After visiting 5 smaller national parks near the Grand Canyon in August several years ago on the last night of our Go West tour, our passengers, all international college students /scholars, began filing their way back onto the sleeper bus for our final leg home to Atlanta. To my surprise and horror, one spot was vacant. Mr. Lee of China was missing.
So I asked everyone, “Who had dinner with Mr. Lee tonight?” Dead silence. “This can’t be happening,” I assured myself. So I asked, “Who last saw Mr. Lee before we left for dinner?” Still nobody spoke.
I quickly rejoined, “Who remembers last seeing Mr. Lee this afternoon?” One shaky voice finally answered, “When we left the Indian Cliff Dwellings (Walnut Canyon National Monument) at our midway stop this afternoon, I saw him still in the bathroom as we were leaving.” Dumbfounded, I exclaimed, “That can’t be right: that was 4 hours and 3 stops ago!”
But when no one else could vouch for where they had last spotted Mr. Lee, I quickly located a phone booth (before the days of cell phones) to call home to ask my wife, Lynn, if she had heard from him, but the line was repeatedly busy. Oh, for a cell phone–but that would not be available for another decade. Quickly, I got out my itinerary, found the name of the Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings National Park Superintendent, with whom I had previously arranged an educational tour and fortunately kept his letter with phone number included, and then made a belated call. “Have you seen a Mr. Lee from China”, I inquired … at 10 PM.
To my amazement, he replied, “Oh yes, I’ve seen him and been with him for several hours this afternoon. He waited by the highway for you to return and when you didn’t, he came to us for help. But we couldn’t understand his limited English so, fortunately, we found a local couple from China from the local university who translated for him. Then I found your letter and called your wife to find out what she knew. She said, if you hadn’t come back by now, that means you had forgotten him and wouldn’t realize your mistake until you after dinner when you made your final head count for the night. She said you were a bit of an absent minded professor. She sure got all that right!”
Sheeplessly, (I know the correct word is sheepishly; but I had lost one of my sheep!) I asked, “Where’s Mr. Lee now?” The Superintendent replied, “Oh, the Chinese students took him to the local police station and from there to the Greyhound station to catch the next bus to Oklahoma because your wife said once you found out where he was lost, you wouldn’t backtrack 200 miles, but would rather meet him at the next major layover on your itinerary which is tomorrow afternoon in Oklahoma City.” I hate to admit it, but Lynn was right… again!
After phoning the police and Greyhound bus station to confirm that Mr. Lee had gotten on the right bus, I finally connected with Lynn. My brain scrambled and with egg on my face, I didn’t know what to say, other than, “Thanks for bailing me out.”
The next afternoon, our schedule called for a 4 hour break in Oklahoma City, including swimming and showers at the home of a prominent businessman, Kirk Humphreys, who later served as its Mayor. (Kirk Humphreys was Oklahoma City’s 34th Mayor and began his second four-year term in office in April 2002.)
After a tour of the city, we drove by the bus station at the precise moment Mr. Lee’s bus arrived. Boy, was he a sight for sore eyes and glad to see us, too! In front of the group, I asked, “How did you get lost?” Why didn’t you call my wife right away–you had her number on the piece of paper I gave you at the beginning of the trip and told you to always keep with you….”
Mr. Lee then shared how he tried to run to catch the bus at it was pulling out of the parking lot, all the way to the highway, 1 mile away where he then waited and waited and waited. “But what about the piece of paper with all the important phone numbers, I gave you?” I asked in my defense.
“I left it on the bus,” was all he could say with big eyes and curled lips. We broke into around a applause and hugs and listened to the rest of his story, including how he had no money to pay for the ticket. Peering into my receipt bag to see if there was any group money leftover (our goal is to break even on any trip) and finding only $80, I gladly paid Mr. Lee for his unexpected adventure.
We were dead even financially; but alive in faith!
That’s a great story by itself…..but here’s the rest of the story:
A month later, in September, I led another Go West trip, but on its final day, to change the schedule a bit, we toured Dallas, Texas rather than Oklahoma City. While showering at a church that shared an international friendship ministry with ISI (Intl Students, Inc.), I was speaking to the intl pastor, when a local Chinese young lady overheard me being called “Uncle Bob”.
She inquired. “Are you Uncle Bob?”
Honored that anyone outside our bus would know my nickname, I proudly said, “Yes. I’m Uncle Bob”
“Do you know Mr. Lee?” she questioned.
“Mr. Lee? I know many Mr. Lees. Which one do you know?”, I asked.
“The Mr. Lee who was lost outside the Grand Canyon”, she exclaimed.
Ugh. “Here we are in Dallas a thousand miles away from there. How in the world did you know about that Mr. Lee”, I wondered.
“I’m the one with my brother and a friend who found Mr. Lee on the side of the road (I-40) waiting for your bus!”
“How can that be? I thought Mr. Lee walked back to the park ranger’s office. I thought they were the ones who found a Chinese couple from the local university to help translate”, I muttered.
“Oh no, what happened was that we were traveling from Los Angeles back to Dallas on I-40 when I spotted this man standing on the side of the road. He looked lost, so I told my brother to stop for him, but he would not. I told him the man was Chinese, but my brother and his friend said, ‘How can you tell? He looks like the other Indians around here!’ I insisted he was from Beijing. ‘How do you know that?’, they mocked. “His hair cut looks like yours,” I said. Finally, I told them the reason we must turn around and help is because that’s what God would want us to do. You see, I recently became a Christian and I’ve learned that God wants us to be merciful just like our Father in Heaven shows us mercy.” She went on to say, “We then took him to the bus station, bought him dinner, gave him the extra money he needed to buy his ticket and prayed for him.”
I wanted to give my side of the story, but her soft, gentle reply had already knocked me over. God is indeed full of Mercy and wants each of us to be filled with His Spirit so that we, too, can share God’s amazing love with others in need.