The roadside pit crew repair in process.
Blowing into the cooling system?
Not much to say here.
Lauren was a good sport, and didn't appear nervous once.
Thank goodness for the Motor Honey, right?
They pretty much hit the jackpot that day.
Among the few events that cause the most stress in this life
of cross-cultural missions, is the unexpected Kenyan road-side break down.
Don’t get me wrong… I love our 2003 Landrover
When it is working well, it
can go anywhere, as a barebones, no-frills man-truck (as Vera Steury calls it) in
which you can forget about listening to music or holding a decent conversation (secondary
to the loud hum of its tractor-like, turbo-diesel engine).
This truck has brought us safety through many
kilometers, including two riots and even random gunfire.
However, there is a reason the Defender was
considered the ultimate “villain/lemon” in the animated movie, Cars 2.
I had just rendezvoused with Dr. Lauren Leffler, a 5th
year orthopaedic resident who arrived in Kenya the night before to serve at Tenwek for 4
I was going to save her a few
shillings by giving her a ride from the Rift Valley Academy to Tenwek.
Just the day before, I had gotten the brakes repaired
(the pump had failed, causing of complete loss of power to the brakes).
So I assumed the Defender was fully tuned and ready for the journey.
All was well
as we descended into the Great Rift Valley, and cruised across the valley floor, dodging overloaded lorries and miscellaneous wandering goats and cattle.
On the far side of the valley, as we climbed the long,
winding western escarpment, I noticed a pungent smell, and, to my dismay, realized this smell was coming from me (that
is, my Defender).
I then glanced at my
marginally working temperature gage and found it was registering in the red zone way above
Before I had time to fully process,
the engine literally just quit, and we barely had enough momentum up the steep
slope to pull to the side of the road. As smoke started to come from under the hood,
looked at Lauren and just nervously said, “Wow, this has never happened
After opening the "bonnet" and trying to figure out the next step, a motorcycle
taxi carrying a spry, 50kg man and his scant bag of tools pulled over.
This “mechanic” hurriedly started working on
my Landrover without saying a word.
motorcycle taxi driver looked at me and said “Don’t worry…he will fix it.
This happens all the time.”
After releasing a few hoses, and removing a
plug (which had a conspicuous red label next to it reading “This plug MUST NOT
be removed”) he poured liters of water into the cooling system in an attempt to
cool the overheated engine.
“assistants” then arrived with large containers of anti-freeze/coolant, more
“tools” and two bottles of Motor Honey (??).
After more fiddling, blowing, adding coolant, etc., the chief mechanic
explained in broken English that the thermostat needed to be removed, and that
it would only be a matter of removing two bolts.
Unfortunately, in the process of this “simple
fix,” he stripped these bolts, making it impossible to extract the thermostat
in the “normal way.”
Out, then, came a
long screwdriver, which he used in an attempt to blindly open the rusted-shut thermostat through a long, deep hole.
After struggling for what seemed like an hour, all of a sudden, he acted
as if he got it, and motioned for me to start the Landrover.
After much sputtering, it
At this, the mechanic
declared the job complete, and he, his two assistants, and the motorcycle
driver were ready to “settle accounts.”
charges were steep, but with little choice, and just happy to have a seemingly working
vehicle, I gave them all I had (and even borrowed from Lauren who was patiently
enduring this entire ordeal).
The four happy men waved as we drove off (with big smiles on their faces for obvious reasons) and the car worked perfectly… for at least 45
minutes until it overheated again.
time, the situation was more serious as it had started to rain, and it was now
Again, within a few minutes
of pulling off the side of the road, a miscellaneous mechanic came to our
assistance, and with my broken Kiswahili, I communicated what had happened just
He explained that all
that needed to be done was to remove the rusted thermostat, and we would be on our
way again. Since
the two bolts had been thoroughly stripped by the previous pit crew, I knew this would be no simple task.
After nearly two hours, under the
illumination of Lauren’s headlamp (which, in the end, was unfortunately stolen
by the person holding it for us), rain coming down, he was finally able to
remove the stripped bolts and the rusted thermostat.
Again, the car started, but now the engine
sounded strange, pointing to the fact that the cylinder head was warped from the
At this point, I
didn’t care, and just wanted to get Lauren safely to Tenwek.
So I borrowed more money from her, paid this
second mechanic for his work, and headed back on the road, which was now very
dark and unfamiliar.
The gage again
registered excessive heats, and the strange noises coming from the engine continued.
All we could do was just pray and persevere until
finally, after 9pm, we arrived at Tenwek.
So the major question I had for God through this ordeal was
this: “Why would You let his happen to me (not to mention Lauren, who I am
recruiting to come to Tenwek long term), when I am already overworked,
overstressed, overcommitted, and just plain overwhelmed?”
His answer came through James
1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have it full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Essentially, God was saying, “I am very
interested in building your faith, and to do this, in my paradoxical way, I use
God, the founder and perfecter
of my faith, in his sovereign love, had used my unfaithful Defender to bring me one small step closer
toward a deeper faith in Him. (Mostly,
I was just
thankful that Heather and Josie were not with us).
So after more repairs, the Galat Landrover is still not functioning at
The excessive heat
also damaged the turbo, and although working, the truck is running at about 50%
Perhaps it is time to sell the Defender
and buy sometime more reliable?
interested in a “gently used” black Landrover?!
Thanks for your continual prayers for our family!
We appreciate you so much!