Sunday, March 1, 2015

Funny How Things Work Out

It's funny how things work out. Back in November as we were getting ready to build our house in Enga, we realized that we would need to have a vehicle at our disposal for the four-week period when we would build our house. The cost of renting a truck was high, but we really didn't have much choice. At that same time, a 1989 Toyota Hilux became available. The vehicle was in relatively good condition and had just 65,000 miles on it. We decided to buy the vehicle because it would allow us to invest the rental costs of a car into the purchase price of the vehicle. Since the cost of renting was nearly 25% of the cost of purchasing, it seemed to be a wise investment. The vehicle just needed a new clutch and pressure plate, which the seller agreed to have put in for us.
Our 1989 Toyota Hilux

Four days after buying the car, we received the news that missionaries in Enga were being deported due to the back room dealings of a corrupt bishop. After much prayer, we decided not to proceed with our plans to build our house in our chosen location. On December 3, I (Adam) drove up to Enga to try to find a new place for us to build. The Auto Shop had installed the new clutch and pressure plate the day before, so I was able to drive the car up to Enga along with three of the Enga translators who had just finished computer training in Ukarumpa.

We left at six o'clock in the morning for the ten-hour drive to Enga. As we were driving along, the car was backfiring on a few occasions and the fuel gauge was bouncing all over the place so it was hard to tell how much fuel we had or if there was a leak. As we stopped in Goroka (two hours away from Ukarumpa) to refuel, I considered letting the translators take public transportation the rest of the way and turning around to go home. But I decided to keep going.

After leaving Goroka we went through Simbu Province, which is the worst part of the road. After a particularly rough patch, we started to hear a rattling noise. We stopped but couldn't find the source of the rattle, so we continued to Mt Hagen (six hours away from Ukarumpa). We then discovered that the rattle was due to a problem with the front left shock absorber, which had lost its rubber bushings. Also after we refueled, the car had difficultly starting. Again, I gave serious consideration to just letting the Enga translators go the rest of the way without me. With problems like that, it seemed a bit unwise to continue driving farther away from help knowing that I would also have to return at some point. But we kept going.

The car made it to Enga and I took the car to Maniosa's house the next day. (Maniosa is our lead translator.) One of his relatives is a mechanic, and Maniosa had the necessary tools to access the shock absorber. I was amazed when he went into his house and brought out a bag full of rubber bushings. He didn't have quite the right size, but he instructed his relative to cut one of the bushings to size (with an axe mind you) and smooth it (with a stone). He installed the bushings for me and the shock absorber was now working again. He also assured me that the other problems with the car would not prevent me from driving back safely to Ukarumpa.

Fixing the car at Maniosa's house

After a couple of days in Enga, in which I searched in futility for another piece of land where we could build our house, I set out again for Ukarumpa with my friend Max. I took it slow over the bumpy roads and the car did fine…that is until we got to Daulo Pass. Daulo Pass is a mountain pass located at an altitude of 2,478 meters (8,130 feet). There are good road-side food stands there, and Max and I stopped to get some food. A couple of the locals asked us for rides, but we sort of ignored their requests because we didn't know the people well.

Daulo Pass Summit

Right after ignoring their requests, we got back into the car to get moving and avoid any awkwardness that would arise from further requests. I turned the key and the engine turned over but would not start. I tried it again…no luck. One more time…no luck. I decided to let the car sit for a few minutes and try again. In the meantime, I also decided that I better become fast friends with the locals. So I started asking them how to say various things in their language, and they enjoyed hearing me try to repeat what they said. I told the two men asking for rides that if we got the car started again, then I would take them where they wanted to go.

So after a few minutes I got back in the car and tried to start it again with the same result. Having been stranded on the road before, I told myself not to panic even though there is no such thing as AAA in Papua New Guinea. Somebody suggested turning the car to face downhill and push-starting it. It seemed like it could work. However, for someone who had never tried it before, the thought of pushing the car downhill from a mountain summit without clearly knowing if the brakes would still kick in was a bit daunting. But I didn't have much choice.

The view from Daulo Pass

A couple weeks prior I had seen a friend push-start a car in Ukarumpa, and so I knew that I needed to turn the key to on, put it in second gear, keep the clutch in, and then pop the clutch once I got a little speed. I tried it and to my utter delight, the car started up. I picked up the men whom I had promised rides to and we were back on our way. I decided right then and there not to turn the engine off again until we got to Ukarumpa, and we made it back safely.

The mechanics at the auto shop in Ukarumpa determined that the car needed a new distributor and carburetor, which they ordered from Australia. After waiting a month or so for the parts to come in, they were installed, but the car still wasn't running right. After 10 more days in the auto shop, the mechanics finally determined that the person who sold them the carburetor actually sold them a used carburetor (but marketed it as new), and so we are now waiting for another new carburetor to come in from Australia (probably another month's wait). It takes patience to live in Papua New Guinea!

The good news is that since the building of our house got delayed until after our furlough, we have plenty of time to get our car in good working order. Without the delay in building the house, we would have had to rent a vehicle anyway even after buying our Hilux. It's funny how things work out! We thank God that He has a plan even though we don't always know what it is.