It had been a long day–one of those days that are continually plagued with small, irritating interruptions. As I quickly checked my email before leaving the office, I saw yet another note demanding my immediate attention. The finance office was needing to get receipts right away. “Andy, you’re late!” I muttered to myself. Trying not to be overcome with frustration, I took the extra time to find the needed receipts and send them off.
As I got into my truck to leave, I looked at my watch and saw that it was well after 5:00. My wife was not going to be happy with me. I put the truck into gear and zipped down Wolf Lake Road. Rounding the corner, my headlights began to illuminate a large dark shape in the middle of the road. I slowed down and saw that it was a man walking with two sleeping bags draped over his shoulders. Immediately this struck me as odd.
I stopped the car. “Do you need some assistance?” I asked. “No,” was his tart reply. I insisted, “Can I help you with something?” “No. Leave me alone.” I informed him that he was on private property and unless he had business here, he needed to leave. He said he would and turned around.
I wasn’t convinced. Still unsure of his intentions, I drove down the road a ways and then doubled back to see if he was actually leaving the property. When I got back, he had indeed turned off of Wolf Lake Road and started down old US 2. I pulled up beside him once again and noticed that he was not wearing boots, gloves, or any kind of cold weather gear. “The temperatures out here will be well below zero this evening,” I informed him, “and if you stay out here, you are going to die.” “I’ll be fine,” was all he said. I knew I needed to find out more.
“What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you searching for?” His answers were very suspicious, “I’m heading to Wisconsin.” “But Wisconsin is south and you’re heading west!” I exclaimed. He informed me that he was headed to the Wisconsin border town of Hurly. “If you’re hitchhiking to Hurly, get on the main road! Why are you on the back road?” After much prying, he finally admitted that he did not want to be seen.
Immediately, a red flag went up. This guy was avoiding the police. Realizing something was very shady about all this, I drove straight to the Watersmeet police department. I explained the situation and the officer asked me if I would like to come along with him to help locate where the man was. I agreed and jumped into the squad car.
Arriving at the entrance of Wolf Lake Road, we began our search for the trespasser. We followed his footprints in the snow down the road and saw that he had turned off and started walking down the snowmobile trail that runs alongside of our property. At that point, the officer was perplexed and wasn’t sure how to continue the pursuit.
“The Fire Department has a search and rescue sled,” I pointed out, “Let’s give them a call!” He thought this was a great idea and immediately paged out myself and the other fire fighters. A few minutes later, the search and rescue sled arrived on the scene. It didn’t take very long to find out that the man was only a short ways down the snowmobile trail, standing knee-deep in snow, trying to hide in the woods. The officer assisted the man into the rescue sled. He immediately recognized me and was fairly upset that I had turned him in.
After arriving back at the police department, it was discovered that he had warrants out for his arrest in another state! The officer asked me if I would be willing to press charges for trespassing so that they could hold him there until the Wisconsin state troopers could come and pick him up. I agreed to do this and they informed me that he would be spending the night in the Watersmeet jail.
The next day, I paused work for my lunch break and decided that I would go into town to see what had happened to our unfriendly visitor. I found that he was still lodged in the Watersmeet jail, just waiting to be transported. I asked if I could speak to him. “Sure, Andy,” the captain said. Standing outside the cell, I asked the prisoner if there was anything that he needed or could use. He said that he was hungry and hadn’t gotten very much to eat. Turning to the Chief of Police, I asked, “Do you mind if I grab this guy a pizza and a bottle of pop?” He agreed and soon I returned with the afternoon snack. Sitting down in the break room, we talked for some time about what he was doing and where he was going in life.
As we chatted, I had a wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel and to pray for him and his life choices. I learned through our conversation that he had simply been wandering down the back roads looking for some hunter’s cabin to break into to spend the night so that he could continue on his journey the next day.
We talked until the Wisconsin state police showed up to take him into their custody. As he was leaving, he looked over at me and asked why I had come back to talk with him. I shared that I was concerned for him, both physically and spiritually. “Why did you bring me lunch?” he asked. I responded, “It is because of the Christian love that God has given me for you.” He said, “Brother, you speak volumes.”
That was the last I’ve seen of Billy. I gave him a New Testament and my phone number and said that if he had any further questions he could just call. Looking back, I see God’s providential hand in allowing frustrating delays in my day at work so that I would be leaving the Northwoods at just the right time. Not only did this protect the Conference Center from a potentially dangerous renegade, it also allowed me the opportunity to invest in his life and hopefully change its course from imminent destruction.
~ Andy Hacker