This is another story from the series No More Strangers, because when we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ, everyone is family. If you have experienced the kindness of a fellow Saint when you were away from home, please share it with Meridian by writing to pr***********@ho*****.com.
I did not anticipate that I would take our shiny, new Suburban and drive to Guatemala, but I had come to see that life was unpredictable. What’s more, I found a road map that showed us directly how to do it.
Who knew there was a road that led from my front door to a completely new world?
We were in the midst of taking photos for a book called Light from the Dust, about the Book of Mormon, so of course, we had to be at places, many of them in Guatemala, just before the sun came up or during those golden hours in the late afternoon. We couldn’t count on any public transportation or private car to follow our rigorous schedule. So, drive we did, and our troubles began when we hit a pothole in Oaxaca on a stretch of bad road. Fluid from our transmission flew up and began to cover our back window with a sticky goo. We got that problem fixed, enough that we could keep going, with the help of an innovative man who hoisted our car up on a tree trunk for a jack, but from that point on, our new Suburban now had a limp and was unreliable.
So, at last, the inevitable happened. We were in the Guatemalan town of Solola, stopped at a stop sign, when suddenly the car simply would not go any farther. We couldn’t start the engine. It wouldn’t turn over. There wasn’t a little click to suggest the problem was the battery. Nothing pointed to any hope.
To add to our worries, it was 5:00 in the evening, close to sundown and we had been told by other people brave or crazy enough to drive to Guatemala, that in some places if you left your car out overnight, it might be stripped by morning. What’s more, we were blocking the road.
What were we to do? My husband, Scot, ever the problem-solver, hopped out of the car and started walking up the street, saying to passersby or people sitting on benches or shop keepers or just anyone who would listen, “Mi auto a morte.” Of course, that is not Spanish for my car is dead, but it was the best a fluent German speaker could do at the moment, and people understood and nodded in sympathy, but they had no solution.
When Scot got back to the car, we prayed together (and, of course, we had already been desperately sending pleas for help to heaven). “Please Father, help us in this predicament. Evening is coming on and we cannot leave our car here. What do we do now?”
I have never seen anything quite so instant. We opened our eyes, and there, walking toward us were two missionaries with their familiar badges and white shirts. It was the first sight I saw, like a vision of help–and they clearly wanted to see us, too.
“We saw your Utah license plate, and we couldn’t believe it,” they said. They were probably hoping for news from home, but we just said one word, “Help.”
We told them our car was completely dead and we couldn’t leave it out for the night, and they offered the only solution that may have been available in town. In fact, it was remarkable that they had this solution available.
One of their investigators had a big cattle truck and they would check with him to see if they could borrow it. What’s more, he had a big garage where we could store our dead car while we were looking for mechanics help.
The missionaries backed that cattle truck up and we chained it to the front of our car. Scot was behind the wheel of the Suburban, but, of course, the power steering didn’t work, since the car was dead. It was like steering an enormous block of concrete.
At last, when we got to the garage, we unchained the Suburban and hoped it would make the right turn and glide on into the garage. Scot was wheeling right as hard as he could, and the dead car made it all the way to the back wall where the car fit like a glove.
If we hadn’t seen it, we would have hardly believed that it worked out. The friend of the missionaries topped off his graciousness by giving us a full, lovely meal that night.
Who does so many things for complete strangers who they will never see again? These missionaries and this beautiful family, so filled with the love of Christ, that it spilled over into blessing us.
This time, the car needed new fuel injection jets, and we stayed three days in the town, while Scot took a taxi three-hours each way to get the parts in Guatemala City. Then, on the way home, the car again gave us issues from the potholes we’d accidentally hit. This time we were in Monterrey, where we went to the Suburban dealer. They said it would take a good part of the week to get the parts we needed—this time for the transmission again. Or, they suggested as an alternative, that we might get across the border to El Paso and try the dealership there.
In the end, the car drove well enough, that we inched our way home. The bright, shiny car we had taken had become considerably beat up. We sighed with relief when we pulled in our own driveway in Utah, but the next night when we went to join some neighbors for dinner only a block away, the car completely gave out, and we had to have it towed for fixes.
It was a miracle we had made it home. It was a gift we had seen the missionaries when we opened our eyes from our heartfelt prayer.
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