By: Tonya Stevenson
When I was sixteen, my Mom left her third husband and our beloved mountain valley, moving south to chase the GRA (Girls Rodeo Ass.). With seven kids in tow and too proud to take welfare, money was an issue. Mom found us jobs insulating houses, which paid better than women’s work, also she set us up going to Mexico for exhibitions. Those trips to Mexico would drive me to call out to a God I didn’t know yet.
Mostly, we went to the state of Chihuahua with a man who translated for us, as we spoke little Spanish. This time it was only Mom and I. We flew to Guadalajara, took a bus to Colima in southern Mexico. We were met by the stock contractor who took us to an old motel.
The next morning we were taken to a bull fighting ring packed with people where we rode bulls. After the rodeo the crowd swarmed us in the arena. The stock contractor hollered warnings and then turned the fighting bulls out on us all. It cleared the arena. From his broken English, we understood he would take us to our rooms to clean up, later we would be taken to a dance for publicity.
Two men knocked on our door telling us they came to take us to the dance. We follow them to a car. They opened the back doors motioning us into the center as they took each door, leaving only a driver in the frontseat.
We drive through the dark until we are leaving town, at which point we begin to question, only to be assured we were going to the stock contractors dance. Miles pass, we are carried into the mountains, nearly two hours later we stop in a little village. We step out and the men dismiss the driver.
Mom whispers to me, “There are no other cars in this village.”
We are led into a big building, indeed a dance is in progress, but no stock contractor.
We were pushed into a booth both escapes again closed by the bodies of these two men. The gravity of our situation settled heavier upon me. We were in a foreign country hundreds of miles from the border of our own, amongst strangers whose language we do not speak. No one knows where we are, not even us. These men had obviously lied to us, now we were in their control. We were raised to be strong and independent, but I was not foolish enough to believe I could get myself out of this one. I thought of my siblings hundreds of miles away wondering if I would ever see them again.
In desperation I silently call out to a God I didn’t know. “ Please, get us out of this. Help us get home.”
A group of half a dozen teenagers approached our table, a young man my age speaks in English. “Are you American’s? Do you speak English?”
“Yes.” I answered enthusiastically.
“I was a foreign exchange student…” He starts.
But suddenly the men bark something in Spanish, the teenagers pale and immediately left, despite my protests. The night drags in silent agony.
It’s late, the crowds thinning. In the middle of the building is a cinderblock restroom with wings facing away from our booth, and picnic type tables to the side. The English speaking boys group clusters at one of those tables-near the girl’s bathroom. I asked to go to the bano and was allowed out. I walked to the bathroom and turn into the wing where I could not be seen from our booth and began to speak to the boy at that table, from behind the wall.
I told him, “We had been brought to Colima to ride exhibitions in the rodeo. These men tricked us and hauled us up here. We don’t know them. Is there any cars in town? Can anyone help us get back to Colima?” He and his friends were careful not to look toward me.
He spoke with head down. “My best friend’s Dad owns the only car. We will try to help, but you must go back to them and not let them know you spoke to us.”
I return to wait in anxious trepidation.
The teenagers exit the building. Finally, the boy appears with his friend, and friend’s Father. They approach our table, a strained conversation ensued before the boy tells us. “We will take you all to Colima.”
We follow them to their car in front of the building. The three of them load into the front seat. We are again pushed into the backseat between our two escorts. No one is speaking, those in front do not look backwards, the tension is thick. As we come out of the mountains the lights of Colima come into view. A few words are spoken by one of the men in the back seat, the car then turns down a road by a river.
“What are we doing?” I question.
Without turning the boy replies, “They want to take you for a walk by the river.”
“No, No! I want to go to our motel.” I insist.
Another terse conversation, I continue insisting I won’t walk by the river. Finally, we turn around and go into town, only to stop at a house.
I am told they will drive us to the Motel from here.
“No please, I do not want to go with them. Please, take us to the Motel.” I plead.
To their great credit, they again contest on our behalf and drive us all to our motel. Gratefully Mom & I exit. I thank them profusely, giving them all the money I have. Then run to our room. Now for those brave boys and the Dad I prayed, that they would not be hurt for helping us. A prayer, I often repeated.
It was almost daybreak. In a two short hours the stock contractor arrives to take us to another rodeo performance, fierce we had missed his dance. We tried to explain, but don’t know if he understood.
I learned that night that God is a very present help in time of trouble. “The Lord is near to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” Psalms 145:18-19