The trip between our project and Campo Verde (the nearest town) is one I make quite frequently. I have used such conveyances as sandals, a motorcycle, a motocar, a pickup, and once, the plush cab of a tandem dump truck owned by a Brazilain contracting company that recently paved the road past our project. Today it was a taxi. I had begun walking towards town and before long was able to flag down a typical Peruvian taxi: a Toyota Corolla with bald tires and numerous cobwebbed cracks on the windshield from before the road was paved. It was already occupied by six people (four short of what it "comfortably" seats even though there are only seatbelts for five) and so I figured I would probably ride in the trunk since nobody was back there yet. I soon discovered that the trunk had four chickens with their feet tied together and a gunny sack full of piglets as well as a few little presents left by the chickens. I smushed into the back seat and completed my short journey into town.
This past week the doctor drew what to me was a powerful spiritual lesson from a frustrating experience.
Last summer, before most of us got here, our tractor was stripped of all valuable parts that could be carried off. Since then a lot of work has been put into getting the tractor working again and this past week it was finally running. The doctor and I took it back into the jungle down a very uneven, winding trail to where a pile of wood is that we needed to haul out ( the same thing we were doing with the truck in my previous blog) . When we were nine tenths of the way there on our second trip we lost all steering cabability. Up to this point it had been very hard to steer but now the steering wheel turned freely without moving the tires. For the next eternity the doctor drove changhing between first gear and reverse every fifteen seconds or so and using the brakes to help steer while I pushed the front tires in the direction we wanted them to go. When we got about half way back the tractor stalled (probably due to using the breaks a little too heavily for steering purposes) and, as the starter was not working (we had pull started it with the pickup), we left it there and went to lunch. Later that afternoon we gathered everyone to come and push it out while two people steered the front tires. While we were taking apart and cleaning the steering assembly to see what could (or couldn't) be fixed the doctor said that the tractor is like our lives; we can put lots of work into getting our life running the way we would like it, but if our guidance system is lacking we will accomplish nothing besides making ourselves frustrated and tired. God is the only steering system for our lives that is of any value, at the end of John 15:5 He states "... for without me you can do nothing."
Last week we borrowed an old pickup from the mission with wich to pick up some lumber we had cut out in the jungle. It is a Cheverolet Silverado 2500 with a four speed manual trasmission, a four cylinder diesel engine (not original), and four wheel drive, which, as we discovered later doesn't work. When the doctor got to the project with the truck he told us we had to return it by noon to the mission. We all hopped in the back, drove down a dirt path that borders our property, and then turned off onto a semi-cleared area over top of a gasline that bisects our property. When we got to the entrance of our trail into the jungle the truck got stuck and it was then that we discovered the four wheel drive did not work. After getting the truck unstuck the doctor decided he didn't want to drive back in farther but rather carry the beams, some weighing over 200 kg, out to where the truck was. Being the lazy person I am and not wanting to carry beams I asked if I could try to back the truck in where it needed to go, the doctor agreed and I tookthe wheel. Driving as I would in snow so as not to spin the tires and loose traction I got back to where the wood was and made several successful trips back to the houses as well. Something we hadn't counted on, however, was that the truck is built a little differently than the Jeep we had been using before in that the driveshafts have nothing protecting them from the tall grass through which we were driving. I was shifting the truck into low range* to get in and out of the jungle trail and on one occasion was unable to shift out of it. I made the trip back to the houses very slowly and when I returned I explained my situation to the doctor who also could not get it out of low. We decided to make one more trip and then the doctor would have to hurry to get back for the 12:00 deadline he had. As I was leaving the jungle trail I went to shift into a higher gear and the clutch pedal went to the floor without disengaging the clutch. I yelled out the window that I wasn't going to stop as I had no clutch and proceeded to "float" it into second. fifty yards later the truck quit and we discovered the cause of all our problems: we had previously cleaned off the grass that had wrapped around the back driveshaft but the front driveshaft now had enough grass wound around it to disconnect the lever that shifts in and out of low range, disconnect the clutch pedal to the clutch and finally ripped a fuel line out of the engine. We cleaned the grass out and reconnected the fuel line and shift lever but still had several problmems; when a diesel runs out of fuel you don't just start it up again like you can with a gas engine but rather "bleed" the fuel lines (a process which I know nothing about). We also were missing several pieces to put the clutch back together with and we had a nearly flat tire. The other guys went back to try to find the missing parts to the clutch and the doctor and I tried to start the truck. Through some miracle, after cranking for a while the engine turned over without bleeding any fuel lines and I drove (once again clutchless) while the doctor walked behind keeping an eye on the ever deflating tire. We finally got back to the end of our driveway by half past one in the afternoon, ate lunch and then I went into town with the tire to get it fixed while the doctor and a mechanic who had been working on our "tractor" put the clutch linkage back together with the parts that had been found. By three in the afternoon the truck was in working order and on it's way back to Pucallpa only three hours late (which is good for Peruvian time).
*The problem with the four wheel drive was in the front differential and therefore did not affect the decrease in gear ratio when shifting into low. This is also the reason why the front driveshaft was still turning.