This story really is part 2 of the Amazing Elephant Adventure because it takes place on the way home from that trip.
The road between Isiolo, Kenya and the Samburu Game Reserve in the 80s was a gravel road, narrow and fraught with hazards, especially the danger of rocks breaking one’s windshield – not to mention the spine jarring washboard state of the road. I hear that now it is a nice, smoothly paved road. At the time of the Amazing Elephant Adventure, they were in the process of grading it and laying fresh gravel and so there were huge stacks of gravel right down the middle of the road, in preparation of re-graveling the road, leaving only a narrow path on either side of the stacks.
On their way home from the Samburu Game Reserve, toodling down the narrow path towards Isiolo, Chip and Beth (the 13 year old daughter of some good friends, who had come out to Kenya to help out with the new baby, and experience Kenya) came across a Kenya Power & Lighting Company truck stuck by the side of the road. This was a large truck – the kind that carries power poles. It had somehow slid off the road (perhaps on the loose gravel) and was stuck in the ditch by the side of the road it’s chassis resting on the edge of the road and wheels dangling helplessly in the air. You could see where several vehicles had passed the truck (barely) by driving partially up the gravel stacks and around the stricken vehicle. Chip was about to do the same, when several KPLC employees emerged from the truck, frantically waving.
So, Chip stopped. “Please, sir, please try to tow us out of here! We have been here all night. There are lions around. We are terrified! We cannot spend another night out here! Please help us.” Oh dear. There my husband sat in an old series short-based Land Rover, staring at this large truck where not even all 4 wheels were on the ground. How would this be possible? Chip tried to explain the impossibility of the situation, but when grown men are nearly in tears…what can one do? “I don’t have a tow rope, and even if I did, it would not be nearly strong enough to pull you out”, Chip started to say. “Oh, we have wire – lots and lots of wire!”, was the eager reply.
So, they wrapped and wrapped the wire between the 2 vehicles and Chip sceptically got in the Land Rover and started to pull forward. Snap! The many layers of wire broke almost immediately. Chip got out and started to reiterate the impossibility of the situation when the guys eagerly interrupted with “Wire! More wire! We have LOTS of wire! Please, please let us try again!” Sighing, Chip agreed to try once more. This time it seemed they wrapped enough wire between the 2 vehicles to electrify a small town. Once more, Chip climbed into the Land Rover and began to pull. Oh, the smell of that poor clutch! Chip was sure we would need to replace it after this incident. He was about to give up yet again, when suddenly grind, scrape…the truck wrenched free of it’s trap and sat on the narrow path! Chip was totally floored and the KPLC guys were all jumping up and down, whooping and dancing! Amazing! The impossible had actually happened. Chip declined their offer of financial renumeration (the miracle was exciting enough) and after high-fives, handshakes, and thank-yous made the rounds, Chip and Beth got back in the Land Rover and proceeded down the road, the KPLC truck just behind, until they got to Isiolo, where the truck turned off the road, honking it’s final thanks on the horn.
Down the road a way, the Land Rover stopped. I mean it just died, right in mid-cruise. No amount of coaxing would bring it back to life. It looked like an electrical issue, but Chip, being by no means a mechanic, had no idea what to do. They were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to keep them company other than Mount Kenya, looming in the middle distance. Now what to do? These were the days before mobile phones. Eventually a small boy ambled up. Chip inquired whether he happened to know any mechanic nearby. “Yes”, was the boy’s reply. “Just there”, pointing with his chin toward the mountain! Chip asked the boy to fetch him, and the boy took off, towards the mountain. He eventually returned with an old man, who smelled of alcohol, and proceeded to start taking apart the engine, speculating on this or that matter that could be wrong with the vehicle. Chip was sceptical that he even knew what he was talking about, especially taking into consideration his inebriated state. He tried to dissuade the elderly mechanic from taking the engine apart, when suddenly, down the road came…the KPLC truck! They skidded to a halt and came swarming from the truck, eagerly asking, “What is wrong? How can we help you?”
Chip explained the situation, dejectedly pointing to the old man poised on the engine, eagerly removing bits and pieces. “We’ll take care of this. We have a government certified mechanic with us, and he will fix your vehicle”, was the quick reassurance.
So, they politely got the elderly, erstwhile mechanic to climb down from his perch, paid him a little for his efforts and he went happily on his way. Their mechanic got to work and in relatively short time, got the engine roaring back to life. The KPLC guys were nearly as excited as Chip and Beth to see the little Land Rover back up and running. They were so happy to be able to ‘repay’ Chip’s former kindness by helping him in return. After another round of high-fives, handshakes, and thank-you’s, they were all off again – the KPLC guys to their destination, and Chip and Beth returning safely home late at night.
I learned 2 things from this true story. 1) Truly, nothing is impossible, if God is there to help or intervene (Luke 1:37). Chip shouldn’t have been able to pull that large truck with wheels high in the air out of the ditch with that small Land Rover – practically speaking. But God is not always ‘practical’. I suspect He may have been there right behind that truck, giving it the tiniest nudge with His little pinkie finger, smiling the whole time. It certainly was a boost to the faith of all present. It also was a clear lesson to all that God cares about people – enough to sometimes intervene when there is need. 2) There is a saying that goes “What goes round, comes round”. So often it is true. Put another way, we also hear “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). What seeds are we sowing in other people’s lives? Are we willing to even risk trying the ‘impossible’, in order to help another person in need? Do we have the same compassion that moved Jesus to heal the sick, feed the hungry, deliver those oppressed by all manner of evil? Too often I get too caught up in my own stuff, my own plans and responsibilities and forget to exercise that compassion. Sadly, too often, I get so stuck by the ‘impossible’ that I become paralyzed into inaction, unable or unwilling to even try. May the Lord help us to push beyond our doubts, and to risk trying the impossible, especially to help others in need, and leave the results to God.