Our 2003 Chevrolet Astro has something like 160,000 miles on it now. Not too many, right? But if our van could talk… Maximum capacity…22 young people. Longest trip…around 6,600 miles. Maximum number of wheelchair boxes…23. Freight…everything from sound systems to stages to garbage to trees. A gazillion speed bumps in its checkered past.
Just today we took 10 people, 7 bags of donated clothing, two huge bags of rice and beans, 8 big bottles of soda, three large pots full of food and other items to a Christian drug and alcohol rehab center. What a useful vehicle!
We left in the van at 4:30 a.m. last Wednesday for our long trip to the U.S. border, for a conference at Rio Grande Bible Institute. I had the van checked out, purchased a new tire and made sure we were ready to roll. Four of us climbed in, then on the way out of Mexico City three more friends joined us. Seven passengers in an 8 person vehicle for 12 hours. Oh the fun. After about 2 1/2 hours we made our first stop, to fill up with gas and to stretch our legs, just north of a city called Querétaro.
As we bought some snacks in a store, Erik (who was riding in the back seat) mentioned that he felt the back end of the van swaying a bit. I thought this was odd, since I had the suspension fixed a couple of weeks ago. I went out and looked at the back of the van. Sure enough, the left side did seem a bit lower. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the one leaf of the spring, the top one, had come out of place, and the one end of it was practically touching the inside of the back wheel. 2 mm, or about 1/4 to be exact, from contact.
One of my favorite questions to ask people when I am driving them around is, “when is the last time you went 100 miles an hour?” I remember one of Jeff Allem’s kids accurately answering, “on the plane flight down here.” Of course, then I say, “well, kids, we just hit 100!” Now, on our first leg of the trip, I know we didn’t hit 100 (the van bucks nastily when that happens anyway), but we were going 80 or better, up and down hills and in the dark most of the way.
(Mom, don’t read this next paragraph). If that spring would have come loose and ripped the inside of our back tire, I don’t even want to think what would have happened, but for sure I wouldn’t be writing this blog entry about it so soon. We asked the gas attendant if he knew of a place we could get it fixed. About 2 miles up the road, he said. We drove slowly and were directed to a welder’s shop (see picture below), in a tiny little town . After yelling and knocking on doors a bit, a man came out and looked at our spring. “Well, I can knock it back, then I’ll have to make the braces for it, two of them.” “How much will that cost,” we asked. 150 pesos. $10 U.S. (I gave him $20, generous guy that I am.)
About 40 minutes later, we were on our way. Very, very thankful and once again amazed at God’s protection. This story could have ended a thousand different ways.
God does this ALL THE TIME, by the way. Next entry…what happened on the trip back to Mexico City…which is Part 2. If I were to write entries on all of the past such experiences, I could literally write a book.