(Here is an article I wrote in 2004 when we were living in Costa Rica. It’s light and perhaps will bring a chuckle to your day. –Ken
By Kenneth D. MacHarg
When last we joined missionaries Ken and Polly MacHarg, they were rejoicing that their “new” car was again on the road running.
You will remember that just two days after they bought their 1988 Trooper, it broke down, stalling five times in one day, once right in front of the U.S. Embassy.
A tow from a friend and three days in repair found them with new injectors and who knows what else. But, at least it was running.
We join them now as they are on their way to their teaching ministries at UNELA—The Evangelical University of the Americas.
“That sure was a good trip, wasn’t it Polly,” Ken comments
“Yes, seeing the active Arenal volcano and all of the beautiful mountain scenery was really nice,” Polly agreed.
“But that trip around Lake Arenal was something else—what a terrible bumpy road with all of those ruts, rocks and streams to cross,” Ken said. “What was that? It sounds like something fell off the back of the car.”
“Yes,” Polly said. “Maybe you had better check it.”
Ken eases the lumbering vehicle over to the curb right across from the Latin American regional headquarters of Habitat for Humanity. Stepping out, he surveys the situation and returned to the car.
“You had better get out. You’re not going to believe this, but the gas tank fell off of the car and there is gasoline spilling out onto the street!”
It took only an hour and a half for the tow truck to arrive and haul the car back to the mechanic.
Why not replace the fuel pump while we are here, Ken figures. When they did the original work they said it would need to be replaced eventually.
Four days later, Ken and Polly are back on the road—at least for a while. Two days later Ken notes that the brakes are feeling soft and not grabbing as they should.
“Hm…most of the time this thing won’t go, but now I’m afraid it may not stop!” he muses as he takes the car, this time under its own volition, back to the garage.
Now, while Troopers are fairly common in Costa Rica, it seems that, after the brakes are totally dismantled, that the mechanic can’t find the parts he needs. “I’ll probably have them tomorrow (mañana) promises the mechanic.
Definition (U.S.): Tomorrow—tomorrow.
Definition (Costa Rica): Tomorrow (mañana)—not today.
Four days later Ken again leaves the mechanic as the proud owner of a totally new brake system.
We join Ken and Polly again a few days later. It’s a Saturday afternoon and Polly has stopped at Yamuni Department Store to buy a few things.
“Hi, it’s me. I’m at Yamuni and the car won’t start.”
“Oh, Ok, I’ll be right there.”
Sure enough, thirty minutes later Ken observes for himself that the car, indeed, won’t start. Now, it’s late Saturday afternoon and all of the mechanics are closed for the weekend.
But, God provides. It turns out that one of the warehouse men at Yamuni just happens to be a mechanic and just happens to have his tools with him. Of course, it has started to rain, so a few folks in the parking lot are rounded up to push the car under shelter where, 30 minutes later, the mechanic has fixed the bad battery connection, and they are again on their way.
Let’s see, that was Saturday. The next Thursday, Ken is at the Escazú Christian Fellowship’s Men’s breakfast that he leads. Coming out of the restaurant, Ken finds that, once again, the car won’t start.
“Pour some coke on the connection, it will clean up all of that corrosion,” advises a fellow gringo who has stopped at Bagelmen’s to pick up his breakfast. “If that doesn’t work, I have jumper cables.”
Coke? “Let’s see, diet or regular…I suppose it doesn’t matter,” Ken muses as he pours the soft-drink on the connection. Presto—the corrosion immediately disappears. “I wonder what it does to your stomach?” he thinks, but quickly dismisses the thought.
One jump later, Ken is at a new mechanic from which, thirty minutes later, he drives out as the proud owner of a new Rocket brand car battery.
Now begins several weeks of tranquility and smooth running. Ken and Polly and Polly’s ESL intern drive a horrendous mountain road to the beach and return to San José without incident.
(They can’t tell you what the mileage on that trip was. When they bought the car the odometer said 84,000 miles. Today, three months later, it still says 84,000 miles. Perhaps that ought to be fixed sometime!)
All was going well…until Wednesday.
We join Ken and Polly as they leave their house headed for their evening Bible Study. It has been an extremely rainy day, downpours all afternoon—after all, this is rainy season in Costa Rica.
“Hmmm, Ken thinks. I can’t get the key into the lock. Polly, it looks like something happened to this lock—maybe somebody tried to get in. Can you open the door from your side?”
“Sure, give me a minute.”
A minute later, Ken and Polly see the reason for the lock problem. They are no longer the proud owners of a car radio. It seems that during the rain storm when everybody was inside, someone manipulated the lock and stole the car radio.
“I never keep a radio in my car,” explains Don Franklin of UNELA the next day. “If I do, someone will either break the window or damage the lock to get in and steal it. If I want a radio, I carry one with me.”
“At least the car is still running, but they stole the radio,” Ken tells the Bible study that night.
“I wish they had stolen the whole car,” Polly says.
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