“Todo se puede arreglar… menos la muerte.” “Everything can be fixed… except death,” commented my new mechanic, and suddenly life made sense again. Here was the perfect invitation to share some great news. Death can be fixed! It has been before and will be once and for all!!!
Two days prior the day started kind of heavy. We stopped to drop off our trash at the smoldering makeshift landfill 30 minutes from our house en route to the end of the road, Yaviza. Rather than a uniformed attendant, we were met by 5 boys, maybe 5 or 6 years old but it´s hard to judge by their stunted stature, barefooted amongst the vultures, staring patiently as I set our trash between them which they then divided up to eagerly search for aluminum cans or other valuables. But we were also optimistic because several hours away many people from the church had gathered to share, celebrate, and plan. We had prepared a short program with microscopes, puppets, and an update on the water and sanitation project.
Another hour down the road and all of a sudden the clutch pedal went stiff, unmovable. Seeing a farm just ahead, we coasted into their driveway and rolled to a stop. “Maybe the pin just slipped out of line.” I got out and popped the hood. It started to rain. After some fiddling and phone calls, and with inadequate tools, I decided the problem was beyond my roadside mechanical competency, and we began weighing our options. “Where is God in all this?” I thought.
We idled up to the farmhouse to apologize for the unattractive lawn ornament (our car) that we hoped to leave there for an undetermined amount of time and were greeted by a smiling elderly woman. She enthusiastically served us cookies and coffee all afternoon and told us stories from her life. We prayed for her ailing back and she returned to the kitchen, emerging with another treat, beaming from ear to ear and carefully holding the most precious treasure that she could offer…deep brown and piping hot. Chocolate!? … no. fried liver. And just then our ride pulled up. “You can take it to go,” she smiled. Praise God! (I´ll eat most anything, but I have a hard time with pork liver.)
The following day, I was being towed at 40mph down the highway, which felt rather fast considering our car maxes out at 50mph on a downhill. The driver of the other vehicle honked and waved to the general public as we came into town. We arrived at the shop, and I stood around in the grease all morning until it was my turn (ie other people stopped showing up). The assistant mechanic decided it would be worth taking apart the clutch slave cylinder and sanding the gunk off which had accumulated. “Do you think that´ll do it,” I asked. “Don´t know,” he said. 20 minutes later I was test driving our car around the parking lot and grinning. “What do I owe?” “Come back later when the head mechanic is here.”
I drove back over a few hours later. “What do I owe you?” I asked, mostly expecting the gringo gouge. He squinted off in the distance… I couldn´t tell if he was ignoring me or calculating. I braced myself.
“$8,” he mumbled. I paused. “Does that include the tow?” “Yeah, that was nothing.” I paid in singles.
So… as much as I enjoy getting to know every good-hearted mechanic between Panama City and Yaviza, as fun as the jokes are about the noises being from mud or bolts falling off as we drive away, as much as I´ve enjoyed this education in car repair, as entertaining as it is to be passed by mopeds on the highway and little girls on bicycles in the city, we´ve prayerfully decided that it is time to upgrade, especially given the amount and nature of travel that the work requires. This should allow us more time for other ministry activities as I will spend less time under the hood and we will save time bathing because we won´t smell like sweat, oil, and exhaust every time we go somewhere. We´ve secured an open loan through a faithful brother here and decided to spend a modest amount on a used vehicle. As much as I knock on our car, it is actually very solid and has served us well. Most recently, the driver´s door handle has decided to dangle with no other function, so I´m obligated to be a gentleman and open the door for Colleen in all circumstances. So as I have improved upon the car, it returns the favor.
We appreciate prayers regarding these decisions and invite anyone that would like to contribute towards this transport upgrade to let us know.