So, I have had to thumb a ride several times over the course of my travels, but never with children in tow!
Today was a first. After a very late night of packing, repacking and rerepacking bags our vehicle to accommodate our ridiculous amount of stuff and 6 people (teacher Anna Linhart is with us), I finally went to bed around 2am and Travis at 4am (jetlag and too many things on the mind), waking up at 6:30am to get our crew going. We were all in great spirits as we turned off Entebbe Road to Masaka Road en route to Fort Portal (5-6 hours away) and then Bundibugyo (another 3+ hours). Aidan threw up three times, though he was cheerful and enjoyed sitting by his new best buddy Anna. As we were enjoying the cool air conditioning (the ONLY air conditioning in all of Bundibugyo Districs), Travis noticed that the speedometer no longer was working…nor was the rpm display working, nor the electric windows, nor the airconditioning…hmmm. Better pull over. And then black smoke started coming from the back of the car. Not good. So, Travis turned off the car. And we prayed. No longer did just the electric systems not work, but now the car would not even start!
And we prayed. And called the faithful mechanic Atwoki who was going to see his daughter in Bushenyi, but turned around and picked up two mechanics and more tools to come to our rescue.
Meanwhile, it was getting hot. On the side of the road, there was little shoulder so the kids could not really get out and play, but inside was even hotter as the windows would now not roll down. A small Corolla type car pulled over and the largest Ugandan man I have seen got out to try to jump start our car. No success. Then the Ugandan Wildlife Authority LandCruiser pulled over and jumped our car. Still no success. Next, Travis did what any good driver who is broken on the side of an African road should do- put branches in the road warning people that the lane is somewhat blocked. Another 4wd vehicle pulled over to offer assistance, but they were fairly full, but in true Ugandan style said they could crowd together to accommodate more. About that time, a man in a Toyota Patrol (4wd vehicle) pulled over and talked with Travis. The next thing I knew I was grabbing up kids, diapers, a bottle, my cell phone and some money to dash into his car to make the 2+ hour drive to Fort Portal with our new friend Tinka. Knowing that our moms pray regardless that it would be 4am in the US, we sent a text explaining the situation. Travis’s mom had been praying for a good Samaritan to come to our rescue. And God provided!
While we were in Fort, hanging out at our evening’s accommodation, Travis continued on the side of the road for a few more hours until he was greeted by Bob and Jennifer Chedester and their van full of kids. The Chedesters, now serving in Kenya, were “logistical” missionaries serving the Fort community and the team in Bundibugyo for many years. “Mr. Fix It” Bob tied a tow rope from his van to the much larger and heavier Land Cruiser (TLC as our friend John Mancini likes to call it) in hopes of towing it to the next town. It was a dance of trying not to crash the two cars, pull the van backwards, and pull the now non-functioning Land Cruiser. As they were pulling closer to Mebende, the tow rope snapped, once again stranding TLC on the side of the road. But just at that moment, the mechanic Atwoki and his two mechanics arrive to save the day!
Basically, the air conditioning compressor seal broke and burst across the engine. It jammed the belt and blew the ignition fuse. Atwoki said that if we had driven any further, it would have been the end of the engine.
He patched it together with a promise from Travis to return to his shop early in the morning. They proceeded to make the drive to Fort, Travis learning the amazing story of God’s faithfulness to Atwoki through the ministry and friendships of early World Harvest missionaries. What a blessing it was for Travis to spend time hearing insights about ministry among the Babwisi people!
Our kiddos cheered as Travis arrived around 9pm as they were not too keen being separated from him, especially in such a rushed and unusual way. I pray that we all sleep well tonight and that tomorrow we can make the drive to Bundibugyo safely, even if it is without air conditioning!