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- July 13, 2005

This is a story about a car breakdown in West Virginia.

The story actually began over two years ago when my husband and I had a chance to hike up Seneca Rocks in the wild and wonderful mountains of West Virginia with a small group from church. We both agreed that we must bring the girls on this hike someday.

It's not as daunting as it sounds. There's a back way up the legendary jutting rocks that hundreds of trained and hardy rock climbers scale successfully every year. The back way up is a comfortably strenuous hike of about one hour.

Trying to find a time when it would suit everyone with five different schedules, now that they were all nearly grown and out of the house, was next to impossible. Finally, we settled on the first weekend of April, 2004; late enough in spring that we shouldn't have snow, right?

Wrong, of course. On the first day of our weekend, a slow, drizzling kind of cold rain ruined everyone's spirit for hiking; the second morning we awakened to a foot of fresh, blowing snow. Almost-blizzard conditions prevailed for a while. On our way home, we slid so far into a ditch that we had to call a tow truck.

A year and a month later, we tried the trip again. We found a day that suited everyone's schedule, and this time, snagged a perfect day in May; blue sky, green trees, gorgeous weather, outdoor grilled steak, hike accomplished and enjoyed by all. It was a very special time of family togetherness before the middle daughter launched her "gotta get out of this town" move 700 miles away.

The following Sunday, May 29, we said our goodbyes to Tanya with lumps in our throats; she departed and we headed off to church. It was also my husband's and my 29th wedding anniversary, and we aimed to make the best of the day by heading out to eat after church. Our other daughters were not home.

Our cell phone died, and I thought vaguely, "oh, Tanya might try to contact us, I sure hope she doesn't need us." We slowly made our way toward a restaurant about ten miles out in the country. Since it was Memorial Day weekend, we stopped at the cemetery where Stuart's parents are buried. We considered driving even further through the eastern mountains to a town about an hour away where there is another restaurant we like, but eventually settled on the ten mile restaurant. After enjoying a leisurely lunch, we then stopped by our denominational conference center to talk to a woman from our church who volunteered at the registration desk there.

Finishing our business, she said, "Oh, did Tanya get in touch with you? Someone said after church that she was trying to reach you!"

My heart sank. Somehow I had known, but not strongly enough to act on my intuition. We tried to revive the cell phone, and it allowed me to at least tell her, "We'll call you soon from home," before it abruptly turned itself off.

Long story short; she had developed major brake problems in West Virginia, had already been stranded for about two hours, and the garage there wouldn't be open until Tuesday. Our pastor, bless her, called a pastor she knew in Berkley Springs who went to the garage, picked up our daughter, took her out to lunch, and gave her a place to rest until we could get in touch. A dear friend agreed to hook his tow trailer to the back of our pick up and accompany us on the two-hour drive to Berkley Springs. The pastor and his wife, after hosting Tanya all afternoon, delivered her back to the garage to meet us.

It was a tense, trying, evening, as we wondered whether the tow trailer would hold, traversing strange two-lane roads loaded down with an extra car on the tail, trying to get home before dark. By this time my daughter was exhausted from the worry, but later said appreciatively, "You know, last Sunday (the day of our hike up Seneca Rocks) was a wonderful family thing, but this Sunday was what family is about, too."

It's what a church family is about also. This was a time when the network of church, family and friends did not break down. It worked and was strengthened.

In your travels this summer, I hope you steer clear of rainy days and mechanical breakdowns. But if you don't, I hope you run into similar folks who help you out, or that you'll extend a helping hand when you (safely) have the opportunity. It's a way to keep our culture from further breakdown.

Submitted by Melodie Davis from her weekly column ANOTHER WAY www.thirdway.com