The knock at my door was soft, apologetic.
I soon discovered a bouquet of anxious faces clustered in the hallway of the hotel where I was speaking for a women’s weekend retreat. “A situation has come up,” Jill, the retreat committee chairman, explained, keeping her voice low.
Uh-oh. Ten minutes later—hair combed, lipstick in place, tummy a-twitter—I was ushered into Retreat Central.
Jill exchanged glances with the others. “Several women have come to us—”
“No, a lot of women,” insisted a feisty brunette. “You should have heard them all at our lunch table.”
“Right.” Jill nodded emphatically. “Anyway, they all want . . . more.”
Clearly my morning presentation wasn’t strong enough. “More . . . what?” More funny stories? More chocolate for dessert?
They want to hear more about the Bible.
“More of your teaching, Liz. They don’t want to play games after dinner. They want . . . well, they want to hear more about the Bible.”
“You’re kidding!” My chin dropped in amazement. “At a fancy resort like this? I thought they came to soak in the hot tub.”
“Maybe that’s why they came, but now that they’ve heard the Word of God, that’s all they’re talking about. Would you mind . . . I mean, could you speak again tonight after dinner?”
My heart was pounding in my chest. Imagine, a group of women gathering at a spa—a spa!—and choosing Bible study instead of a massage. No question, their change of heart had nothing to do with me; and had everything to do with God.
In that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart, telling me these precious women needed to learn how to take their needs to him directly. “After my presentation tonight, is there somewhere I could sit and pray privately with each of them?”
Jill shook her head. “Not in that tiny room.” She was right. We were sitting buns-to-buns without an inch to spare.
One of the girls has a big van we can park right outside the door.
“I know!” The feisty brunette again. “One of the girls has a big van we can park right outside the door.”
“A van?” I said weakly. It was raining. It was chilly. It was a van. Did people pray in vans? Front seat or back? If the engine was running, would they fear being kidnapped? If it wasn’t running, would we get a ticket for parking in a No-Prayer zone?
“A van,” I said again, trying to convince myself it wouldn’t be too weird. I’ve heard of altar calls . . . why not an Aerostar call? Probably not what Ford had in mind, but I was determined to follow the Lord’s lead, and the committee was in total agreement.
By six o’clock that night, I was having second thoughts. By eight o’clock, I was having seventh thoughts. Until I saw their faces—open, eager to learn, thirsty for God’s truth. Suddenly, a van-shaped prayer closet seemed like the best idea on wheels.
After sharing my message about Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ, I announced, “Now it’s time for you to meet with God. I’ll be outside in a . . . well, a van. Please join me so we can pray together.” I said it with a straight face, but they laughed anyway. “Okay, it’s a crazy idea, but it’s God’s idea. I’ll be waiting.”
I didn’t wait long. My first brave soul climbed into the backseat, wide-eyed and uncertain. Seconds after she pulled the door closed, the overhead light faded to black and we were cloaked in a cozy darkness. “Is this when the soft music starts playing?” she whispered, and we giggled like teenagers.
We prayed together—oh, how we prayed!
Things got serious soon enough. We prayed together—oh, how we prayed!—one woman after another. We prayed for wayward husbands and lost children. For difficult jobs and joyless situations. For forgiveness and for lives newly dedicated to Christ. The minutes slipped by unnoticed. When a distant church bell chimed the hour—3:00 a.m.—the Lord nudged me off to bed, thirty-six sisters’ prayers tucked safely inside my heart.
We’re calling it the Holy Van.
“It’s not a Ford Aerostar anymore,” Jill informed me over breakfast, her eyes bleary but her smile ear-to-ear. “We’re calling it the Holy Van.”
From that sacred night we were changed—all of us. I was changed by simply being obedient, even when it felt scary and out of my comfort zone. And the women were changed by trusting God and speaking their hearts out loud. We all felt the sheer joy of releasing our burdens to God, knowing those burdens traveled much further than the dashboard.
When God says pray, pray. Anywhere, anytime, any van.
Endnote: Liz Curtis Higgs is an international speaker, a Beauty for Ashes speaker (twice, 2005 and 2009), and best-selling author with 4.6 million books in print, including Bad Girls of the Bible and Thorn in My Heart. One of her more recent books is a novel about the first chapter of the Book of Ruth, set in 17th century Scotland, called Here Burns My Candle. You will find two reviews of this book on this blog, here and here.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2002 issue of Today’s Christian Woman. Copyright © 2002, 2010 Liz Curtis Higgs. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.