November 10, 2023

Truck driver finds God’s presence in a snowy winter night’s command to ‘Stop for the black van’

Alan “Allie” Waechter of St. Louis Parish in Batesville will never forget the bitterly cold night when he felt God’s presence while driving a truck on an interstate. (Submitted photo)

Alan “Allie” Waechter of St. Louis Parish in Batesville will never forget the bitterly cold night when he felt God’s presence while driving a truck on an interstate. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here is one story in a continuing series. See part one)

By John Shaughnessy

In his career as a long-distance truck driver, Alan “Allie” Waechter made countless journeys from his home in Indiana to different parts of the country, but none as memorable as the bitter, winter night when he heard a voice instructing him, “Stop for the black van.”

On that frigid February night in 1979, Waechter was hauling hospital equipment to Des Moines, Iowa, a 550-mile trip that included a long stretch on I-74 westbound. As he neared Peoria, Ill., he heard a voice—“loud and profound,” he recalls—telling him for the first time, “Stop for the black van.”

“As I’m westbound, I just assume that the black van is just ahead of me,” says Waechter, a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville. “I’m looking as far as my headlights can go, watching the snow swirl around. It’s cold, and the wind is blowing against me hard. I’ve got this old truck, and I’m just fighting the whole thing, trying to get westbound.”

Waechter scanned the shoulder of the highway, but he didn’t see any vehicles. Yet he heard the voice again, “Stop for the black van.”

“I look across the road, in the dark, on the eastbound side, and there’s a big, old Ford, full-size, black van sitting over there—no lights, no nothing,” he recalls. “I didn’t even let up on the accelerator pedal. I just kept on going. I said, ‘That’s on the eastbound side. There’s a lot of people on the eastbound side. I’m westbound, I’m late, I’m tired, I’m hungry. I ain’t got time for this nonsense.’

“So, I truck a little bit longer, and the voice gets louder, ‘Go up to next exit, get off, go across and go back on the eastbound side.’

“OK, OK, I’ll be obedient to the voice.

I get off, cross over, get back on the interstate eastbound, finally see the black van in my headlights and pull up behind it. Throw my four-ways [flashers] on, get my flashlight out, put my jacket on, hop out, walk up to the van, shine my light inside—and it’s empty!”

Standing there in the snow and the cold, Waechter felt the anger boiling up inside him.

“I’m not a happy camper. I’m late. I got to go. I get back in the truck. The next exit is only a mile down the road. So, I get off, go across again and come back over. I’m westbound again where I was 20 minutes ago. Lost all this time. I’m looking over at the black van and saying all my expletives about what just went on.”

Yet as he turned his gaze back to the westbound highway, he was stunned and overwhelmed by what he saw.

“There are three little figures, walking backward in the wind. You can’t hardly see them in the dark. The wind is eating them up. The voice says, ‘There they are. Pick them up.’ ”

Waechter pulled his truck to the side of the road. In the moments that followed, he learned that the three figures were a 16-year-old boy, his 14-year-old sister and their 12-year-old cousin.

Waechter’s voice gets increasingly emotional as he shares the rest of the story.

“They had crossed the interstate from the time I had passed, walked through the snow in the middle of the interstate, came across, and were walking the 6 miles back to that exit.

“I opened the door in my big old Peterbilt and said, ‘Get on in here.’ They had been to some kind of church service, and they had tiny jackets on. They got settled in, and they said, ‘Thank you for stopping, sir. We prayed and prayed and prayed, but nobody would stop. So we thought we would walk back to Peoria.’ ”

Waechter pauses for a long time at this point.

“I get emotional,” he finally says. “There’s no way they could have made it. It was 5 below zero, windchill 20 below.”

He turned the heater up as high as it would go and drove them to the next exit so they could call their parents.

Now 76, Waechter looks back across the years to that night and says, “I let them off, they thanked me, and I went on my way. I often thought it would be nice over the years if I ever would meet these kids again.”

The voice he heard that night has continued to instruct him at different moments through the years, Waechter says.

“Your own imagination always has this voice in your head,” he says. “But sometimes, it’s louder and more profound, and you realize that you didn’t just create this idea. Especially when the reality of it comes into play that it was real.

“It was the incessant power of the command. You know there’s a divine direction coming to you. You know that it’s of God. How could I not obey God when he’s manifested it to this degree?” †

Local site Links: