Good Samaritans: Lessons from the side of I-65

It’s a fairly common scene that all of us have observed while traveling.

There on the side of a busy highway is a parked vehicle with hazard lights flashing. At least one passenger is on the phone, desperately trying to find help. Perhaps one or two are crouched over by a flat tire, leaning over looking into a smoking engine bay or quickly walking around the vehicle trying to figure out what went wrong and what can be done to remedy the issue.

Perhaps there are a few other passengers, many of them children or teenagers, standing off in the grass, trying to occupy the time and keep a safe distance from the rapidly passing interstate traffic.

On our recent mission trip to Mobile, Alabama, we both observed and participated in this drama.

Issues with buses has become somewhat of a theme for our missionary endeavors at First Baptist Church, but this most recent trip took it to new heights.

Throughout the week, we had several small issues, most that were easy to repair and didn’t keep us off of the road for long. We lost bolts on the muffler of one bus, which we had to replace when we stopped for the night. One of the overhead luggage racks in our other bus came loose the next morning, but we were able to make that repair at a gas station fairly quickly.

As we traveled around Mobile, the air conditioners in both buses began having issues, but we were able to figure out how to keep them working without any stoppage time. All of these issues were but warmups for the show to come.

The drama reached its full glory on our return trip. Just south of Louisville, Kentucky, a strange noise suddenly emanated from the driver’s side of our larger bus. The bus began shaking, then there was a loud bang as the front driver’s-side tire gave way and the metal of the rim made contact with the road below.

We slowly limped our way across five lanes of traffic and pulled off onto the shoulder of Interstate 65. At that moment, the air conditioner also breathed its last and stopped working.

So having no other option, we ushered the students off of the bus deep into the grass and assigned several adults to help keep them corralled. We had a spare tire and attempted to make the change, but the tire iron was not big enough to fit the lug nuts on the bus.

Several leaders began calling AAA, insurance companies and local garages to seek assistance. Most of them would not help with a bus, and the one that was willing couldn’t reach us for about two hours. And thus, the drama was in full effect. There we stood, watching helplessly as hundreds of vehicles sped by unaware or unconcerned by our plight. It was a horrible and hopeless feeling.

At the height of our hopelessness, the Lord sent us a Good Samaritan. A perfect stranger saw us on the side of the road and stopped to help. He quickly realized that he too had the wrong size wrench but offered to drive into town to buy one for us. Before he could leave to get the needed tools, two more Good Samaritans pulled off to help. They had the necessary tools with them and were more than willing to get their hands dirty to get us safely back on our way.

In a matter of minutes, these three Good Samaritans replaced our tire and had us back on the road. They refused any payment, noting that the Lord would bless them for their good deeds.

In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of the original Good Samaritan. The story looks very much like the story I recounted. A man runs into trouble while traveling and is left helplessly on the side of the road. Several travelers pass and fail to stop for untold reasons. Perhaps they were concerned about the lost time it would take. Perhaps they believed they weren’t capable of helping. Perhaps they were concerned for their own personal safety.

Whatever the case, they changed lanes to keep a safe distance and kept on moving down the road. The Samaritan, however, sees the man and has pity on the troubled traveler. Despite the risk and the cost, the Samaritan does all he can to help get the man back on his way.

Jesus’ point is our neighbor is anyone on our path and being a good neighbor means making the effort to do what we can to help them on their way. This is what it means to love neighbor as self.

I’m forever grateful to the three Good Samaritans who stopped to help us. I don’t know any of their names. I don’t know any details about their lives. What I do know, though, is they were good neighbors and we felt the love.

I also am challenged by their example. The world needs more Good Samaritans, people who are willing to go out of their way and step into the mess with others to offer assistance.

This is the example Jesus gave in his story and that he demonstrated in his own life. It is in fact the call of the gospel. So when we see difficult dramas unfolding before us, may we stop and be the Good Samaritan someone needs.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].