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Johnny Turner, the hitchhiker years

by: Frank Lee Jennings

Matthew 22:9 KJVS
Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

It was close to Christmas and was during the "hitchhiker" phase of my life. Working in Little Rock and commuting from our western Saline County home was just another daily chore. But it was made more exciting and far less mundane by the prospect that during the journey God just might have someone waiting for an appointment with me. An appointment with one of His messengers carrying the good news. One of multitudes. Messengers with no uniform but carrying the best message ever sent to men. I don’t remember how He first impressed upon me the idea of picking up hitchhikers, but the urging was strong. When you become filled with the spirit it must needs overflow onto those nearest. The hitchers were only those that the Lord directed me to. I knew when I had to pick someone up and when I was to pass them by. You know in your knower because It's by the spirit of God. His sheep know His voice.

Isaiah 30:21 NIV
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

1 John 2:27 NIV
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit---just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Sometimes it was me that needed delivering from the great wilderness of the highway. Once on the evening trip home I had a flat tire at Benton just before my exit. After looking at the spare and finding it had gone flat too, I stood there, wondering what to do when a car pulled up behind me on the highway shoulder. A man about my age got out, came up and kindly asked if I needed any help. I explained things and he generously offered to take me to get my spare aired up. At the station it turned out the spare had gone bad and dry rot had ruined the tire. As we stood there staring at the worthless thing, the good Samaritan announced "I've got a tire just like that at my house". My spirit lept within me and I knew for sure God had sent him. I really knew Jesus had sent a messenger to deliver me.

He lived nearby and after a quick trip, there it was, the supernaturally supplied tire! My deliverance, waiting for me, leaning against his garage wall. A picture of that simple tire leaning against a white garage is filed under "God's deliverances" in my heart. It was like new and he sold it to me for $12. Back at my car after getting the tire mounted on the rim, I quickly had it bolted back on and then we sat down for a minute to talk. I'd been praying quietly for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall so that my witness could be with power. So far my testimonies had fallen flat on deaf ears. Not enough power and that sense of shoving against a hopelessly heavy object, You can feel the spiritual resistance and know that without the anointing you are helpless.

Then He moved and answered my prayers and His spirit swept in! He came! Hallelujah! Suddenly my words had the "dunamis", the power and tongue of fire that first arrived on the day of Pentecost . with the anointing words take wing and fly into the heart of the audience. He still gives a tongue of fire to his anointed messengers and the hearers can feel the warmth of God. I refuse to speak on my own without His anointing. Without Him we are an empty puppet without a hand to fill it. Only He brings eternal fruit into the lives of men.

Acts 2:3 NIV
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

After that the good Samaritan soaked up the words of witness like a dry sponge. Each of us had served the other well, though he had gotten the best end of it. Jesus kept the promise to me of "because you've given rides to these men you'll never lack transportation". A promise He spoke to me unexpectedly as I was driving one day.

Another time my car blew a fan belt and overheated right in front of the old Jacuzzi plant just inside the Pulaski County line on I-30. Though there were scores of cars passing me by no one stopped to help. No cell phones then so the old thumb and smile ploy were my hopes for rescue. It was obviously my vehicle. I was clean cut and didn’t look like a criminal but I might as well have been invisible. God wanted to show me something.

Something from the 50th Psalm.
14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

So I said “OK Lord. I’m going to walk the ten miles to work but I’m going to praise you like it says in Psalm 50 and you said you’d deliver me. I began to walk down the highway shoulder praising God and singing, thanking Him for deliverance. As I walked I had gone about 50 feet when I heard tires hit the gravel behind me. I stopped to turn around and watch as a pickup pulled beside me. The window was down and the driver asked if I needed a ride. Yes!

“hop in and I’ll take you as far as I can”. When I said “Praise the Lord” he asked “Are you a Christian”? Another yes from me and he then volunteered “I never stop to pick up any hitchhikers but when I saw you I just found myself pulling off of the highway to see if you needed help”. I was very excited by then and saw what God was doing and how useless the literal “arm of flesh" was. He didn't need my thumb to signal "help"! It was all by the spirit.

He was going on in to Little Rock on University Avenue so let me out at the I-430 exit. Again walking with no thumb out and just praising God aloud, the tires were heard again behind me. Another ride! I shared Jesus with this man and he said it was a prompt to him to get back right with God. He let me out at the Hwy 10 exit and went his way. Walking for the third time now I really didn’t have time to praise the Lord for that same old tires hitting the shoulder sound was repeated. This driver let me out across the street from my office at the Tanglewood office building. I also shared Jesus with him. Psalm 50:14-15 will always have special meaning to me and praising God when trouble strikes sends a flock of angels in your direction. The simple act of praising God during troubled times moves mountains. An act of faith praising Him for the deliverance yet to be received. Just one of the thousands of promises of God’s faithfulness fulfilled in our daily life. I hadn't even made it to work and yet had already got to share Jesus and His plan of grace with three travelers.

This experience was a demonstration of stepping out in faith and taking God at His word, acting on it and seeing Him Faithfully perform it.

Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it."
Jeremiah 1:12 ESV

2 Chronicles 20:22 NIV
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

As we sing and praise God He will ambush our troubles, our spiritual enemies and then our rejoicing can begin at a higher level!

Some instances of giving rides were uneventful, but all involved, as the spirit led, my witnessing to the lone travelers, wanderers and wayfaring strangers that I met about God's love and forgiveness. Some experiences were even a little humorous, like the two airmen waiting one morning near the entrance ramp of I-430 from I-30 on Little Rock's south side. They were young men in uniform, they had duffel bags and as soon as I saw them I knew I was supposed to stop. After they got in and we had swapped names, they thanked me for stopping, and I asked them about how long they had been waiting for a ride.

"Man, we've been right here all night! Not a soul would stop for us and there was all kinds of traffic coming by. It was a long night and we don't know why nobody stopped". Their expressions changed when I said; "I know why they didn't stop" They both looked at me with eyes as big as Elsie the cow's and I could just hear them thinking "what kind of wacko have we got hooked up with here"?

I went on to tell them about my ministry to hitchhikers and how God had me to give rides to certain men and tell them about Jesus Christ and God's plan of salvation. "He wanted me to give you a lift so I could tell you about Him. That's why those people passed you by". They certainly couldn't deny the circumstances. I usually never had much time between picking hikers up and dropping them off, so I would always ask the Lord to give me the specific words He had for those men. Words from Him are always direct and to the point. These two listened quietly as I spoke. They thanked me again when I had to let them out. It wasn't far on to the airbase so I'm certain God provided for them. Maybe another Christian to water the seed sown.

I prayed for them before they got out as that was my normal manner. The rest was up to God. One plants, one waters but God causes the growth of fruit and then the harvest.

It was on one evening trip home that Christmas season that I spied a man on I-30 between Little Rock and the Saline County line exit. I slowed, eased over to the shoulder and stopped as the tall, slim, middle aged man came over to the window. He had a few belongings and after finding he was headed for Hot Springs I offered a ride as far as I was going. I never witnessed to this man, Mr. Johnny Turner as he was named, but just visited and listened to his life stories. This man needed to talk more than I needed to speak. God not only tells us what and when to speak, but when to remain silent.

Ezekiel 3:26-27 NIV
I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people. [27] But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says.' Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

From his account I found that Johnny had been an everyday average man with a job, home and family. A wife and two young sons gave him a reason to live, work and try to do better even as our own families do for us. On an errand one day his wife and sons were on the freeway driving along behind a big rig. Apparently the truck suddenly changed lanes swerving over without even a signal. The trucker had suddenly been faced with an oncoming wrong way vehicle and had whipped over to avoid a head on collision.

Johnny's wife had no opportunity to do the same. She and his two boys were killed instantly. In a moment of time Johnny's entire world and reason for existence had been taken. It's seems like forever but I like to think I've finally learned never to pronounce sentence on people in whose shoes I have not walked. I've learned, strangely, it’s almost like a repellant to suffer tragedy. This we found out after the death of our own daughter. All of a sudden our "Christian" friends didn't want to be around us. It was as if our misfortunes, our heartaches were somehow catching. Of course they all weren't that way, but it was an experience I wasn't prepared for. As we walk we must take care to not to place ouselves in the position of Job.

Job 4:5 NIV
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed.

We've lived pretty much alone since then. Woe unto those comforters of Job that subtlety infer that your tragedy was somehow due to your sins, failures and shortcomings. God knows the corrective measures that are custom tailored for each of us. I've realized His correction more than once. Training never ceases for all who follow the Teacher. Condemning those who are suffering with pious, religious, heartless rhetoric is always incorrect.

Johnny became a wanderer after his family was taken. Traveling all around and working at different jobs not staying anywhere too long. A man that had lost his purpose for living. One job was as a cook on a large ranch in Colorado where he could go and catch a mess of trout to cook up for the ranch hands. That must have been a pleasant time since his eyes lit up as he described his life there in the Rockies. He was a quiet, dignified man and didn't impress me as the drinking or drugging type.

Polite and intelligent, he was a person with a seriously broken heart. He would wash up in roadside creeks and ditches and was well groomed for a man with no home. He laughed about how cold that water got in the fall and winter. We drove on and I felt totally at peace with inviting and taking Johnny to my home. He wasn't your average hitcher, if there is such a thing. God will tell you through discerning of spirits what's safe and what's not for;

Proverbs 22:3 NIV
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

We arrived home and after explaining the situation to my wife she made a pot of coffee and a sandwich for him. The kids were attentive and proceeded to sing Christmas carols for our guest. They stood in front of him with their wide eyes and sang It was just Nathan and Joanna then and they were about seven and five I guess.

I had offered him some money which he politely refused, but asked if I would take him to a shelter he knew of in Hot Springs. No problem. Since everything we did was together we loaded up and drove to the shelter. We had given him a small new testament with some money inside, though he didn't know. It seemed OK to me. The kids were chirping happily and Johnny had been visibly moved when they stood in front of him and sang their little Jesus songs.

We said our goodbyes after all praying for him, and that was the last we saw of Johnny Turner. Sheep without a shepherd wandering highways and byways. Many of these lost souls are not only on the highway but are in church on Sunday, looking, though they don't know it, for the good shepherd that can give them the peace they seek.

After being entrenched in established religion for years they have not received the message of the cross into their hearts and lives. This can be due to personal resistance or to the lack of the gospel of Jesus being preached.

Trying to shove God down the craws of unwary victims has nothing to do with the truth of the gospel or the anointing - the love of God. The anointing is not optional to go forth for and in Jesus. I refuse to speak unless the Lord is knowingly upon me. How do you know? Oh you'll know! You'll know when that anointing is present and surely know when it's not. That's why He said to settle it in your heart that God will give you what to say. "Some were sent and some just went" is an old true saying. God help the victims of the just wents. These are the ones that always condemned and made me wonder why I would want anything they had. They would come and invite me to their church but never spake of why I should go.

Before becoming Christians my wife and I were working in our garden that was near the road. On the way to church one Sunday our neighbors drove past and as they went by their children yelled out of the car window “GO TO CHURCH”! A real endorsement for Jesus. The parents were as guilty as the children for ramrodding false religion down the throats of the needy, not to mention their I'll mannered children. I remember thinking “why would I ever go anywhere you tried to goad me into going”? Why would I even want to associate with you? This is the sort of condemnation drives souls away from the good shepherd, not toward Him.

I still often think of Johnny around Christmas time, him and all the other wandering hitchers I'd picked up. I wonder if he ever met Jesus and found the peace he looked for? God knows. What would God have you do? The desires of your heart that He promised to give are not merely things that you want. No no.

The desires of your heart are the desires that He has planted in you so that you might fulfil the work He has intended for you. These desires, by design, arise at different times in life just as certain plants bloom at differing points in their seasons. The intense desire and longing for a good thing is proof of it's existence. I say again, the heart's desire for a circumstance, condition or positive great life change is faith evidence that it can come to pass. This is or can be one or more of the desires He planted in you before you were even born.

Matter of factly He spoke as I was driving one day. He said " In the type of work I have you doing I will put you with plant engineers, managers, foremen, company presidents and others in authority so that you can tell them about me". I've seen this come to pass over and over as I move around in my work, not much different than those wandering hitchhikers. I often feel alone and not a part of things, wayfaring stranger for Jesus' sake. But I'm not alone for He abides with me. There us a great difference between us though. I'm no longer searching for something, but sharing what I've found after He rescued me.

Isaiah 49:11 KJVS
And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.

Have you allowed Him to rescue you?
Staff Member
Dear Brother @Follower
Thank-you for sharing of your travels or should I say of your ministry and those on the road that God has brought into your life. That you have been blessed to be the vehicle by which these many folks may be allowed a glimpse of His unfailing Love is truly a testament to the awesomeness of our God! To each is appointed task, in faithfulness!

Blessing and Love Brother.
With the Love of Christ Jesus.

The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway. Proverbs 15:19

"And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. Luke 14:23