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'The Road Not Taken' Is More Than A Poem

Sometimes providence takes care of us in spite of ourselves.

Joy McClain writes a column called Joy's Reflections in Indiana Prairie Farmer. If you're a guy, you probably figure it's just for women and don't read it. You don't know what you're missing. Joy is starting to get requests to speak to ag groups, and there's a reason why. The stories she relates, often personal stories, hit home whether you're a man or a woman.

Without totally giving away her column, here's an example that will appear in the April issue. It got me to thinking, and events since then have made me think even more.

Joy tells of her son-in-law in Afghanistan, with about three months to go. One evening in the not-too-distant past, he was headed back to the airplane hangar. It was the ritual all crews follow on the night before a mission. For what she calls some 'ridiculous' reason, he veers off course for something totally unrelated to his job, and is delayed. In the meantime, a missile strikes the hangar and everyone inside is killed. If he hadn't have gone of course, he would have been in the hangar.

Joy calls it nothing short of God's providence. Yet sometimes people are killed or die in wrecks and we're left to wonder, "why?" Even Joy admits that we don't always have the answers because we don't know the grand plan.

One of my favorite books is the Rest of the Story, by the late Paul Harvey.  He cites a true story from somewhere in Kansas. A Church choir met regularly every Tuesday night at 7:30 sharp in the choir loft. There were 20 choir members. Usually no more than one or two were absent, if any. Yet on this one particular week, every choir member had something happen that delayed them from getting to the Church on time. None of them knew the other would be late – this was way before cell phones.

At exactly 7:30 p.m. the Church boiler below the choir loft, the empty choir loft, blew up. No one in the choir loft would have survived. Coincidence? Not likely.

You never know what God does in your own life. I recently attended the 20th annual meeting of the Ripley County Soil and Water Conservation District No-till breakfast. For many years they've held the breakfast at Hopewell Baptist Church, literally in the middle of nowhere. I've attended events there probably a dozen times, and I've had trouble finding the Church every time. The roads are crooked and there's not a town within five miles. Every year I think "I'll remember next year," but I don't.

Well, this year I was sure I had it made. A friend at my church happens to have grown up there. He sent me detailed directions. I was to take 421 south of Greensburg to Osgood, and then turn on Fairgrounds Road. That was my problem – I could never remember where to turn. Then I was to take it to 850 west and turn south. The church sits on 850 west a few miles south of Fairgrounds Road.

I cruise into Osgood and see a sign for the fairgrounds, so I turn. But the street name isn't right. I see the fairgrounds so I figure I can't be too far off. So I end up going along a road along the railroad tracks. I figured it would eventually cross 850 West. Wrong.

Instead, I wound up back in Dudley, where I do every year. At least once I got there I knew which road to take. In five miles I was at the Church.

Now comes the 'Rest of the Story.' Walking out to get my camera after being in the meeting for a while, I hear sirens. An ambulance heads north past the church. Then another emergency vehicle follows, and then a state police car.

I didn't think too much about it. Then on the way home, I hear a report on the 1 p.m. news from WIBC, an Indianapolis station. There was a fatal wreck that morning at Fairgrounds Road and 850 West in Ripley County – the intersection I was supposed to go through but never did. Coincidence?  Was that supposed to be me? Did I have help getting lost again? I'll never know.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, three members of the South Ripley FFA were killed in the crash instead. Again, it's not up to us to have the answers. Indiana Prairie Farmer sends out heartfelt sympathy to the families of all those involved.

I've learned one thing from all this – if I ever hear God speak, I'll listen. In the meantime, saying a few more prayers might be a good idea. Add a few for the broken hearts in Ripley County.

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