The Car that Refused to Crank

We arrived in Kenya and immediately started Swahili language school in Nairobi. While there, Our Mission put us in touch with a Missionary family moving out of their house in Nakuru. We could rent the house, hire the night watchman, adopt the cat and buy the car. This sounded like a great package deal, so decided to take the bus the 160 Km (100 miles) to Nakuru to pick up the car.

We asked the school to pack us a lunch for us and our three small kids. We caught the bus around 10 am, and after riding for 2 hours, being noon, we grew hungry. With great anticipation, we opened our lunches to find that they had packed cucumber sandwiches. I was sorely disappointed, but that was nothing compared to the children. Crestfallen just touches the surface. Tears and moans comes closer. We endured the next few hours until we attained our destination, where we were able to buy something more substantial to fill our abandoned bellies. We should have seen this event as a harbinger of things to come.

Soon, we arrived and scouted out our new domicile. We blew through the house because we were eager to resume our journey, and to return before dark, hopefully to be in time for the substantial dinner the school would be serving. Piling in to the Kombi (the VW minibus), we set out. Having grown up in the United States, driving on the right side, I was eager for the novel experience of driving on the left. In just a few hundred feet, we arrived at the highway to Nairobi. At first, the drive was thrilling. The children were excited to see baboons, zebra, and crested cranes during the journey. Then the trip took a darker turn.

Half-way to Nairobi, the road splits, with cars taking the road to the left, while trucks take the old road. We missed the turn for the cars. The lorries, the eighteen wheelers of Kenya, were always severely overloaded. The result is that the road breaks down. Potholes form but are patched periodically. The edge of the road is also subject to this torment, but it isn’t repaired unless absolutely essential. Necessarily, all vehicles hug the center line as close as possible, to prevent bouncing in the holes at the edge. To avoid slowing down and or tearing up the car, I was soon squeezing myself as close to the center as I could. I am now driving on the unfamiliar left, controlling the car as best as possible when it encounters a pothole, and passing within inches of huge lorries coming toward me at 100Km per hour, that is, we approach each other at 200 Km/hr. Soon, I attained a death grip on the wheel, and felt the tension creep from my hands up my arms into my back and shoulders, and eventually to the rest of my body. Finally, Nairobi hove into view. Thankfully, it was Sunday, so the city roads were deserted, and we thought the nightmare was over.

We decided to stop at the Post Office to pick up the mail from the box before returning to school. Twas a simple stop, a few blocks from school. With joy in my heart, I carried the letters back to the car and cranked it up. Nothing happened. I tried a couple more times, but the vehicle that had hummed along all day now refused to cooperate. Being a stick shift, we decided to push start it. Gathering a few local volunteers, they pushed it. I let out the clutch, but all I heard was Rumrumrum rumrum rum rum …. nothing. We tried twice more with the same results, but my tired helpers were ready to give up. At this point, I discovered that I had left the key in the off position. Without saying a word, I turned it on and convinced them to attempt one more push. The engine cranked up beautifully, and we were in time for the anticipated meal.

The next day, the car refused to start again. In a very cranky mood, I took it to receive a most unnecessary repair. As it turned out, the car didn’t need repairs, but periodically, it would refuse to turn over. I would have to crawl under the stubborn transport and touch a pair of pliers to the two electrodes on the starter. The starter would whirr, and then the key would cause it to crank, but in a day or two, I would have to repeat the operation. Soon, I found that I needed to clean every junction in the starting loop, until I found the exact locale of the problem. Every nut had to be removed, and both contacts on the connection had to be sanded. Once all the corrosion had been eliminated, it would start for months until corrosion had set in again. And once again, I would find myself crawling through muck, usually in my Sunday best, to plead for movement to resume.

Isn’t this a picture of our relationship with God? As long as we have His power, we roll through life. When selfishness and the corrosion of sin set in, the power stops, and we have to clean the system. Notice, we can’t just clean one or two spots and always have fixed the problem. We have to find the one spot that is stopping the flow of power. Confessing lack of faith doesn’t help if the problem is that you were mean to your neighbor. Confessing that meanness is of no benefit if the hindrance is that you were grumbling about your boss to all your coworkers. If you always refuse to ever clean one specific contact, you will always start by crawling in the muck, i.e. walking in your own power, not God’s Power. The result is a cranky Christian.

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