But the salvation of the righteous is from Yahweh. He is their stronghold in the time of trouble. Yahweh helps them, and rescues them. He rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, Because they have taken refuge in him. (Psalms 37:39 40 WEB)
During a one year furlough we drove many miles in our 12 year old Ford. It was a great car. It was big, comfortable, had cruise control, and included what I called “frost bite” air conditioning. This was really great in the summer months. But even with a good car things go wrong. This furlough was no exception to the rule.
In the fall I traveled without Beth and the children so Ellice could attend school. One of my trips was to the Mississippi delta town of Memphis. We had a few contacts through a former TWR missionary. One couple graciously offered me a bed in their home for a few days while I worked through the church yellow pages in attempts to meet pastors and increase our support.
One day in the middle of Memphis the car motor stopped. A couple little coughs, a little spurting and then dead. Great, I’m in a city I don’t know, staying with people I just met, and my car dies. With no other option I found a pay phone and called my host.
He had a heart with a desire to serve the Lord whenever possible. He listened to my plight and said he would be down as soon as possible. I called a tow truck and the car was hauled to a shop somewhere in the city for repairs. My friend took me back to the house and offered to bring me down for the car the next day when it would be ready.
The middle of the afternoon the following day we rode in his restored Chevy (very nice) to pick up my car. I was never sure where the shop was located. When I entered the shop it was ready and I proceeded to pay the bill.
With our home on Guam using a bank established in Hawaii and now living temporarily in Missouri things got a little tedious. The owner of the shop processed my credit card with a phone call for authorization. After a couple minutes he informed me there was a problem with the card. I asked him to try again. He did. The authorization center still insisted I needed to talk with my bank. This wasn’t likely since my bank was on a small island thousands of miles away.
My friend saw I was a bit upset. He offered to pay the bill to get the car back on the road and I could send him the money later. Praise the Lord! Here was a man I only met a couple days before willing to pay my bill and trusting me to drive back to Missouri and send him a check. The Lord surely provides in unexpected ways. I returned home and mailed a check to my friend to clear up the debt I owed.
Things went well for the next couple of months. But, sometimes small unexpected items can cause large problems. The second failure occurred on a busy day driving along the interstate through the hectic and confusing traffic of Saint Louis.
The whole family was returning from a Sunday morning meeting in a small town across the border in Illinois. The service went well and we were looking forward to a relaxing afternoon. Fortunately the traffic wasn’t too heavy as we pointed our Ford toward home.
In the middle of the intertwining of interchanges and roads I was out in the left lane to pass a slow driver. Suddenly, instantly, the motor stopped. No sputter, no hesitation, no signs, just completely dead. Praise the Lord we had just crested a small rise in the highway.
Using gravity and our initial inertia I navigated the car across the four lanes between faster cars to the shoulder and rolled to a stop. Two small children, a pregnant wife and a dead car. What would we do now?
This was before the ubiquitous cellular phone and there were no emergency phones within sight. I exited the car, opened the hood, and gazed at what was obviously an automobile engine. At least that’s what the mechanics call it. Lots of tubes, wires, and mechanical looking gadgets which had names I didn’t know.
With a look of understanding I climbed back into the car and authoritatively informed Beth, “It’s dead.” Beth is a perceptive person and knew I didn’t have a clue what was happening. Her graciousness abounded as she nodded, accepted my evaluation and then ask what was next.
I didn’t know. As I contemplated walking to the next exit a car pulled up behind us and stopped. An unknown lady with a car phone offered assistance. We knew none of the shops or mechanics so I called a friend at the church who was a machinist and car mechanic. If he didn’t know how to fix the car he would know the best man for the job.
The lady who provided the phone call also provided a ride home for Beth and the children as I waited for Mr. Mechanic (our friend) to send a tow truck. When the truck arrived the driver introduced himself as Mr. Mechanic’s friend and we headed toward home. I was dropped off at the house and the car continued to be towed to Mr. Mechanic’s home in the country.
The next day we were taken to Mr. Mechanic’s home for a nice evening meal and to take a look at the car. At first he didn’t show signs of interest in helping fix the car. When I explained we were more than willing to pay for repairs his attitude changed.
We later discovered other missionaries came to the church and expected all their needs, repairs, and work to be provided free of charge. Explaining this was not the case for us, because we know he needs to earn a living and we have a fund to help with such repairs, he was glad to do the work. All he asked was to be reimbursed for the parts he might need. We shook hands in agreement and then walked to the garage to inspect the car.
It took only a few minutes for him to determined the fuel pump was not pumping fuel. The problem wasn’t the pump but the cam (whatever that is) that activated the pump. Removing the front of the engine he was surprised to discover the bolts were very loose. As he went deeper he found the cam swinging freely inside the cover.
Things started to make sense. When the car was repaired in Memphis, which included opening this portion of the engine, they didn’t properly torque the bolts causing the cam to come loose, the fuel pump to stop pumping and me to be stranded on the side of the highway.
Praise the Lord for faithful and willing servants such as Mr. Mechanic to discover the problem quickly, tighten the bolts and watch us drive home after a great country dinner.
While I learned something about cars and mechanics I am sure Mr. Mechanic learned something that evening as well. Not all servants of the Lord expect everything for free. The laborer, both missionary and mechanic, is worthy of his wages. It’s a two way street!