I remember many years ago during my second year of university when something very special happened while I was hitchhiking back from a rock concert. I was at that time studying at the University of the Otago in Dunedin, and I heard that Bob Dylan (my then favourite musician) was going to be playing in Auckland during the university holidays. Being a student I was on a tight budget, so while I was able to put together the money for tickets, myself and the friend that I went to the concert with, had to figure out a very low-budget way to travel the distance (over 1000 miles) to the concert and back.
We asked around and found two girls who were driving to the north of the South island in their Volkswagen and offered us the back seat. They were also driving back down the South island at about the right time when we would be returning. I also have a friend who lived in the North Island who was prepared to drive us on the North Island Leg up to Auckland (he was coming to the concert too). The only stretch which we didn’t have covered was the journey from Auckland to Wellington on our way back. So, like many students at that time, we decided to hitchhike. We gave ourselves just over a day to make the journey, and it was important to do so as we had to make it to a particular ferry crossing in order to meet the girls who were driving us back to Dunedin. For the first part of the journey we made good progress with lots of our New Zealand compatriots offering us lifts and turning our trip to Wellington into somewhat of an adventure. However, when we reached a particular spot, known as the Foxton flats, which was only about an hour and a half’s drive from the ferry, all of a sudden everything started to go wrong.
Despite the overwhelming traffic passing us it seemed like no-one wanted to stop. And, after more than two hours of waiting by the roadside watching car after car go past we realised that there was the very real possibility that we weren’t going to make that ferry. So it was, that in desperation I turned to prayer. I left the roadside, bowed my head in prayer and asked God to provide us with the transport which we needed. After I had prayed, I opened my Bible and began to read. My friend, who was not an active Christian, saw me doing this and became very annoyed that I had given up on attempts of hitching a ride and instead had turned to prayer.
He also left the roadside to tell me exactly what he thought of what I was doing. I wish I could remember the verses that I was reading, for the truth is that my only memory is that they were comforting, but what I do remember is that while both of our backs were turned from the road, a man pulled up beside us and asked us if we were hitchhiking. We forgot our argument, and told him yes we were hoping to make it to the ferry. He said he was going that way and could drop us at the door. We made our ferry crossing with minutes to spare. While I was on the ferry, I heard an announcement, stating that I needed to go to the information desk.
There was an urgent ship to shore call for me (this was in the days before everyone had mobile telephones). It was from my father, who had been trying to track me down and knew that I would be on that ferry on my way home. It turned out that two days previous, my best friend (who lived in the in Palmerston North in the North Island) had been killed in a car accident, and my Dad had received a phone call from another of my friends to pass on the news. Because I received that call, I was able to return on the next ferry and make it to the funeral, to say my goodbyes and to offer my comfort to his lovely family. I thank God for his timely intervention and for providing the lift to the ferry just in time even when we had our backs turned to the road. It always like God has always been there for me at just the right time.