Sunday, December 16, 2007

Flashback Friday-Mexican Train

I know you were wandering when I was going to post my Flashback Friday. I am flattered at the emails sent wandering where and if you've missed it. No, you did not. I haven't posted it. This past weekend has been......a stoic one. I just haven't been in a posting mood. Sorry for the delay-here it is!

While living in St. Louis; one hot, humid, Saturday afternoon in in July I sent Kurt out the door. He was headed to the school to do some last minute studying for his finals on Monday. Kurt has always had to work really hard for his grades. He does well, but it does not come easy. His study time is very valuable. As he was traveling down the busy freeway, he noticed a van pulled off to the side of the road and 2 spanish guys looking under the hood. He felt inclined to stop, so he pulled off to the side of the road and went to see if he could help. The 2 guys did not speak english. Kurt, having served a spanish speaking mission in Arcadia, CA still spoke fluently. The spanish guys had no clue what was wrong with their car. Kurt knowing a thing or two, started to try to diagnose and fix the problem. One hour came and went, and then another, and another. The smeltoring heat was brutal, and the humidity relentless. After investing a good 4 hours of time and drenched with sweat Kurt was unable to get their van running.

It was at this point in time that he called me. He told me that he hadn't yet made it up to the school, and that he stopped to help these guys, and they weren't able to get the van started so he was going to help them push it to the next exit off the freeway to a mechanic shop that they could see just off the exit. And once he got them to the mechanic shop he would then head up to the school to study.

They got the van pushed into the mechanic shop. To break the language barrier, Kurt had to stay and translate everything, as the mechanic did not speak Spanish. This took another 2 hours. After diagnosing the problem, the mechanic told them that he would have to order a part and couldn't get it until the next day. To fix the van was going to cost more than the 2 guys had on them. They needed to get to a Western Union location to have a friend wire them some money. They were also going to need a place to stay overnight. Right down the street was a hotel, and Kurt said, I can go get my car and drop you off at the hotel down the street. The guys were hesitant and said that they didn't have any money for a hotel. Trying to figure out what to do, Kurt opens his wallet which consists of some picture I.D.'s some receipts, credit cards, a couple of photos, and some loose change. Kurt says, "I don't have any money, but I will pay for your night's stay on my credit card." The two guys still hesitant kind of shook their heads. Kurt says, "Come on there's just the two of you, let me do this for you." Sensing something was not right, Kurt once again said, "There's just the two of you right?" They shook their heads, no. Well, where are the rest of your friends? They pointed to the van. "Your friends are in the van? I did not see another person the whole 4 hours I was trying to help fix the van or since we've been here at the mechanic shop. They sat in the van the whole time and their still in there?! WHAT! Do you know how hot it is out here? Well, how many are in there?" Dies y sies they reply. With his jaw on the ground and his eyes popping out of his head he repeats 16! Si. Kurt could not believe it. He went to the van and sure enough there were 16 people packed into the van like sardines cooking to their deaths. Kurt says, "Well, I can't afford to get hotel rooms for 16 people!" "Do you know anyone in St. Louis you can stay with until your van is fixed?" No.

It took a while to figure out what to do. Kurt, being the nice guy that he is, felt sorry for them and stayed with them until they figured out what to do. He finally calls me at like 7:30 p.m. and says, "Hey, I'm still with these Mexican guys." I reply, "What! I thought you were getting them to the mechanic shop and then going to study. You're still with them, did they kidnap you?" No, he says, and he preceeds to tell me what's been going on and the situation. Kurt then says, "How would you feel if I brought them home to our house to stay for the night?" Silence. "Seriously," I ask. Silence. I knew he was serious. "I don't know, I reply. We don't know these people. What they may or may not do." "I think everything will be fine and we will be okay. They have no money and no where to go." The only other thing I remember of this conversation was something like-Help your brothers and sisters-Oh ye of little faith, I don't know if I have enough faith. Say a quick prayer, think about it, and I will call you back in ten minutes.

SIDE NOTE-Here's what was scarry for me: The mechanic place where they were all at was a 20 minute drive. Kurt's car only seated 4 other people. He was going to have to make 4 different trips to pick people up. Which meant after he dropped a load of people off, I would be left alone with them and only Isaac and Owen to protect me. Which really didn't sound good to me. And I didn't want to leave them alone in my house for fear that they may steal everything in it. We tried to call some people to help us drive them to our house, but we couldn't get anyone. So it was just Kurt. That's like 2 1/2 hours of drive time, or in other words me home alone with strangers. I have to admit, I was scared.

He called me back. "Okay if you think everything will be okay, then go ahead and bring them home. Just make sure you bring any girls back first," I say. Kurt said that they hadn't eaten all day and that I should whip something up. Well, we had no food in the house to feed 16. I needed to go grocery shopping but couldn't until Kurt got back from making all the trips back and forth.

By the time Kurt got back with the first load of people, I had Isaac and Owen locked in their bedroom asleep for the night. Kurt walked in door and to my disappointment there was only one woman. Gulp! But there were 2 kids about ages 10 & 12, and some other guy. He escorted them to our living room to wait while he went and got the others. I stayed hidden in the kitchen leaning against the counter with a knife in sight. Kurt went back and forth until he had all 18 back at the house.

Let me paint a picture and expound on the situation: There were 18 hispanic people who had been crammed in a van for the last 3 days. They were on their way to New Hampshire to "stay with family" when their van broke down in St. Louis. They only had enough money for gas. They had not eaten in the 3 days they had been on the road. We don't know, but assume that they were probly illegal immigrants. When they got to our house, they stunk to high heaven. I can't even tell you how gross it was. They were stinky, dirty, hungry, and tired. But so grateful to have a place to sleep for the night.

By the time he brought the last load back it was 10:30 p.m. Kurt said to get them something to munch on until I got back from the grocery store. All we had were 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, and a box of granola bars, which there were only 8 of. Kurt put them down in the middle of the room and told them they could have them. I still vividly remember the sight and sound of them grabbing what they could and tearing into the granola bars like vultures. They were so hungry. Everything was eaten up in about a minute and a half. I went to the grocery store and picked up the items needed to make taco soup. I also picked up some things to feed them for breakfast. By the time I got back and got the taco soup made it was almost 11:30 p.m. I made the biggest pot of taco soup ever! They scarfed it down and some had 2nds and 3rds. They licked the pot dry.

When it came time for bed, we got out every sheet and blanket we owned. I remember being stingy and not giving them some of our nice blankets because I didn't want to get them dirty or stinky. Some slept out on the balcony, others on the floor and hallway of the living room, and some were downstairs. Kurt and I went and got the kids and put them in our bed with us. We locked our bedroom door, and hoped that we would wake up in the morning safe and with everything still in tact. I didn't sleep well that night, and woke up multiple times.

The morning came and we were still alive. We got dressed and went downstairs. They were all sitting around. Isaac being shy, but curious as to who these people were, kept playing peek-a-boo from around the corner. Kurt took 2 guys back to the mechanic shop and to a Western Union to pick up some money and their van. Their van was fixed and they drove it back to our house to pick up the rest of their friends. Once everyone was back at the house, we were all sitting in the living room. Kurt was chatting back and forth with them. Having served a spanish mission, Kurt had a couple of Spanish Book of Mormons up on the shelf. He gave them a couple of copies to take with them, we had a word of prayer with them and sent them on their way.

Kurt and I packed a little sack for each person which consisted of a bagel, an apple, a banana, some candy, and a bottle of water. I remember saying to Kurt, "Why are we putting these in individual bags? Why don't we just give it to them and let them divy it out." Kurt said if we did that they wouldn't share it. Some wouldn't get any. They all lined up and single filed out just like when we were in grade school. As they walked out we handed them their sack and shook their hand. Over and over they thanked us. They were beyond grateful. I watched them one by one as they got in their van to see just how they were going to fit 18 people in there. I couldn't help myself. I had to take a picture. Once they were all in, we said goodbye and watched them drive off.

The Van: The van they were driving was one of those econo vans. It had 2 bucket seats up front. They removed the 2 middle bucket seats. And it had a back seat which seated 4. Don't ask me......but they somehow managed to all fit in.

Everything turned out fine. None of our belongings were missing, we were all safe. I did have a bunch of laundry to do and needed to buy some air fresheners, but other than that we were great. This experience is one that Kurt and I will remember for the rest of our lives. We know that Kurt was inspired to stop that day and help. This experience was a trial of our faith and a test of love for our brothers and sisters. I tell this story not to toot our horns, or to boast that we took in 18 strangers, but I tell it because I recorded this story when it first happened, and I have since lost my writings. This is something that I want to remember forever, but to write it out would take too long. Also, this story is a reminder to me of how great of a husband I have. And reminds me, "Oh ye of little faith."


The Clark said...

oh yeah! i'm so glad you posted this story. i remember hearing this after it happened and it's like one of my favorite stories ever!

Brittney said...

What an amazing story! I can understand why you would be so terrified but what a blessing you were to these people.

Rochelle said...

I didn't know you had pictures of this event! How cool. This is going to be a great story that your children, your children's children and their children are going to love to hear. strait up

Nicole Tomlinson said...

You are so brave! I don't think I would have the courage or the faith to do what you guys did. I'm sure they will never forget you as well. Thanks for your example of faith and charity. I'm glad I read this story.

Lee Family said...

Hi Hepworths! I read Rochie's blog today and read about your day at the farm and came to your site to see pics of the Hepworths milking a cow. How are you guys?? It does not surprise me that you would take in 18 strangers like that. You guys are awesome. Jared is so giving too and sometimes I feel a little angry because I want all of his extra time (the little that he has.) You know what I mean?? Anyway, take care - Niki (Anderson) Lee

Toby and Tammy said...

That's amazing! I would've freaked out. Thanks for the reminder to be better.

Anonymous said...

What? They made Kurt push the van with two other guys when there were another dozen men inside?! That's the part that blows my mind. Great story, thanks for sharing it.


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