious that way.
But even if he doesn’t always free me from the consequences of my stupidity, he will speak, convict, comfort, and heal.
It’s called grace 🙂
Great Post, Sam, as is often the case with you!!
Having had a 1962 VW Beetle myself I am familiar with a sudden need for repairs and a limited budget. God provides in the most unusual circumstances. In my case, I was driving to San Francisco from my home in Philadelphia to start a new life as a “Hippie Musician”.
In preparation for this trip, I had to have the engine rebuilt at a local shop in New Jersey. I charged it to my Gas Company Credit Card. When the engine failed, four days later during my trip, the local shop in Madison, WI, told me the rebuild had not been done right. The inside walls of the cylinders had not been roughened during the rebuild and as a result the cylinders were’Smooth and shiny” and did not present the proper friction to lock in the compression (or words to that effect). Thus, I contacted the credit card company and told them I would not pay the charges on the card that related to the repairs.
The credit card comp0any and responded (in essence) by saying “we already paid the garage, now you must pay us, NOT the garage!”
Good point I said, but one to which I do not subscribe. Please find the enclosed check yo pay for the gasoline I’ve charged on this trip. I have cut up the card and see no reason for further correspondence.
Now, recall I have just inducted my self into the growing Hippie Commune of the San Francisco Bay Area, Thus I have no reason to have credit, so I didn’t care if if was blacklisted.
Oddly enough, while the gasoline credit card people did not offer to reinstate my full line of credit, they did say that my credit card debt to them was officially canceled by them, given the circumstances, and “thank you for shopping with us!!” or words to that effect. So God is gracious and good and protects us even in the relatively small things against the predations of the enemy.
Blessings – Jack Narvel