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  • Writer's pictureA Musing Pastor

In the Middle of Nowhere. What are the Odds?

The circumference of the earth, measured at the equator, is 24,901.55 miles. In other words the earth is big. Hold on a moment. The earth isn't as big as you might think.

Take for instance yesterday.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." (Proverbs 16:9, NIV)

Tracie and I shared a rare day off from work and when that alignment of the planets occurs, we like to go for a hike. There was no set destination among several choices. Eventually we settled on going to Juniata County and heading to Tuscarora State Forest. Side note: This venue is one where you drive for a while, the road changes from pavement to gravel, and then you drive for some more.... (It is in the middle of nowhere.)

A quick stop at our favorite convenience store to get our lunch and away we went. Finally reaching the picnic area of the park, we enjoyed lunch, conversation, and some selfie taking. A stroll around the bubbling creek was rich with photo opportunities and then the gnats began to discover our presence. Ugh! We headed back toward the bathrooms before eventually continuing on up the mountain.

Finishing the bathroom task we walked back down to the lane and noticed a Jeep drive by, turn around at the upper end of the park and stop right back down in front of us. It's at this juncture that things became a bit unusual for us.

A man, about our age walked directly across the road toward us and out of the blue asked, "Are you hikers? Where are you parked?" Please understand, we were in shorts and light shirts, no backpacks, no walking sticks, nothing that would indicate we were out hiking. We shook our heads and said we would be hiking soon and we were parked just up the road as we pointed to where they had turned around.

He then came closer and asked, "I have a question. Are you from around here?" I said, "yes, we're from Lewistown just over this mountain." He said, "Oh that's good. Tell me what you know about the high tension powerlines. How do they keep the vegetation down underneath the lines?" (insert puzzled look on our faces right here.)

Once again, we must have looked knowledgeable to this fellow and so I gave my best understanding of his question. I said, "I believe they cut the undergrowth and in some areas spray herbicide to squelch growth." He nodded his head. I continued, "When we lived in York County we watched a helicopter fly the edges of a powerline with an extended apparatus trimming tree limbs and were amazed at the skill of the pilot."

The man began to tell us that his 94 year old father had asked the question of him and he didn't know. So, this guy asked the first person he saw in Tuscarora State Forest.

This story gets more intriguing from here on out.

He then shared that he and his family have been frequenting this area since back in the 60s and he told stories of hunting, fishing, and camping. He shared that he and his family live in Lancaster and were out this day to explore old stomping grounds.

He mentioned that while living in Lancaster, he worked in Adamstown. I said, I've heard of this town, where is it located and he mentioned west of Reading. I then told him I had gone to school north of Lancaster and had heard of Adamstown in conversations there. He asked excitedly, "Where did you go to school?" I said, "Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown." He grinned and said, "Doug Buckwalter!" I laughed in surprise and said, "Yes, Doug was our New Testament professor." The man laughed back and said, Doug was my Sunday School teacher at Calvary Church near Ephrata." In the middle of nowhere, what are the odds that two people would meet, know mutual friends, and have a bond?

He asked if I was a pastor and I said yes at First United Methodist in Lewistown. He said, "I would love to drop in and visit you and the church sometime." I introduced Tracie and me to him and he shared his name, Rick. Meanwhile, his father had returned from the restroom and his wife and son strolled back to the vehicle from playing in the stream.

There in a bug infested park surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness 6 people shared life, some stories, and laughs. At this part of the story, Rick became more subdued and simply asked us to pray for him. He gave no details only that we would lift him in prayer because God knew what Rick needed. We agreed to do so and parted company. As we walked away I said, "Have a good rest of the day." Rick replied, "If I don't see you around, I'll see you in the sky."

I have been lifting Rick and Andrea up in prayer over the last 15+ hours.

Driving out the gravel road on East Licking Creek Road, I mentioned to Tracie that nothing we talked about would have occurred had we went somewhere else to hike. A strange feeling of holy divine intervention settled over us as she drove. I felt blessed in the short 15 minutes that we talked to Rick, his wife and family.

Earlier that morning, Tracie and I had settled on a plan for our day off hike but God was charting our course. We didn't haphazardly choose Tuscarora State Forest and the amount of time we lollygagged around taking pictures was ordained so that a connection of two hikers and four travelers could occur. What are the odds?

No matter your destination, keep your heart open to holy conversations that need to happen. Our God goes before us to chart our steps.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." (Proverbs 16:9, NIV)

"A Musing Pastor"

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