John and his family decided not to return to our new country. His adopted son had serious learning disabilities that required special therapy not readily available here, so they chose to stay in the States for a while. Later they went on to work in Australia.
While we were gone, Charles had found out that the mother of our three “adopted” children had actually kidnapped them from the father, who had custody. Charles got in contact with the father in a city way out in the East and made arrangements to bring the children back to him.
We thought about adopting Solomon, as he and Nat were such good buddies. However, when Charles asked the father about this, he said he would only allow us to adopt Solomon if we would get him a German wife! That, of course, was not possible, so we gave up our dream.
The plan was for us to drive the children down to this eastern city and we set off in our little car with our German friend, Renate, the three children, Charles, and his two daughters, along with our two boys and the two of us, eleven in all.
We left early, hoping to make the trip in two days. I took the first shift in driving. Later in the afternoon Barbara took a turn while I sat in the crowded back seat and slept some. I was awakened by a sudden “whuuump!”
I sat upright, “What was that?” I asked.
“There was a big rock in the road and I went over it,” Barbara said.
“Why didn’t you go around it?” I growled. “Didn’t you realize that with eleven people in the car it’s sitting really low?”
“I don’t know, it was in the middle of the road, so I drove over it.”
“Well, stop and let me look to see what damage you did.”
Everyone got out and I crawled under the car as far as I could. There was nothing amiss that I could see beyond that mark where the rock had struck the transmission.
“Ok, everyone back in. Let’s keep going,” I said. All went well for about 100 kilometers; then the car began going more and more slowly until we were barely moving. I pulled over and looked underneath again. The whole underside of the car was now covered with oil that had obviously leaked out of the transmission. The rock must have cracked it on impact.
Now what were we to do? I looked around. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. There were no villages, no houses, not even any cultivated fields, just desert-like wilderness with the road running through it.
“I’ll try to hitch hike to the next village and see if I can get help,” offered Charles. I gladly accepted. While he as gone, I went for a walk, leaving Barbara and Renate with the kids playing in the rocks beside the road. As I walked, the Holy Spirit was nudging me, “I want you to praise me in this,” He said.
“No way!” I replied, “this is nothing to praise about!”
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up easily, “This is important. Praise me for this and see the good that will come from it.”
Finally I agreed and made the decision of the will, against my personal desire, against my feelings, to thank God for this inconvenience, this obstacle to our plans, this distressing situation—my emotions were not engaged, but that did not negate my obedience in praise.
Charles returned with a mechanic who confirmed that the transmission was not only empty, but frozen up. He proceeded to pump more oil into it, rocked the car back and forth to loosen up the gears, and got it running.
“Follow me and I’ll check it out more thoroughly in my garage,” he said.
We all piled back in and crept the 20 kilometers to the next village. I had to keep constant pressure on the gearshift lever to keep it from popping out of gear.
“Well,” said the mechanic after opening the cover on the transmission and looking inside, “there’s nothing I can do for you other than trying to seal the crack. It needs new gears and I have none. You’ll have to go to the next big city to get parts. It’s 100 kilometers that way on the other side of the mountains.”
It was getting on towards evening, so after paying the mechanic, we drove slowly in the direction he had indicated, and looked for a place to stay. In the next small town we found the “White Palace Hotel.” It was far from my idea of a palace, but we were able to get two rooms for the eleven of us for about three dollars, so I was happy.
It was a hot night and I didn’t sleep well. The Holy Spirit was still nudging me to praise Him for our situation, so against everything I felt, and with the weight of the uncertain future pushing against me, I again agreed to obey Him, offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Sections of Scripture I’d memorized came to mind. “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1,2).
“My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience” (Jam. 1:2).
It was good that I was learning to praise, because little did I know that this was only the beginning of the adventure God had in store for us.
Picture below: Charles and his family