Out of Control

May 30, 2007

The Egypt Chronicles, Part 1

At 2:00 PM on Friday, the 13th of April in 2007, sixteen IBEX students gathered at the Reception of Yad Hashmonah to wait for the van that would transport them to a world of adventure known as Travel/Study Break. The previous week had been full of homework and frantic preparation, but all of those things were put aside now for an exciting journey that would take the students to another continent and a different world from anything they had ever known. I was one of those students.

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My group consisted of Abi Cottrell, Whitney Krauss, myself, and Patrick Carmichael. We had absolutely no idea what we were getting into. While we had attended a few lectures on Egypt, we did not know what kind of adventure was right around the corner. We entered the week with a simple plan: Do everything we possibly can. We figured we could fill in the specifics later.

That afternoon, four Travel/Study groups loaded into the same sherut (a 20-passenger minibus/van) that would take us to Eilat, a port city on the Red Sea and the border with Egypt. As the sherut ride began, we spent the time in fun games and merry conversation. Moods were soaring; we had left the school books behind for adventure. We drove past Qumran, the Dead Sea, En Gedi, and Masada, but we barely looked out the window as we rode on with our “been there, done that” attitude. We were on a new journey.

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However, as we continued on the road through the wilderness, we encountered something new—rain in the desert. Thanks to the knowledge we had acquired in our Land and Bible class, we quickly realized a few things. First, if it’s raining here in the low desert, it’s probably raining more in the hill country. Second, if it’s raining in the hill country, then water is probably draining through the valleys to the lower altitudes of the Dead Sea and the Aravah. Third, if water is draining to lower elevation, we were probably going to see some flash floods.

Soon enough, we reached sections of the road completely covered in rushing water. At each of these sections, a line of cars would wait to cross. The first few were rather shallow, so our large sherut crossed without a hitch. We reached another crossing that did not seem too much worse than anything else we had crossed, so we jumped to the front of the line of cars and used the left lane to cross the newly formed river.

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A smaller car was also crossing on our right, but as we continued along the road, this car began to drift closer to us, forcing us nearer to the edge of the road—a drop of a couple feet into a raging river of muddy water. Eventually, we had to stop moving forward, and as we did our engine stalled. So there we sat in the middle of a flash flood crossing, with water rushing at us from our right and the edge of the road only a couple yards away on our left. On both sides of the crossing, people got out of their cars to observe our predicament.

Eventually, our engine started again, but as it did our sherut lurched briefly towards the left and the edge of the road before the engine stalled again. If they were not before, things were definitely tense on the bus now. I began to plan what I would do if our sherut did go off the edge of the road or if we had to abandon ship.

Finally, our engine started again. This time, we slowly moved forward and we were able to turn away from the edge of the road. We made it across.

While we thanked the Lord for bringing us safely through the flood, we did not know lay ahead of us on the road. Would we have another experience like that? Would we be able to make it all the way to Eilat? Thankfully, that flash flood crossing was the last we would encounter on our journey.

As we continued South, Whitney and I started to talk about our river-fording adventure. We both agreed that it was an “out of control” experience; we also concurred that we do not like those occurrences when we feel completely helpless with no control over the present situation. Whitney pointed out that control is only ever an illusion. No matter how much power you think you have over your circumstances at any moment, the reality is that your life is outside of your own control. We are all in a bus lurching toward the edge of the road—except for the grace of God.

Our trip was off to a smashing start. We had not even made it to the border before encountering the first adventure in a week that would be full of them. And we were reminded that no matter what we had planned, God was in control.

We spent the night in Eilat, all of us going to bed early because at 5AM the next morning, taxis would be waiting outside our hostel to take us to Egypt.

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