Day #1: Give Anyway

Hi from the Walmart parking lot in El Paso, Texas. (We're stranded here). (For real).

This is how it went down: We left Tucson late this morning, with tearful goodbyes and a huge bag of snacks. Our plan was to drive to a campground in El Paso and stay the night on our way to San Antonio.

Day #1: Give Anyway 1
Day #1: Give Anyway 2

We had the BEST drive ever. There wasn't one complaint or tear or whine from anyone the ENTIRE 5+ hour drive (which is, actually, somewhat miraculous). The four of us prayed and brainstormed ideas about how we might give today.

As we approached the city, I suggested that perhaps we stay at Walmart for the night. Seasoned RV'ers often tell us it's a great [FREE] place to stay for a quick overnighter...and so we thought, "Why not?"

Here are a few of our "neighbors" tonight:

Day #1: Give Anyway 3

We pulled in and quickly became overwhelmed by the crowds. Pulling a 36-foot 5th wheel through throngs of people with tight turns? Not ideal. "I'm so sorry," I said to Tim, "This was a bad idea. Let's just go to the campground."

Day #1: Give Anyway 4

And then...our transmission blew up. Right there in Wal-mart's parking lot. There was a loud hum, then a faint smell of burning liquid. Then, we couldn't go forward.

So here we are. 10:32pm. 1st night of our trip. With a transmission that likely needs to be replaced (one of the most expensive things that could go wrong). To top it all off, it's the weekend (which means no one is open). It's almost comical (but it's SO not).

We walked to dinner at Cracker Barrel. As we waited for our meal to come, we thought about how we might give to someone today. It would be too easy to say, "We'll start this giving adventure tomorrow." We spied a young couple in the restaurant. He had long hair. They had a baby. We gave the remainder of our gift card to them and walked out.

Today we were reminded to give ANYWAY. There is always something to give. (Even when you're stranded in a tiny box house in Walmart). (I'm typing right now in dim lighting to conserve our battery).

P.S. Do you happen to know any good mechanics (or millionaires) in El Paso? Let us know.

37 comments on “Day #1: Give Anyway”

  1. Tim, Stephanie and baby girls! - it is very admirable that even though your trip did not get off on the right foot - your mission did.
    Unfortunately - this is the nature of the beast. There is always some obstacle to overcome - some are expensive - some are simple and cheap / free - but it really is never ending. Just prepare yourself for a lifestyle of two steps forward, one step back and try your best to enjoy and learn from the setbacks. It really is all part of the experience - I sit here typing this, with our power converter pulled out on the floor and a fan blowing on it so it won't overheat :)
    Two days ago, my husband spent hours fixing a GFI outlet.
    Tires blow out, brakes wear out, transmissions blow up, leaks happen, you hit stuff :0 - you're attitude is constantly tested and you will find yourself wondering if you've made a GIANT mistake! I know you know that God is traveling with you - as he is with us and you will always find yourself exactly where you need to be. Best of luck - we are heading to Texas so we'll keep an eye out for you and hopefully be able to meet up.

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Kimberly! It helps so much to hear from families who "have gone before us." :)

      Remind me:
      1. How many years/months have you been on-the-road?
      2. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
      3. What kind of "rig" do you have (Class A, Class C, 5th wheel, bus, etc.)?

  2. Oh no! You could try calling a campground and see if they have a diesel mechanic they recommend. We've had really good results with mechanics that way. We'll be praying for you. At least if you're going to be stuck somewhere, Wal-mart has almost everything you need. Except of course, a diesel mechanic.

    1. It ended up being a huge blessing to be at Walmart. We were able to buy groceries and save money (staying overnight at Walmart is free). God was definitely watching out for us!

      It's crazy to think back on the whole thing now. We weren't even PLANNING to go to Walmart...we just decided to pull in there at the last second. I'm so glad that we did.

  3. OH STEPH!! I'm SO SORRY!!

    The first day we left in our RV on our one month tour of friends and family BEFORE flying to Europe to cycle for a year our RV broke down too! In fact, it broke down THREE TIMES on the drive to Indiana... should have taken two days, took almost five. We discovered our AAA didn't cover the RV because we didn't know we needed an extra rider for that... expensive towing, major repairs, SO DISHEARTENING at the beginning of a long awaited adventure.

    But... the lesson we learned (and continue to as we travel) is that life goes with you. All the problems you have at home you'll have on the road, only they're more complicated as nomads.

    The other lesson we learn EVERY DAY is that where we are, is exactly where we're supposed to be... even if that's stranded at Walmart or stuck in a dealership or repair shop with toddlers climbing the walls, or holed up in a tent behind a pub in the rain for three days with no shower. Inevitably, it's exactly the right place and right time for someone or something.

    Chin up, sister.


  4. Oh, dear. Sounds like Satan's not disguising himself very well in your adventure. ;) I'm anxious to hear how everything works out beautifully for you, because... it will!

  5. Wow, so sorry to hear that. I know there must be a reason for you to be there exactly at that time and that place. I'm certain you will get it all worked out. I know I've already learned a lesson from this. I want to do a similar trip around the US by RV and I now know that mechanical issues need to be planned for.

    I hope you are able to get it fixed and get on the road soon. I'm looking forward to seeing you when you get to New Orleans.

    1. We had just serviced the transmission too! I think its' time had come.

      The good news is that we now have a new transmission w/ a 3-year warranty!

      We're so grateful that things played out the way that they did. It would have been MUCH scarier to have our transmission die somewhere along the freeway between El Paso and Canyon Lake.

  6. I know the situation is totally not funny/cool at this moment, but perhaps God got you started off with the bad stuff (replacing a transmission) while you have the energy and optimism to get through it. You'll have countless bumps along the way, but you'll likely be able to say to all of them, "This is nothing! Remember when our transmission blew up?!"

    Hang in there!

  7. I am not a religious person but there are times I do believe there is a greater power out there. When you have to go back into the store because you forgot something on your list and you find out you left your credit card at the cash out line. Or when you wanted to go somewhere but things come up and you can't get out and later you find out there was a unfortunate event that you would have been right in the middle of if you had gone out. Or just how things always seem to work out for you in the end even if the getting there is a challenge. Just keep repeating the serenity prayer and remember don't dwell on things you can't change, live in the solution; not the problem and you will keep sane and happy.

    Very few things just take you breath away with their beauty anymore. Last night it snowed here in Auburn NY. and it was that thick fluffy snow that you see more snow than sky, you know, the kind you might see in Christmas movies or on greeting cards. It was beautiful, I walked through the snow with my husband and we caught snowflakes on our tongues and that night I had to go move our car at 2am and it was a bright clear beautiful night all the trees were frosted with about an inch of snow over every branch and twig, beautiful, silent, was like it was made for me, my own little sanctuary. I was in my capri pajamas ankle deep in snow wearing trainers and no coat just enjoying that beauty wishing I had my camera with me, breathing that crisp winter air and feeling at peace and happy even though right now my life is in chaos this was truly an uplifting experience and that is the same feeling I get when I think about the journey you are on with your family. So little is left these days that really takes your breath away or brings tears to the eyes and I think your family is an inspiration and your journey is one of the beautiful things in life, I think you help people everyday just by doing this and sharing it, I think anybody who reads about your project will be touched by it and uplifted to know and share it.

    So roll with the punches and know you are helping people every day, even if you don't know it.

  8. Oh I'm so sorry! What a way to begin your journey. But isn't just like the enemy to try and discourage right away! When we first moved to Africa, we had everything set, but ended up spending FIVE extra days in the city where we landed because of a problem with our dogs. (Yes, we were brought our dogs to Africa with us!) It was a ton of extra money and time that we did not want to spend there. But in the end, it helped us relax, adjust to Africa and learn our way around a city we would end up spending more time than we thought in helping teams coming to Swaziland. Praying that you guys can see how God will use this for good and that you find a trustworthy, reasonable mechanic! Blessings!

  9. Sorry your trip is off to a rough start but I'm sure you are making a great adventure out of it :) Ok- car repairs are never fun but being stranded at a Walmart- hmm...perhaps :)

    I love that you gave every day ANYWAY. That is the only way to give I guess. We can always have excuses. The Sheaffers are undefeated.

    I agree that you must be needed right there.

    BTW- pretty sure you know about theaudio book exchanges but just in case
    I thought of it the other day when you mentioned that you would miss the library on the road:)

  10. I so wish I knew someone there... anyone to point you towards!

    Like so many commenters before me though, I know you will get through this and any/all other "bumps in the road" with grace and courage. Can't wait to hear how it all goes down!

    Praying for you all!

  11. Oh no! So sorry! Hang in there! Are you sure you have the correct weight of the trailer and that the pick-up is equipped to haul that much? You might want to stop at a weigh station once you hit the road again to see how much you truly weigh all loaded up and make sure your pick-up is for sure equipped for that! Otherwise it could happen again! Which would be super unfortunate!

    1. The Ford mechanic assured us that our truck is in good shape and well-equipped to handle our load. That said, we do want to stop in at a weigh station (just so we know the exact weight).

      Also - we now have a new transmission w/ a 3-year warranty! Yay! :)

  12. Oh dear. How frustrating it must be for you to be just starting out to have this happen. But I laughed at the commenter who said that this will be a great story to tell someday, as in "this is nothing, remember when the transmission blew?" It is true, though. You are optimistic people; you'll get through this.

    And I am not surprised that in spite of it all, you bloomed where you were planted, even if it was a Walmart parking lot.

    Hang in there.

  13. Been praying for you guy since I saw Tim's tweet. Is it a Wal*Mart with a car/mechanic/repair center? That would have been cool {if yes} that God let you there since the parking/people situation was so be close when the transmission blew.

    Praying that all comes together quickly and inexpensively!

  14. Oh so so sorry. I know it's no fun, but I am inspired by your reason to give anyways! Love that and know God will use that to bless you. Continued prayers.

  15. What a first day journey! How fortunate that you were guided to a Wal-mart parking lot where the transmission blew out, the thought of that happening at the side of the freeway is scary. God is guiding you the entire way and I can't wait to see what else your journey holds.

    I do hope He sends a much needed good mechanic (or millionaire) your way!

  16. Hate to hear it! But, how great that it hasn't deterred your mission. Hope you find a mechanic soon, so you can be on your way!

  17. Ugh, the transmission?

    Once we gave a waitress having a really, really, really bad day a huge tip. It was so big she had to run out in the parking lot with her manager so we could tell the manager that we really did mean to leave her such a large tip. The other table she was serving at the same time had complained to the manager... Turns out it was the waitresses first week on the job and something bad had happened at home with one of her kids earlier that day and she couldn't take off to be there because she needed the job. I don't remember all the details of her story - but I've never forgotten the hug she gave me or the tears in her eyes or the way the manager's attitude toward her changed in front of us when we told the manager that yes we really had meant to leave such a big tip and he heard the story of what his waitress was going through right then. Your story about giving the balance of your gift card to the other family made me remember that day all those years ago when we were able to make someone's day. I'm sure you gave that little family a pleasant surprise too!

  18. It sounds like God just wants to make sure you REALLY want to do this, huh? Or maybe just getting all the hiccups out of the way so it can be smooth sailing from here. :)

  19. Oh no! The adventure began with a bang I see, but not in a good way - I hope you have found a mechanic. I bet since you gave today someone will give to YOU in return and your car will get fixed... you'll see... now I have to go catch up with the next 2 days of your adventures! :)

  20. Oh no! Ok....but what an amazing blessing that it happened at Walmart and not somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Praying for are amazing.....such an inspiration......

Our family spent 2011 traveling the USA in an RV, striving to intentionally "give every day" for the glory of God. We interviewed CEOs of nonprofits and served alongside over 40 organizations and churches.

Our Pledge

We hereby pledge:

- To spend intimate, quantity time with our family.
- To actively help the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the helpless.
- To value, protect, and advocate for children.
- To de-emphasize the importance of “stuff” in our lives.
- To bring publicity to good causes and good people.
- To live with intentionality, as if this year was our very last.
- To observe the needs in our country/community – and then do something about them.
- To give – every day.

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