Harvey R. Brown, Jr: One Wrong Turn Deserves Another

by Dr. Harvey R. Brown, Jr., preacher, educator, former U.S. Army chaplain, and author of Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from Your Past

HomelessI consider myself a global citizen. Of course, I am an American. But thanks to your tax dollars and the United States Army, I became a world traveler and experienced a much more diverse culture and heritage than my hometown in Georgia.

While in the Army, I lived twelve years in a row in foreign countries (if you consider New Jersey a foreign country… I know my Georgia mother did). My first overseas tour was four years in Panama. Then we lived five years in New Jersey. Then three years in Germany. Through all of this time I became adept at navigating through strange cities and nations while driving in various conditions. I made numerous discoveries—one of which included discovering what police in Panama say in Spanish when they pull you over for going the wrong way on a one-way street. I didn’t feel at fault. As a new resident, why should I know the words on a Panamanian one-way sign. As far as the gestures of oncoming drivers, the extrovert in me believed that yet unknown friends were waving to me.

Which gets me to Saturday a week ago here in Costa Rica. I had an invitation to speak to students at the University of Costa Rica, so I borrowed a car to drive myself to the University.

No problem. I knew where I was going. I had been there five years ago.

But I took a wrong turn. So I tried to straighten myself out, and probably made another six wrong turns trying to get right. I called the brother where I was going hoping he could reorient me.

“Where are you?”

“At the intersection of Avenida 42 and Calle 53.”

“What’s around you?”

“Houses and cars.”

“You must be somewhere in Zapóte.”

“I’ll get back with you in a minute. Gotta make a turn.”

I had arrived at an intersection with a major thoroughfare and decided to turn left. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper and it was raining buckets of water. I called back.

“Where are you?”

“In front of a little mechanic shop.”

“What does the sign say? “

“Repuestos y mecánica.”

“Do you know what that means in Spanish?”

“I guess ‘mecánica’ means mechanic. I don’t know what ‘repuestos’ means.”

“Spare parts. That could be anywhere”

At this point in our conversation I saw a man with a backpack standing under the overhang of a nearby building. I drove onto the sidewalk, opened the passenger door and motioned for him to get in. He looked at me with concern in his eyes. So I held up my cell phone and said in Spanish, “No hablo Español. Assisté por favor.” (which being interpreted means, “I don’t speak Spanish. Help, please.”).

So he cautiously got in, ducking the rain and clutching his backpack close to his chest.

I handed my phone to him and gestured for him to put it to his ear. He listened to my friend Scott explain that I was lost and where I needed to go. Scott told the man if he would guide me to my destination, Scott would pay the man’s taxi fare anywhere he needed to go. So a deal was struck.

To avoid the rainy season deluge and major quitting-time traffic, we wound our way through side streets. Back-and-forth we went until we hit a primary road, progressed to a traffic circle, and turned in the opposite direction. After going two blocks, I recognized the landmark for the turn to the University. I made the turn and drove to my destination.

When we arrived, I left “Oscar the navigator” in the car as I dodged puddles and cars to cross the street. I retrieved my friend Scott and the promised taxi fare. Since Scott is fluent in Spanish. I asked him to get into the car and convey my appreciation and gratitude to my rainy day savior.

For 22 minutes Scott not only conveyed my appreciation to Oscar—an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua—but he also told him of a real Jesus who loved him, died on the cross for him, and wanted to live in his heart (I actually could understand much of the conversation).

And joy of all joys, the one who was truly lost became found. Oscar embraced Christ as his Savior.

At this point I understood something very clearly: I had not been lost. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, at exactly the right time.

Perhaps that’s why I had no distress or concern, even though it appeared I would be late for my speaking engagement… if I ever got there at all. My primary appointment was with Oscar. What I thought was the reason for my trip—going to speak at the University—was the occasion Father used to put into motion a series of events which led to Oscar’s divine appointment.

Here I need to make a Note to Self: Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. In every situation acknowledge Him (like “Lord, help me see what you’re doing”). And always trust that He will direct your paths.

As I watched the new birthing process for Oscar, I was hit with a blinding flash of the obvious. The great Shepherd had left the 99 and was going after this one—very precious—lost sheep.

Isn’t Father good?