I adore any time spent with my family, especially when we are immersed in the culture of another region when on a family vacation. Despite my love for these family trips, perhaps my most anticipated trip comes every summer and is taken with my church family to a Centrifuge camp. My 8th grade summer of 2008, the youth and a courageous group of adult chaperones took a bus from Jacksonville, Florida, all the way to New Mexico for this trip. It was a crazy 41 hour drive there! My patience was surely tested then, and I assumed that it would never be tested like that again. Well, that assumption was proved wrong just one year later when we headed out for another trip to Centrifuge. This time we were headed to Ridgecrest, North Carolina, which was much closer, so I planned for a leisurely bus ride that I could sleep through. I should have been bracing myself for a LONG night.
The itinerary told all of the youth and chaperones to arrive at our church parking lot at 11:30 p.m. to get our luggage stored in the buses in order to be on the road by midnight. Leaving at midnight meant we would arrive at Ridgecrest by 3 p.m. the same day, if one accounts for food stops, and the abundant potty breaks that come with taking a large group of youth somewhere. Once everyone got to church we prayed for a safe journey and said "Ciao!" to our loved ones. Everyone got settled on the bus and most managed to drift off into a slumber. When the clock struck 3 that morning, the tranquil atmosphere disappeared. I was awakened to a loud grumbling coming from the front of the bus, although I couldn’t distinguish what was said. After a few minutes our bus driver, Mr. Anthony, told us that we needed to be seated because the bus was experiencing difficulties, and hearing the urgency in his voice, we cooperated without asking questions. The bus lost power steering and the brakes were not working as they should, but Mr. Anthony was able to bring the bus to a stop at a rest area close to Brunswick, Georgia. The adults began to make phone calls to anyone and everyone that might be able to help. While others were milling about outside of the bus, I snuck away to escape the June heat and take refuge with the air conditioning of the mini-bus. After a half-hour, the youth were called together and informed that an engine belt broke and it would not be fixed soon. In the meantime, we would be going to Wal-Mart until we could eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel. All forty of us (except Mr. Anthony and another parent, who stayed with the bus) piled onto the mini-bus, which only seats 25. At Wal-Mart, some found lawn chairs to sleep in, while others explored the toy section. We headed to breakfast at 6, while our youth pastor tried to find a place for us to go until the bus was fixed. He called a church we’d visited briefly the previous summer on a mission trip to Brunswick, and they immediately offered us their youth room to rest in while things were resolved. They provided snacks, and loaned us their church bus and a driver to carry us the rest of the way. It took 25 hours, loads of patience, and the kindness of strangers for us to make it to Ridgecrest, and we missed the first day of camp, but we made it unscathed and with a great story!
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