DEMOTTE — Recently, our world as a whole has been assaulted from the left, the right, above and below. But here in Jasper County, despite the consuming darkness around us, the light still shines from within.
Sunday, July 26, Arlene Zaprzal-Lambert stopped at Love’s Travel Stop in DeMotte on her way home from Illinois to Brownsburg, Indiana. She observed a broken down van in the parking lot, and inside that van sat two panting dogs and a slender looking gentleman, 50-year old Thomas, with the van’s back door open for air flow.
Seeing the state this man was in, Zaprzal-Lambert called out to him to check his wellbeing. Thomas assured her that he was okay, but the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach held fast. She then purchased two gallons of cold water for the man and his dogs inside the travel plaza. After delivering the items to Thomas and his canines the story of how he came to Love’s Travel Stop unfolded.
Thomas, a Hawaiin, was traveling southbound on I-65 when his Honda Odyssey minivan was side-swiped by a passing pick-up truck, damaging the passenger door and fender, and bending the right front axle/tie-rod. Unfortunately, the vehicle that committed the crime sped off, leaving Thomas utterly stranded.
Thomas was able to drive his vehicle to Love’s before coming to a full stop, unable to move forward. Reports from the community stated that Thomas and his dogs were stuck at the travel plaza for six days. With no one to call for help, Thomas waited patiently for “God to send him the help he needed.” It is no surprise to this community of believers that God did just that.
Zaprzal-Lambert was the first angel that appeared Sunday afternoon to aid Thomas on his journey. From there she made a post in a local Facebook group, “DeMotte and Wheatfield Happenings,” explaining Thomas’ sitatution and asking for help in any way possible. One person, reaching out to a community she had no ties to, on the off chance that someone here could help, even if just one person; started a wildfire of hope and faith in humanity.
Although the exact amount of people that came to aid Thomas is unknown, it is safe to say that Thomas was consumed by love. Complete strangers to Thomas came out to bring Thomas food, water, soda, and dog food for his fur-babies. Some even gave gift cards to local restaurants. Local mechanics volunteered to fix Thomas’ van.
Local businesses, owned by local people, stepped up to feed the group of volunteers, provide parts to fix the minivan, and a three night hotel stay to get Thomas out of the beating sun, a chance to shower and rest his weary soul. There were some individuals who tried to take the giving even farther by offering clothing and veterinary services for Thomas’ puppies.
Even one of the mechanics, who had suffered a broken hand and an injured neck at work Monday, still came out to oversee the repair work on Thomas’ minivan Monday night. And in response to all of the area’s kindness, Thomas himself, with tears of gratitude streaming down his face, tried to give back what he was given as his only way of saying “Thank you.”
Amanda Pressel, and her daughter Jayne, were two of many that answered God’s calling. Regarding the outpouring of love, Amanda exclaimed, “Jayne and I witnessed God working today! Our community is so amazing!”
Businesses who helped are Prospect Auto Supply of DeMotte for donating the parts needed to fix Thomas’ front axle, struts and tie rods; Fair Oaks’ Fairfield Inn and Suites for comping a three night stay for Thomas and his canines at no charge; Stan’s Auto for the amazing deal on a passenger door; Redemption Diesel for the alignment; County Line Pour House for food and the finances to hold a hotel room, with incidentals, and meals at the Farmhouse; all for “our Thomas.” So many more people stepped up to the plate to help a perfect stranger.
“My heart is so full from getting to see God working through us all who went to give what we could to this man,” said Pressel. She and her daughter made him a necklace with a cross and the word “Faith” engraved on it as a gift for Thomas. With tears in his eyes, Pressel told him “God brought us all here today. Always have Faith!”