The next morning, after a breakfast of freshly baked French-type bread, white cheese and local tea, we piled back into the car and began our slow trek up through the mountains. The transmission whined and complained, the worn gears fought against the pressure I put on the gearshift, but by afternoon we had made it down the mountainside and into the city.
Charles got directions to the car repair area–the people here tend to group all the same businesses together in one spot—and we found a repair shop that advertised repairs on VW’s. I pulled in and we all got out. Charles explained to the mechanic what the problem was; he pulled the car into his garage and went down into the pit underneath it.
After about fifteen minutes, he came back up, wiping his hands on an oily rag. “Sorry to tell you this, but you need a new transmission. You won’t find any new gears here and it would cost more to replace them than it will for a new transmission.”
Well, that put us on a new track! Again the Spirit called on me to give thanks, and I did. I asked the mechanic to take the transmission out of the car; I knew I’d have to surrender it to customs in order to get the new one I’ve have order from Germany.
Charles suggested that he go on by bus with his own two girls and our three “adopted” children to deliver them to their father. He took their luggage and, after we’d all said our good-byes, left for the bus station.
While we were making those arrangements, a local woman had come over to see what these foreigners were doing in her city—not many came to this far Eastern city. When we explained to her what had happened, she invited us to come and visit her home, which was right across the street.
This was such an unexpected thing, and at the same time, as we were to learn, so typical of local hospitality. We spent the afternoon with her, then that night got on a bus along with our defunct transmission for the twelve-hour return trip to our home city.
Since we were members of the German Touring Club, I called them and they arranged to have a refurbished transmission shipped to me. It took a week to arrive. When customs called to say it was there, I took a bus out to the airport, dragging along the old transmission.
As the customs agent went through the paper work, he said, “Our warehouse is full, so I won’t take your old transmission. I’ll write it in your passport and the next time you leave the country you can take it with you.”
I objected. I already had one transmission to take back with me on the city bus; how was I supposed to drag two along? However, the agent insisted that I keep it. Unbeknownst to me, this customs agent was also an agent of God, protecting me from a big mistake.
That evening we got back on the bus to the East and spent another long night of sitting in uncomfortable seats, having our light sleep interrupted by “rest breaks” as well as stops to pick up new passengers. We arrived groggy and tired; while we were transferring to a taxi, Nat stepped into a hole in the road filled with raw sewage.
We got to the repair shop just as the owner was opening up. He looked at the new transmission, then looked at me, “Where’s the old one? I need to get several parts off of it in order to install the new one!”
“I left it in at home.”
“Well, you have to go back and get it; you’ll never find those parts here!”
My first response was “Oh, no, another bus trip home!” My second was, “Thank you Lord, that I still have that old transmission at home, not in the customs warehouse!” Now the goodness of God stood out in stark reality—He knew that I would need those parts and made sure the customs agent made me take it home! This made it easier to thank Him for this new situation, and for the next one that I was about to learn about.
As I turned to leave, the mechanic added, “It is good you have to make another trip. You were gone so long that I thought you didn’t want the car, so I sold some parts off of it. I’ll try to get them back while you go to get the old transmission.”
How do you respond to that?! Either with anger or with a laugh and “Thank you for that, too, Lord. I praise you for how you are going to help get those parts back!”
It was August and we were in the Southeast. It was hot, very hot, and it was also Ramadan, the month of fasting. The neighbor lady came out again to invite us in. When she heard about our situation, she invited Barbara, Renate and the boys to stay with her while I went back to home to get the other transmission. We spent the day resting in the oppressive heat.
That evening I again boarded the bus for the long ride. I took the new transmission with me partly to make sure I got the proper parts off of the old one and partly to make sure the mechanic didn’t sell any parts off of the new one!
The next question I had was, do I now have to transport both transmissions back with me or is there a better way to give the mechanic what he needed?
I arrived in our city on Sunday morning and took a taxi home. On the way I saw my local mechanic pass us in his car. I had never seen him anywhere but in his shop before, so this was a definite God sighting. “Follow that car,” I shouted excitedly in English to the taxi driver, then realized my error and translated it into the local language. We were able to catch the mechanic, and he agreed to follow us to my house.
After looking over the two transmissions, he took the necessary parts off of the old one and put them on the new one. That simplified everything for me! That was definitely a clear answer to my prayer!
That night I got on the bus once again, hopefully for my last twelve-hour trip to the East. I noticed that the driver was the same one from the previous night so I greeted him. At 3am we stopped for “breakfast” and the driver, Adam, invited me to eat with him. I learned that he was from the village where the first mechanic had looked at our car.
When I arrived at the repair shop, the mechanic looked pleased with what I’d brought. “OK, I’ll get to work on this. It will take me two days to get it back together.”
So for two days we stayed with our widow lady friend, a chance to see local culture from the inside out. She, as a good Muslim was, of course, fasting, which meant no food or water from sun up (5am) to sundown (8pm). But she did give us food and drinks during the day, although she slept most of the time herself.
Every night at 3 am a drummer would come through the neighborhood to make sure that everyone got up to make breakfast before sunrise. Our nights were short with broken sleep.
There was nowhere to wash, and there was no running water most of the time. I was so sweaty that I longed for a shower, so one afternoon I took one tea cup of drinking water, went into the “squat toilet,” stripped down and very slowly poured that water over myself. Ah, the refreshment of washing off all that sweat! I had never appreciated a shower so much!
The next day I went downtown by city bus. A villager got on, an elderly man. He sat across from me and stared. Then he got up, came over and gave me a very close and careful inspection, with his face about two inches from mine.
I greeted him in the local language and he jumped back. His expression said, “It talks!” He had never seen a foreigner before and reacted as if he were confronted with some strange animal. That helped me to understand how far from western influence we were. We did have a nice chat after he grasped that I could speak his language.
When the car was finally ready, we went with our widow lady into town, picked up her refrigerator from a repair shop and brought it home for her. It was the least we could do after her wonderful hospitality. Then we set out for home, not knowing the amazing God sighting about to occur.
Picture: the bus driver, Adnan and myself