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I, Refugee: Leave to Beaver - Mini-biography
Learning a lesson should come easy. Unfortunately, we don’t tend to like easy so much. I mean us, you and me. I know I can speak for myself, but I am going to assume that you go through some of the same things if not ALL of the same things that I do.
So, we were in Utah as a family up from Phoenix attending the April 2016 General Conference of our church. The WE I speak of now is my family, Afryka, Xavier, Naomi, Sariah, Mosiah, Ephraim and me, Rodric. Yes, we are Mormons; and yes we believe in Jesus and all of that. We used Jesus and all of that to help us get through the trip, which at this point in my story we thought was going to be uneventful.
Afryka and Rodric
Russ and Melinda (the man who baptized me and his wife) had taken us to the ski resort, the kids and me, to play in the snow, but our time came to a close, and we would have to say our farewells. Parting is such sweet sorrow indeed because I detest goodbyes. I especially hate long goodbyes, but I was in the midst of one!
You ever have that feeling that you KNOW that you will have to do something, but you dread it, so you stall? I had that feeling each glance at Russ I took once we returned to his home to load our van to leave. I love that guy. The highlight of my trip to Utah was not the actual meetings of Conference. Seeing Russ and his family brought so much joy to my heart even with all of the misunderstandings and personal turmoil I endured. I mean, it was all internal battles with me regarding my emotions and my adequacy, but it was worth it to see the guy who had taught me the gospel and introduced me to God.
Russ may never know how important he is to me because the words do not exist in my power to express it. Think about it! He introduced me to GOD! I don’t think you understand reader. He informed me and proceeded to show me how to communicate with the originator of the universe! Yeah, I love that guy, and now I was leaving for good ole Phoenix.
We had to go because of Miriam, my five-year-old daughter. She had since turned older, but she was five in April of 2016. Afryka, my wife, missed this child. She stayed with the Wilsons from our ward (church) and then with Mother, my mother. The entire time we visited in Utah Afryka worried about Miriam—not that she thought anything bad would happen. No, not that. Not initially. She just wanted to be with our baby, at least at first she thought nothing bad. That’s coming, though.
So, I dreaded saying goodbye to Russ. In the back of my mind, I thought that I might never see him again, though as we chatted before leaving, we made all the pleasantries of Hey-I-will-visit-agains that people generally say when they are doing goodbyes and all. I tried to fake that, but I didn’t want to leave. At the same time, I was ready to go. The last thing I wanted was for Russ and Melinda to WANT us to go. That would have meant we overstayed our welcome. No, this was good—them wanting us to stay.
Ivy, their youngest kid, became fast buddies with Ephraim and Mosiah. She did not want them to leave because she finally had some people around her age to play with! Tears and sadness marked her face as she and her family buzzed around my family as we loaded into the van. Oh yeah, the van….
Ephraim and Mosiah.
The van had problems that rivaled my own!
When I first started the trip, the van had us ripping around doing things to get it ready for the journey. In hindsight, we should not have driven that van anywhere. It is not a traveling vehicle for long distances. It is a zip-around-the-corner, or to-the-church type of vehicle.
“Rodric,” Russ queried. “You still need to get that van checked out before you leave? If you stayed one more day, we could get it looked at tomorrow.”
If I had used some of my brain cells, the memory of the van’s age and penchant to malfunction would have alerted me to Russ’s wisdom.
“I don’t think so,” I decided. It was a decision I was making when I said that to him. I had mentioned to him the day before that the warning light dinged for the battery on the way up at one point. Strange, I know, to say it dinged on. The light came on and a tone rang out, so I say it dinged on. Anyhow, I knew something had to be wrong. It dinged off as quickly as it dinged on; therefore, I put the worry out of my mind. Leave it to Russ to try to bring it up again.
“I think we will be alright,” I guessed.
“It’s no trouble if you guys are willing to stay,” he cautioned again.
“I can definitely understand you wanting to get back to that sweet girl of yours,” Melinda chimed in agreeing as she glided about helping put snacks and meals for us in the van which she prepared for our journey.
To me, Russ spoke again with warning, “It would be better to be sure nothing’s wrong than to risk breaking down on the road.”
“I am sure we will be fine,” I responded beaming inside that he cared enough to press.
Leaving was on my brain at that point. Not because I wanted to get away, but because I longed for the road trip, my favorite part. Once I established within my mind that we were leaving, I was ready to get the show on the road! Russ left it alone for a while after the last decline of mine.
We said our long goodbye three or four times. All the kids complained about having to leave except my oldest, Xavier. Brooke, Russ and Melinda’s oldest daughter, gifted Xavier an expensive skateboard which turned the trip into Christmas for him! He could not wait to get back home and show it off to his buddies. Brooke had tried the thing out, and it decided to throw her off. That was her last time riding it.
We may have said a prayer together before Russ again hinted at us staying another day. Afryka was not aware of these gentle reminders that Russ gave, and I purposely did not tell her. I was ready to go! I was compelled to leave! Afryka was the driving force to get me going. But, once I was geared up I had to act. There was no WAY I would put the idea of staying in Afryka’s head because we would end up staying since she is a worry wort!
She kept saying that it would be horrible if something happened to us and we left Miriam and orphan. “God is in control,” I would respond to her. Anxiety about the whole family dying would have been amplified by Russ’s entreaties to stay and have the van looked at in Utah.
I justified not worrying her with the van by reasoning within that we did not have the funds to fix the van. If something is wrong with it, we will fix it in Phoenix. Neither one of us, I know, would want to have to ask for help. I love Russ, but I did not want to ask for his money. Charity was not a case that I wanted to fall into further. Melinda and he already housed a family of seven for a night. No. Staying could not be an option. So, we left.
On the way home the trip became less about me and more about us as a family. I had seen my missionary, so I was amiable. General Conference was behind me, the part about us actually attending a session in person anyway. As we traveled down the highway, we listened to the last session of conference. As a passenger, I drifted in and out of consciousness as the hours passed.
“Rodric, wake up,” came the words of Afryka snatching me back into reality from my slumbering position. “The car is doing something funny.”
“What,” I responded groggily unaware of where we were and how long I had been unconscious.”
“The van is slowing down. Look; when I hit the gas it does not go faster, and all the lights are flashing.” Afryka was concerned, to say the least. The lights on the dashboard sparkled like the lights on Temple Square during Christmas! Of course, my first thought was What did she do! Wisdom told me not to say that, so I kept my mouth closed, though my gesticulations communicated to my wife that I too felt concern.
“I’m going to pull over,” Afryka wisely decides. As soon as we get to the shoulder of the highway, the van dies. Kids slowly start to rouse from the back of the van offering with their consciousness groans of where-are-wes and why-have-we-stoppeds. Afryka and I realize the van has lost the juice, the battery light that has flashed on at the beginning of the trip now stayed on. It was a big bright slap in my overzealous pride of wanting to get on the road back to Arizona!
Russ told me before we left that he thought we should wait and get the van checked out for problems. Of course, his prediction that it would break down HAPPENED! Russ did not actually say the van WOULD break down. It was more him expressing a concern that I COULD break down leaving us stranded.
Afryka went into business mode and I went into panic mode. My fear that my family would get stranded came true. I had the impressions in my mind that such a thing would happen on the trip before we even started. Not could, but WOULD. It did. As calm and collected as possible, I exited the vehicle and started to charge the battery using the portable generator.
Generator did not work for me. It was still angry with me for taking it camping and trying to look at videos in the woods using it as a power supply. Afryka sat in the van full of worry. I could not get anyone to pray with me when I went back to the van for support. The phone blared, Afryka’s phone as she waited for the insurance company representative to put her in touch with the right person for roadside assistance.
“Can we say a prayer,” I asked the family. Afryka ignored me. Immediately I knew the potential for an argument started to brew. Normally, if I say nothing, nothing happens. I have a big mouth and tend to put my foot in it at the very time I should be keeping it shut. The last thing we needed was to have Mom and Dad fussing over the situation.
First, I listened to the Spirit.
The Spirit helped me reason that Afryka is within her rights to have negative feelings about the situation. Miriam is who was on her mind. This set back delayed us from getting to our daughter! The Spirit helped me the reason that I had to do something for my wife and family if they were preoccupied with the experience. It is my job as the husband and father to protect. The only way to protect them now was to call on God in prayer!
I exited the van and went to the front of the car where none of the family, including Afryka, could see me because the hood was up. Since the generator stopped working, I used the pull-string to charge the batter by hand. I knew it would not work, but it made me feel like I was doing something other than crying.
I cried because I did not want my family to feel let down at me or about the trip. Crying did nothing but make it hard for me to breathe, so I stopped. Prayer became my next thing. My arm grew weary at pulling the draw-string, so I switched hands as I prayed to God for help. The insurance company would not drive to Utah to tow our car for us. It was Arizona-based. What could we do?
President Monson’s image came to my mind, and his voice came to my head. The talk that President Monson gave during priesthood showed vividly in my head, total clarity.
“Wherever you go, your priesthood goes with you” he said during his final talk of the April priesthood session of Conference. “Remember who you are and what God expects you to become. You are a child of promise. You are a man of might. You are a son of God.”
As the words filtered through my fears and worried my heart began to take courage. “This precious gift of priesthood… May we, in whatever place we may find ourselves, always be worthy to call upon its power, for we never know when our need and our opportunity to do so may come.”
Then came the story into my mind President Monson told of his friend, who during World War II found himself and comrades in need of rescue after their plan went down from gun fire. These soldiers precariously clung to their inflatable life rafts for three days. On the third day, a rescue vehicle arrived but skirted away from them several times before the Spirit led President Monson’s friend to act.
“You have the priesthood,” the Spirit told him. “Command the rescuers to pick you up.”
President Monson reported that his friend acted as prompted, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the priesthood, turn about and pick us up.”
It did so. Immediately the vision went away from me and turned to my pressing situation with my van. I petitioned the Lord if it was what I should do in our situation and the answer came back affirmatively. Instantly, visions of my self-doubt and wickedness flashed before my eyes, but I pushed them aside. The adversary would not make me falter this time. With my hand raised to God, yet shielded by the hood from my family I said the words.
“By the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ,” I said. “I call upon some person to rescue my family and lead us to safety. Amen.”
Instantly I knew it would occur. Yet, I was utterly astonished it occurred almost immediately! I was terrified to the point of mental disability! An older gentleman pulled to the should over the road and backed his vehicle close to our position.
Afryka and I sat in the van. Shock had overtaken my senses; so, I sat still as Afryka urged me to man up and take care of us! “Get out and go see if he can help,” she said. I had yet to tell her about the favor I called down from heaven.
Obeying my wife, I exited to the vehicle with the though bouncing in my mind that these people are going to fear me because I am Black. I rebutted it in the name of the Savior and went to the man saying, “Are you a man of God?”
The man stumbled a bit at my question. “I believe in the power of prayer,” he responded.
“I prayed you here!” I could tell from the look on his face that it took a moment to process what I said. I did not know his faith and he did not know mine, but I knew that he had to know God to come to us so promptly as the ship did to rescue President Monson’s friend. Eventually, we discovered we both attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come on. It’s Southern Utah. Who else would he have been or us for that matter‽
After some awkward conversation, another man came, a mechanic. The mechanic, talking to the elderly gentleman, who obviously thought I was mental, diagnosed the problem as an alternator issue. Then the Beaver City Sheriff came! Between the three men, we had a diagnosis and a way to get off the highway to lodging. We would not be going to Arizona that Sunday because no shop was open in or near Beaver, Utah on the Sabbath day.
The elderly gentleman discussed it with us before he picked up his phone to secure our night lodgings. “Hello,” he said to the person on the other end of the line, “This is Joe Hardy….” What‽ It was a Nevada State Senator!
Senator Joe Hardy
Once all the excitement settled down, Joe and his wife Jill made sure we had water and snacks. The Sheriff used the grill on his SUV to butt our van to the lodging at The Econo Lodge. We were safe. God honored my request through these men to rescue my family.
Joes said, “I saw your van on the side of the road. I wanted to stop, but I drove by. I didn’t get too far when I felt like I should turn around and help.”
Jill admitted, “I remembered the talk about extending our hand to the refugees at Women’s Conference.”
“Yeah,” Joe joined. “You are our own refugees!” We all laughed as we Afryka and I expressed our gratitude. Not only did Joe and Jill make sure we had lodging, but they made sure our van would get repaired the next day with no expense to us. It’s good to be a senator.
I had truly become a refugee—trapped in a place where the mercy of the locals held us safely until we could get on our feet. Afryka and I humbled ourselves before God and gave thanks that we would be on the road again the next day.
The only problem was that we had to wait for Monday’s problems to come. We had no idea that it would get worse.
Thanks for reading my True Trapped in Utah Story. There is more to come.
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© 2016 Rodric Johnson