“We’ve asked God to pick us up in a bright-red bus and take us to meet the train at the Denver railroad station.”
There’s a bunch of Spanish-speaking Pathfinders up at the end of the valley who need a ride to the train station in Denver.”
The report came to me as bad news, raising my level of frustration. The
1985 Camp Hale Pathfinder Camporee, the very first international camporee for Pathfinders in the North American Division, had ended the day before. All the clubs had packed up and left for home. The welcome tipis had been taken down. The blacksmith shop had been disassembled and placed in the truck that was taking it home. Even the tall replica of the Washington Monument that had stood as the centerpiece of the camporee grounds was gone, its pieces unscrewed, packed, folded, and trucked away in a container that was headed home to Washington, D.C.
I was the camporee facility coordinator, driving around the valley in my tired Jeep, making sure that all remnants of the event were disappearing. Our Forest Service permit said that the valley was to be returned to the condition it was in before we had arrived, and that “no mark of our presence shall remain.”
That included the large stage and video screens, the headquarter tents, the water pipes, the bridges we had built over the Eagle River, the flag we had hung on the Eastern Butte, all of the 50-plus motor homes we had rented as temporary motel rooms for special guests, and every single tent peg Pathfinders had pounded into the Camp Hale dirt.
The camporee had been an awesome success. “The best evangelistic program the church has ever given its youth,” one leader announced. “The best experience of my life,” a young Pathfinder told me.
* * *
The Camp Hale Camporee was over. Everyone was on their way home. Except for a few workers and a 35-person Pathfinder club from Mexico City, Mexico.
I had been smiling contentedly in the rapidly emptying valley. Then Carl told me about the club from Mexico.
“Are they waiting for a bus to pick them up?” I asked.
“I think you’d better go talk to them,” he answered, then drove away in his dust-covered pickup.
I started the Jeep and drove down the road past where the headquarters tent had stood, over a small hill to where the club was waiting.
“Crazy,” I mumbled to myself, noticing a dark-gray storm cloud slipping into the valley. “I wonder why I didn’t know they were still here? They should have been gone hours ago!”
The Pathfinders were sitting beside the road, singing Más allá del sol, and waving at me.
“Can I help you?” I asked, fearful of the answer.
“No. I think we’re fine,” the director told me in broken English. “We’re waiting for a bright-red bus.”
“A bright-red bus?” I asked, incredulous, noticing that the storm was getting closer.
“Yes. We’ve asked God to pick us up in a bright-red bus and take us to meet the train at the Denver railroad station. Our train leaves at midnight.”
My mind quickly calculated how long it would take even a fast “bright-red bus” to get from Camp Hale to the station. Probably five hours with the traffic. The bus would have to show up in the next 30 minutes.
“What bus company have you contracted with for the trip?”
“Only God,” he responded with a shrug. “God knows we don’t have enough money to rent a bus, so we’ve asked Him to send us one of His bright-red ones.”
* * *
A few hours earlier I could have sent the entire club home in the fleet of rented motor homes. But all those vehicles were now gone. I could have shoehorned them into half-empty buses with several other clubs. Those were also gone. It was late, about to rain, and there were no buses, no motor homes, not even an empty semitruck in the valley. Nothing. Nada. Just my Jeep and Carl’s work truck.
“Would you like to say a prayer with us?” the director asked.
I joined them, all of us praying for God’s “bright-red bus” to come. Quickly. Then I drove back up the valley to make sure all the showers had been removed. My mind rumbled with questions. Why hadn’t they done a better job of planning? Why hadn’t they told me about their problem earlier— when I could have helped? Isn’t it presumption rather than faith when you expect God to do the impossible on your time schedule?
“They’re Yours, God,” I said aloud. “I can’t help them now. Please send them Your bus. Bright-red, if You happen to have a spare one available.” I wish my prayer had been more sincere.
I drove on, checking on this and that and worrying about my friends from Mexico. If the storm didn’t get them, where would they sleep tonight?
A strange dust cloud began swirling on the road toward me. A few moments later a vehicle slowed, then stopped right beside my Jeep. It was a bus. A bright-red bus. Empty.
“Hey there,” the driver shouted from his window. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I was supposed to pick up a group of Pathfinders from Pennsylvania, but engine trouble kept me away.”
I remembered the Pennsylvania group and told him we’d been able to put them together with another club.
“OK,” he said. “But since I’m here, is there anything else I could do for you? I’m going on to Denver, and the mileage is already paid.”
“Yes, sir,” I smiled, and pointed far down the road to where 35 Pathfinders from Mexico were already putting on their backpacks. “There’s a full busload of Pathfinders waiting for you, and I believe you’re right on time.”
The driver smiled. “I was hoping I’d find a load in the valley.”
As the bright-red bus pulled away, the driver began blowing a series of long, loud notes on his air horn. Angel music, I thought.