This year our 4x4 celebrates its 9th birthday. Determining the age of cars in Africa, seems to me to be similar to the way we calculate dog years. Vehicles in rural Africa years age about 2.2 years for every 1. So, that means our truck is about 20 years old!
It has served us (and hopefully will continue to serve us!) well. But, over the past few months we've had to do a number of repairs beyond the normal routine maintenance - a U-joint broke, the torsion bar busted and one of the front shocks gave up the ghost. And we have had some other problems where, I have to admit, I've used duct tape and rope to keep things together.
But lately the biggest impact we have (truly!) felt has been the loss of one of the shocks. A couple years ago we bought a set of good off-road shocks in South Africa. But with the loss of this high quality shock I had to replace it with one bought in our provincial capital. While, our Mozambican friends would call it 'pirated,' I would just say that it is a knock off version... a version that handles the bumps in such an inferior way that it makes me think it will knock my teeth off. Our friend, Brad Salyer who lives in the nearby town of Balama, and is our team's go to resource for anything mechanical, said that the life expectancy of these knock off shocks with our driving conditions is about 30-60 days!
On Tuesday, Abel and I were driving together on the dirt track to the village of Nakuka to meet with the churches in that area. As we bumped down the road he lamented about some problems in the church - two guys have gone back to their old patterns of drinking, while another man sold some of the bamboo that the church had cut and carried in to rebuild the church building and pocketed the money.
As we talked about how to deal with this problem, we hit an especially jarring bump. I decided to share with him what has been happening with our truck. I talked about how the shock on the right side of the truck was well fashioned, thoroughly tested, and made out of quality materials. It was made to handle these off road conditions. The shock on the left side though, was inferior in every way and with every bump was coming closer to its own demise (and maybe the passengers' as well).
Each shock received the same amount of suffering and abuse, but their abilities to handle it were markedly different. One side bounces and eases back into place, while the other side jars everyone involved. Abel and I talked about the way that faith can be like a shock absorber - it should allow us to handle the abuse and lumps that life throws at us. If the shock is inferior, though, then we won't last long and everyone around us will suffer. In order to make it - we'll need authentic, sturdy, off-road, shock absorbers that are truly capable of handling the difficult terrain.
So, here's to good shocks - may our trucks (and our lives) wear them well - wherever the road takes us!