Tuesday, January 31, 2017

“It’s true that 92% of Land Cruiser owners don’t remember the car’s original color or if it still has one.” — Car and Driver

         For most people a car is just a car, but that is not true for missionaries in East Africa.  Our 22-year-old, used (pre-owned), Toyota Land Cruiser is a family car, and an ambulance, a hearse, a funeral car, a delivery truck, a wedding car, a car that gives lifts to police and customs officers, a car that can travel the dirt roads and tracks in our area, and a safari car in the Serengeti.  There are no used car lots here, you can’t buy a used car unless you know of someone who is selling one.  We bought ours several years ago from an SIL Bible translator missionary who was returning to the United States.  We bought it, put on a brand new suspension system, repainted it, added a roof rack and a bull bar on the front, added some lights, and installed a snorkel—not because we planned on going through deep water but to cut the dust intake by two-thirds.  We keep it well maintained, changing the oil and filters every 2,000 miles, and never letting anything go very wrong before replacing it.  It should last another ten years or so.  It has served us well and continues to do so.
           Just last Friday, four days ago, it was a delivery truck transporting a new, concrete, biosand filter with gravel and sand to a missionary school in Kiabakari about 25 kilometers from here.  It has delivered many, many biosand filters and isn’t through (six more in the coming weeks).  The very next day it drove to Nyametoke to pick up one of our pastors who was getting married here in Bunda and brought him to the church next to our mission.  After the wedding, the couple and their guests all ate here at the mission before Shaban drove the happy couple back to their village (in our car, of course).  On Sunday, it carried members of the family of one our pastors in Tireme whose wife died suddenly Saturday night.  Then, yesterday it became a hearse for the funeral and brought Bishop Festo back to his village afterwards.  Shaban didn’t get home till eight o’clock, twelve hours after he left yesterday morning.  Today, it will carry John to Musoma to work on rural solar power projects and to buy some groceries.  
               It has been an ambulance for Karen, John, and myself carrying us to hospitals in Bunda, Musoma, and Mwanza.  On more than one occasion, it has carried friends and neighbors who were ill or about to give birth to doctors, clinics, and hospitals.  The Swahili for “ambulance” is “gari ya magonjwa” or car carrying sick people, so it certainly qualifies for the title ambulance. 
            We get stopped at police traffic checks often but never fined.  Most of the time, one or more of the officers wants a lift to the next town, and we always welcome them.  They like our car because it's comfortable and not as small as most that go by them.  We never get pulled over when we have officers riding with us. 
           Because the roads are so bad here with only one paved main road and all the others dirt and rutted, you have to expect to get new shocks every year.  New windshields are also an annual event and tires have to be watched very carefully.  There are regular cars here used as taxis and as personal cars, but they get beat up pretty quickly and can’t go everywhere.  Four-wheel drive is more of the rule than the exception and it is needed.  Our car is always in four-wheel drive, so we don’t have to decide when to shift into it (it does have a low and locking differential).  It is air-conditioned which is also necessary because of the dust—well necessary for us anyway.  It doesn’t have a name, and we don’t have a back-up, so we have to take good care of it.  It’s a working vehicle that is an integral part of our mission, and we are so grateful to have it.  It’s the third car we’ve had here, one was wrecked when the driver (not Shaban) had a seizure while driving.  The other is now being used by a doctor to reach remote villages.  Both of those had also been owned by missionaries prior to our owning them.  We think we are blessed indeed to have what we have and have learned to be, as Paul says, content with what we have.  We don’t need a newer car or more than one especially since neither Karen, nor I, nor John drives at all.  Doesn’t seem to be a fit subject for a blog, but I thought you might want to know how important it is for us and our mission.  It has also carried sacks of corn out to villages with hungry people when the crops fail—like now.  It may be old but it’s completely paid for and still runs well even if it has many parts that have been replaced or repaired—like me.  Will Rogers once said that all the traffic problems in the U.S. would go away if only cars that were fully paid for were allowed on the roads (and that was in the thirties).  We're truly thankful, hope ya'll are, too.  God bless, ya’ll.
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