The Lord wants us to grow in our trust in Him and reliance on Him. He made it clear to my family and me through our first major trial of the year. We were driving back from Tamatave, on the East Coast of Madagascar, after a few days of ministry and rest. 60 miles into our trip, I started to feel the steering wheel shaking and vibrating more than normal. I told Lily that something was not right and that we would have to check it when we get to the next town. Yet, 7 miles before reaching our desired pit stop, I was overtaking a slow mover when the wheel came off…literally. 4 out of 5 tire mounting studs cleanly broke, somewhat inexplicably. It flew 200 yards down the side of the road into a ditch. I managed to keep control of the car and let it drift towards the grassy curb. Then started a 23-hour adventure, fixing the car. We all came out unscathed from the incident, and we learned much from it.
First, we realized we were truly unprepared for the unexpected. Yet, if there is one thing to assume on the mission field, traveling in the countryside a day before the tropical storm Ava is to hit the coastline, it is that something is going to happen. We lacked, to mention a few, tools (ever thought of always carrying a 36-mm wrench in your pocket just in case? … Now I do!), spare parts, emergency contact numbers and proper rain gear. This made solving the problem at hand even more difficult. We learned. We need to be more proactive in anticipating difficulties and making sure we have a bare minimum of the things we would need to face them.
There is so much that could have gone worst in this incident. We could have hit the truck that was coming from the other direction as we lost our wheel, but we didn’t. The cyclone could have hit at 3am as it was expected to, as we were still busy fixing the car, but it didn’t. Lily and the kids could have been in the car for the whole 23 hours, but they didn’t; someone kindly stopped by and offered to take them back to Antananarivo 4 hours into the ordeal. I could have had to deal with the situation alone, but I didn’t, my brother-in-law, Melchi, was traveling with us and stayed with me the whole time. We also had a couple of brothers and a sister in the Lord who traveled all the way from Tamatave, staying up with us through the night and helping us fix the car. We could have been stuck as the nearby town of Brickaville doesn’t have many repair shops and as most of the people were locking everything up to get ready for the cyclone’s arrival; but we were not. We managed to find one man in town who had a welding machine, got him to agree to give us the phone number of his welder who lived 6 miles away, went to collect him to find out he is a Christian (!), and worked with them until 11pm to get the broken pieces of studs out of the tire disc. The car could have started at 1:30 am when we finally got the wheel back on, but it didn’t as the battery was flat. We found out later it was the Lord’s interposition as it prevented Melchi and me from driving off immediately that night, and probably get into serious problems given the weather conditions; instead we drove off the next morning at 8:30, which made it a lot easier to avoid potholes and also stop to get out of the car and tighten the bolts every 25 miles as they kept loosening. We made it safely home after a 7-hour drive.
These are evidence of God’s sovereign control over our circumstances and of His caring hand over His own. We were praying all the time, and we know we are prayed for. The Lord intervened in amazing ways.
One of the things that amazed me is how calm we all remained. I didn’t panic when the wheel came off and even had enough consciousness of the situation to ask my brother-in-law not to lose sight of the wheel as it was bouncing downhill at quite a speed. The kids did not panic as they were all busy watching a movie or reading on their tablets. None of us lost our nerves when, after fixing the wheel for 13 hours, the car did not want to start. Edginess would have made things worst for sure. The Lord gave us remarkable peace of mind and composure. I am so grateful for this.
As you have read so far, it was one trial after another. Getting the disc off was a struggle, getting the broken studs off the disc was a pain, putting everything back on in the pouring rain and with a cellphone as our only source of light was very trying. Dealing with a flat battery at 2am in the middle of nowhere and with nothing like AAA at hand was difficult. It took us a while to locate it under the passenger seat. Then, we could not get it off as we didn’t have the pipe wrenches necessary for the task. We tried to tow it, but our towing lines kept breaking. When the morning came, some of us went to town to find everything closed because of the approaching cyclone. The others stayed and had to regulate truck traffic under the pouring rain as they passed by our car. Just as we decided that the only solution was to go back to Tamatave to get some help, we met a recovery car which was coming to help a stranded passenger van. They had the tools we needed and helped us charge our battery. And just like that, problem solved. God is good.
I can see an obvious parallel between what we went through and spiritual trials. What do you do when you go through a time of trials, temptation or seeming silence from God? First, it does not come to you as a surprise as you have prepared yourself to it through Scripture reading and memorization (Psalm 119:105). Then you prayerfully lift your situation up to God and trust Him to work out things for your eternal good (Phil 4:6; 1 Pet 5:7). You keep your poise, having confidence not in yourself but in your omniscient and omnipotent Father (Psalm 23:4). Finally, you persevere; knowing that the trial, the victory over a temptation and the persistence in spiritual disciplines when God seems far away, all produce some measure of growth in your likeness to Christ.
We can truly glorify God… even when the wheel comes off!