The accident was the start of a long downhill ride for me. A few weeks after returning to work at the Hospital, one of the patients came to me in the late evening, complaining of chest pains. I took his blood pressure and pulse and immediately sent for the Registered nurse and told her to call an ambulance. She was new to the job and unfamiliar with the procedure and so she had me telephone the Doctor on Call. I checked the list and found out that the patient’s psychiatrist was the Doctor on call and so I immediately dialed his number. I explained the situation and asked for permission to call an ambulance and he told me emphatically not to do that. He explained that the man had been in his office that day but would not open up and so he had told the patient some rather harsh things to get him to look at reality. The chest pains were just an attempt to get attention and we could not allow him to manipulate us. I was told to give him a sedative and tell him to go to bed.
I did as the Doctor ordered but in a short time, the patient was up again complaining of even more severe pain. Sweat was running down from his forehead. I called the Registered Nurse back and told her we needed to call an ambulance immediately but she again referred me to the Doctor, who was irate that I had called him back. He left specific orders that no ambulance would be called. He told me it was a simple problem and I should be able to handle it on my own. Reluctantly, I told the patient to go back to bed and give the medicine some time to work.
Stanley, the night relief came in and I gave the report. I had just started doing my charting when he came running down the hallway saying something was wrong with the patient. I ran to the room and saw that he was not breathing. I told Stanley to call the Nurse, while I started resuscitation but I was quite sure there was no chance of bringing him back. The night nurse came in, followed in a few minutes by several of the day staff, and the Doctor, who I assumed by their attire, were all at the same party. As he came into the room the Doctor asked me what had happened and I coldly said, “I think it was an anxiety attack, Sir.”
I finished my charting, explaining in detail what had happened, and went straight home. When I returned for work on the following afternoon, I found my time card had been changed. I did not give it much thought until I opened the charts and realized that none of my charts was there. For legal reasons, I had not worked the day before. All of the staff had been informed of that fact but no one wanted to discuss it. From then on my duties were changed, since they could not legally fire me, pressure was applied to get me to leave. I found it difficult to work but even more difficult to not work. I desperately needed to do something but didn’t have a clue as to what that would be.
The answer came in a long-distance telephone call from Casa Grande, Arizona. The caller was an ex-patient and close friend of mine who had disappeared a month or so before things got bad for me. Steve was now living in a Christian Commune called The SOLID ROCK and wanted me to come down for a visit. I flew down five days later and discovered my Utopia. A Christian family man was running the place in what had at one time been the funeral home of Casa Grande. He and his wife had two children; a fifteen-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy and they were expecting another child in about a month. They were living on faith and believed GOD was telling them to expand and work with drug abusers. I was the missing piece that was needed to get their work started.
They had already taken in Steve and another 16-year-old Indian boy and in the week I was there we expanded the third-floor apartment to accommodate up to eight people. Other than the heat, there was nothing I could find wrong with the place and so I asked what I needed to do to join them. The answer was simple and Biblical, sell everything I had, and give it to them so that they could distribute it to the poor.
For the first time in a long while, I felt good again. I flew home and immediately turned in my resignation, to the delight of my supervisor. A week later I was on the road to Arizona in the Ford Thunderbird I had purchased after the accident. Actually, I had purchased my brother’s Plymouth Road Runner right after the accident because I needed transportation to work and he needed to get a different car because he had just gotten married. The car was too hot for me however and I soon sold it to an ex-patient who admired it. The Thunderbird was a used 1966 classic with rolled leather bucket seats. The best car I have ever owned. It was not air-conditioned however which made no difference in Michigan but was a necessity in Arizona, especially at the end of June.
Upon arrival at The Solid Rock commune, I turned over most of my savings account to the director, holding on to about $500.00 for emergencies, which he saw as a weakness of Faith in GOD. He put me to work on repairing the facilities and running errands in Phoenix, which was alright, except for the fact that every time I went, he would ask if I could take his fifteen-year-old daughter with me. I didn’t mind so much but it began to get uncomfortable for me because she was obviously infatuated with me. One evening I asked Steve if he could explain what was going on and he told me that he was not supposed to say anything but while I was gone, the director had received a vision from GOD that said I was the appointed one to marry his daughter. The fact that I returned was clear evidence to everyone, especially his daughter that the vision was indeed of GOD.
I was shocked at first and then upset because no one had said anything to me. I confronted the director and he did not deny it but when I asked for my money back he said it had already been used to pay off an old debt. Angrily, I packed my things in the car and started to drive out of Casa Grande but suddenly heard a loud clanging sound under the car. I drove it into a garage and they told me it was the universal joints in my transmission. The whole thing would need to be replaced at a cost of about $200.00 and it would take at least three days to get the parts. I left the car there and walked back to town to check into a cheap motel. I slept most of the first and second day, not knowing what else to do. The Solid Rock had become an obstacle in my path, too large to see over or around. I cried out to GOD but there was no answer. On the third day, a Friday, I went to check on the car and they told me it would not be finished until Saturday afternoon. I tried to argue with the man that I was running out of money but he said there was nothing he could do about it. I walked back to the motel in a state of confusion and depression. I passed a drug store and bought a bottle of 100 Aspirin with the intention of using them to commit suicide. Upon returning to my room I broke down in tears and cried out to GOD, and felt led to open my Bible to 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.
1CO 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1CO 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1CO 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1CO 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
When I had finished reading the chapter, I tearfully shook my head and said to GOD. “There is no love like that in all the world.”
HIS reply was clear, “Oh yes there is, it is MY LOVE for you and all of MY Creation, but to get it, you must give it.”
I fell asleep on those words and awoke early Saturday morning hearing birds outside my window. I had no idea what I was going to do but I felt confident GOD would tell me when the time was right. Shortly before noon, I went to the garage where my car was waiting. Instead of the $200.00 charge, however, they were able to do it for only $150.00 by using some used parts they had on hand. I returned to the motel and began packing my belongings. On Sunday morning I checked out of the motel and was told that they had decided to give me a discount because I was such a good customer. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just started on a mission to bring GOD’S Love to the World and HE was already preparing the way for me, but for where? Even with the discounts, I had less than $200.00 to my name; I had no job or even the prospects for one, no place to call home, and not a clue as to what God wanted me to do.
I decided to stop by the Teen Challenge Ranch, just outside of Casa Grande, to say good-bye to the counselors and residents I had gotten to know. They were just leaving for the morning worship service and invited me to come along with them. During the service, a woman I did not know stood up and began speaking in Tongues. I had never really been convinced that Tongues was legitimate but this time, when the same lady translated the message, I knew GOD was talking to me. The translation shocked most of the people including the lady who spoke it and several of the Teen Challenge kids, standing around me, snickered when they heard it.
“I am the voice of GOD and I have spoken to you in Tongues so that you will know that it is ME. GET IN YOUR CAR AND DRIVE.”
I was ecstatic and it was apparent as we left the church. They invited me to the ranch for dinner and afterward sent me off with their prayers.
From Casa Grande, there are only two directions you can take, South to Tucson or North to Phoenix. I had had all I could take of the desert heat and decided to go north. It was late afternoon as I approached Phoenix but the Sun was still scorching hot. I saw a pile of something along the road and as I got nearer I realized it was a young boy of about 16 years of age. He was sitting in a small patch of grass along the road with a homemade sign, over his head for shade, saying ‘Anywhere but Arizona’. I pulled the car over to the shoulder as he jumped up and ran to the car.
“Man am I glad you stopped,” he said, as he threw his small duffel bag into the back seat, “I thought I was going to die out there.”
“How long have you been sitting there?” I asked.
“Some guy dropped me off this morning.”
I noticed his dry chapped lips and asked him where his water bottle was.
“I ran out yesterday, I didn’t think it was going to take so long to get a ride,” he responded
“Where you coming from?” I questioned, as I handed him my water bottle.
“Tucson man, I left there three days ago and only caught three rides to here.”
“And where are you heading?” I continued, as I drove the car back onto the Hi-way.
“Anywhere out of this desert, and eventually back to my home in Ceder Falls, Iowa.”
“Iowa?” I said out loud, although it was meant more for me than for him.
“Yah, Iowa.” he repeated.
“Okay, Iowa it is,” I said, not really to him but more as an acknowledgment to GOD.
“What! You want to take me all the way to Iowa?” he asked, “Why would you do that?”
“It’s a long story,” I replied “but we will have plenty of time to talk about it on the way. Right now you look pretty beat. Why don’t you get some sleep and I will wake you when we get to Flagstaff. It will be cool there and we can get something to eat.”
He took my advice and within a short time was sleeping. We drove most of the night after eating in Flagstaff, talking as if we were long-lost friends. He was 16 years old and a run-a-way from a strict Christian family. He thought he could make it on his own in Tucson but was taken advantage of by some people and ran out of money. He had called home and they told him he would be welcome back but he would have to find his own way. He said he was angry with them at first but now was beginning to respect them for doing it and as we talked he began to see how they were right in setting limits on him. He did a lot of soul searching in those hours on the road and by the time we reached his home he was ready to do anything it took to be a good son. The homecoming was worth the drive. They wanted me to stay for a couple of days but I told them I couldn’t do that, I had work to do. As I was getting into my car to leave the boy came running up and took hold of my hand. “Thanks, man…for everything.” and then he asked quite seriously “Are you an Angel?”
“An Angel?” I laughed, “No, I can assure you I am not an Angel.” I said, wondering to myself why he would say something like that. “Have a good life,” I added, as I drove away.
Back on the Hi-way, I pulled off at the first rest area to get some sleep. When I woke up I looked at the map to see where I was so that I could decide which direction to take. The first city to jump out at me was Minneapolis, Minnesota, but that was north of where I was and why would GOD be bringing me that direction. Suddenly, a memory flashed in my mind and I reached for my wallet. I pulled out a paper with a name, address, and telephone number written on it, that I had not looked at for nearly a year. There was also a date and believe it or not (I didn’t) it was the Ninth of July 1971, my birthday. I had forgotten all about it and had not been paying attention to the days either. I checked my watch for the date and it was the Eighth of July.
I recalled the night that I had written the name down on the paper. Dawson was a new Corpsman, fresh from Great Lakes Training Center. He had come in with Clinton, the Corpsman I wrote of earlier, but they did not appear to be close friends, at least anymore. Dawson was quiet and seemed a little confused about what the future would hold for him. I tried to encourage him and then told him in a few years we would look back on all of it and laugh. That’s when I came up with the idea of making a date to telephone him four years from that time, on my birthday.
It made sense then that I should go to Minneapolis and get a hotel for the night and then telephone him, as we had agreed. The drive to Minneapolis was not all that exciting to me and I soon became bored with looking at cornfields. I drove for several miles but not a hitchhiker was in sight. I began feeling like my mission was over and GOD had no further use of me. I decided I needed to pull off the road to pray but each time I came to an exit I would drive past it. I began to feel the car had a mind of its own and even though I had decided to pull off it kept going. Then at about the fifth exit, it allowed me to turn off the Hi-way and onto a small country road, lined on both sides by cornfields. I drove a short distance and saw a car pulled over with the driver heaving his guts out.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I pulled my car off to the opposite side of the road.
“Yea, I think so, but the car is not.” the young man answered as another younger boy stepped out of the cornfield while zipping up his pants.
“What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Not sure, it just won’t start. You don’t by chance have any jumper cables do you?”
“Sorry, I can’t help you with that,” I responded, “but if you like I could go back to the Hi-way and see if I can borrow some.”
“You’d do that?”
“Sure, why not? How else are you going to get help all the way out here?”
“You got that right man,” he said, as he turned the key of the ignition one more time just in case.
I drove the car forward and turned it around and as I got back to their car the younger boy motioned for me to stop. “Mind if I ride along?”
“Not at all, jump in.” I said, as I reached over and unlocked the door.
Within minutes I was told the whole story. The older man was an uncle that had talked the boy into taking a trip with him. It turned out to be a wild time for the boy, drugs, alcohol, and sex. At times he broke down as he told the story and I offered him words of encouragement. I told him how life had looked for me just a few days earlier and how GOD had changed all that.
We didn’t find any jumper cables and after half an hour of searching decided to go back. The uncle was leaning up against the car smoking a cigarette. The car was running fine. He said it had started up as soon as we got out of sight. He had no explanation for it.
“Are you going to be okay with him?” I asked, as the boy got out of the car.
“Yea, we don’t have that much further to go,” he responded, wiping his face clean. “Thanks, man, you gave me a lot to think about.”
“No problem, just remember to give GOD control of all things and you will be okay,” I said, as he closed the door.
He leaned over and stared at me for a moment through the open window. “Are you an Angel?” he asked seriously.
“An Angel?” I laughed, “No, I am not an Angel.” I said again, even more perplexed than the time before. “Have a good life,” I added, as I drove away.
The drive seemed less lonely as I pondered the incident. Was GOD really in control of my car? What would be the chances of it all just happening by coincidence and what was the Angel thing all about?
I was exhausted by the time I got to the outskirts of Minneapolis. I had been driving for a couple of days, sleeping behind the wheel in rest areas when I could no longer keep my eyes open. I pulled into the first motel I came to and got a room. When I got to my room I called home and was told that the whole family was in the process of leaving for a week’s vacation on Drummond Island, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They told me the name of the resort, just in case I wanted to join them. I had not been there in several years and so I told them that I would consider it. After the call, I lay down on the bed and thought about taking a shower and then eating a good meal. I woke up to the morning sun having done neither one.
I love eating breakfast at the International House of Pancakes when I am traveling. I have tried eating there when I am not traveling and it doesn’t quite seem the same. Everyone who comes in seems to be coming from or going to somewhere and even though I seldom talk to them I feel out of place in their company. I ate a good breakfast and felt I could give a good account of where I was coming from if anyone were to ask. They didn’t, but it felt good being there anyway.
I returned to my room at the motel and after rehearsing several times what I was going to say, dialed the telephone number that Dawson had given me four years before. A lady answered and said she was his mother. Dawson was married and did not live there anymore. I asked if she could give me his number but she was hesitant. I explained to her who I was and why I wanted to talk to him and she finally gave in.
After hanging up I dialed the new number and another lady answered who said she was his wife. I explained to her who I was and asked if Dawson was home. He was and came to the phone but said he had no idea who I was and didn’t remember anything about an appointment. I told him I was in town and would like to meet him and so he invited me over to his house for the evening meal but told me he would have to leave for a meeting at seven-thirty.
His directions were easy to follow, and when I drove up to the apartment house he described, I understood why. He was just getting out of his car, still dressed in his police uniform. We recognized each other immediately but he still couldn’t remember the making of the appointment. We talked a little about the Navy but he didn’t seem to want to reminisce for some reason. At the mention of Clinton’s name, he went cold and I wondered if perhaps in a similar incident as mine, he had not said No.
Dawson’s wife was a great hostess but stayed out of the picture most of the time. They had a young daughter, perhaps 2 years old, that she played in the kitchen while we men talked. At a little past seven, I reminded him of his meeting and started to get up but she came in and asked me to stay awhile longer. She said the meeting was really a party with some of his buddies so it wouldn’t matter if he were a little late. I stayed another 30 minutes but then got up to leave because it looked like Dawson was getting restless. I told them I would be leaving in the morning.
“You must come back for breakfast, than.” she said, almost pleadingly.
“I don’t want to be any trouble.” I responded.
“No trouble at all,” she replied, “I would be hurt if you turned me down.”
“Then I guess it’s a date.” I said as I walked for the door.
“Will seven thirty be okay?” she asked.
“Sounds good to me,” I responded as I stepped outside. “See you in the morning.”
I returned as planned the following morning and Dawson’s wife invited me in. He was not there, however. He evidently did not come home at all that night and as she started to talk during breakfast, she broke down. Something had happened while he was in the military. When he came home he was not the same as before but she married him anyway because she thought he would eventually get back to being himself again. It wasn’t happening.
At nine-thirty he finally staggered in and passed out on the couch. She was embarrassed by the fact that he did not even acknowledge me but I told her not to worry about it. I excused myself and told her I would write whenever I settled down again. I did write a few months later and received an answer saying Dawson had gone to counseling after my visit and was on the road to recovery. At the time, however, I was numb from the experience and questioned if I had done the right thing. After checking out of the motel, I decided to head straight across for Upper Michigan. If I drove fast enough I would be able to make the last ferry over to Drummond Island, which left at five-thirty sharp every evening.
In the North, there are not a lot of travelers or large cities to worry about and so it was easy to make good time. Cruising at 100 mph is easy to do in a Thunderbird when you are the only one on the road. Everything was going fine until I hit Michigan and ran into a heavy thunderstorm. Even with the windshield wipers going at full speed it was hard to see the road and then the Hi-way ended and I was sure I saw a Detour Sign and so I followed the narrow road for a couple of miles until suddenly the rain stopped just as I pulled over a small bridge. I took out the map and realized that the road I was on was taking me into the wilderness and not back to the Hi-way. I would have to double back and that would blow my chances of catching the ferry. I would have to spend the night sleeping in the car again.
“Okay Lord, what possible good could come out of this?” I shouted in frustration, thinking no one was around to hear me. The answer was immediate and caused my heart to pound. There was a loud knocking on the top of my car and then a voice that shouted,
“You LOVE Jesus? I Jesus!”
I turned around and saw the blond-haired, blue-eyed face of a teenage boy staring at me through the back window and behind him I could see another boy of about the same age, pulling a backpack out from beneath the bridge I had just crossed. “What!” I answered, still in a state of shock.
“I Jesus.” he repeated while pointing to the ‘HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS’ sticker I had in the back window of my car.
“Your name is Jesus?” I responded, smiling to myself as I realized GOD’S sense of humor in this incident.
Jesus and his friend were both from France and spoke only limited English. They had started their cross-country trip in New York planning to go to California but ran out of money. They started getting homesick so decided to go to Canada to visit an Aunt in Quebec. They had seen the same Detour Sign that I had seen and had been walking for a couple of hours with no car in sight. When the thunderstorm came up they took refuge under the bridge, thinking they would be spending the night there. They were wet, hungry, and afraid of what they might find or what might find them out in the wilderness during the night.
I told them of my plans to visit my family and they said they would like to meet them as well. I said we would not make the ferry that night but could go on the first one in the morning and that was fine with them. They were just happy to be with someone who knew where he was going. As we drove back to the Hi-way we looked for the Detour Sign that had brought us together but it wasn’t there.
We were nearly an hour late for the last ferry but I decided we might as well sleep at the loading docks so we could be the first ones in line in the morning. For that reason, I was surprised to see the ferry and a long line of cars at the dock as we drove up. I drove to the back of the line but questioned the sense of crossing at this late hour because it would be difficult to see the names of the resorts in the dark and if we couldn’t find the right resort and had to spent the night on the other side, we would not find much to eat because there were no restaurants on the Island. I considered pulling out of line to get something to eat and wait until morning to cross, but then I heard my name called and looked to see my little brother running for the car. Evidently, the ferry had mechanical problems and was delayed. My family had come across in the afternoon to do some shopping and were parked just two cars ahead of me.
My French acquaintances were about the same age as some of my sisters and so they fit in quite well with the family. We stayed until the afternoon of the following day and then I took them across the bridge to Canada. Just over the bridge, we said good-bye and they thanked me for sharing my family with them. Then Jesus asked, “You are Angel?”
“No, I am not an Angel.” I said, for the third time since starting my journey.
“Yes, you are Angel for me.” He responded, as he picked up his backpack and started to walk away.
Those words stuck in my mind as I made the half days journey back to my family home in the lower peninsula of Michigan and by the time I arrived in Hudsonville, I was convinced that what all of them were seeing was not really me or even an Angel, but GOD’S Love for them, through me. The Words of 1 Corinthians 13 were actually beginning to manifest themselves within my life, just as GOD had promised. From that beginning, GOD has led me around the world, showing me people whom HE has chosen to be HIS, of all Nationalities and Religions. They are easy to recognize because they follow, some knowingly and others unknowingly, the Commandment that Jesus gave us just before HIS Death.
JOHN 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Once, when I was very young, I lived in the surrealistic world of Christianity. I felt safe there, protected by the Family of GOD and His Right-hand men who were never more than a Sunday away. Things were black and I was White and that was all that mattered. My, my, how time has changed things. I do not regret leaving that world, although safety and security have been replaced by the uncertainty of reality. Yet through it all GOD has been there and even though I have left religion behind I find in HIM strength far greater than I have ever known. I would encourage everyone to look beyond the place you are, to find refuge, not in the Mega Entertainment Centers of today’s religions… but in the stillness of your inner Soul… for there is where I believe you will find HIM.
Wayne Dale Matthysse