Monday, August 30, 2010

It Wars Against Us

Matt Chandler at The Village Church has a great series from 2007 called The Roles of Men (you should listen to if you have not already). In that series he often repeats a phrase: "it wars against us". The idea is that because of the fall, everything that man touches wars against us in a way, frustrating us and making Godliness a challenge. Our spouses. Our children. Our work. I think living in Haiti has made me appreciate that phrase more.

One thing I don't think anyone can comprehend unless they live here, is that getting items off your to-do list is often a Herculean task in Haiti. Are your inverter batteries dead? Need gas for your stove? Out of fuel for your car? Is your cistern out of water? You will need to drive around and hunt for these items. Wait in line at some store. Or sometimes just wait until the item arrives in-country because of shortages. In addition, when you don't own a car you find yourself always asking for rides, wishing you weren't inconveniencing people.

Because of these and a long list of other reasons, I wanted to buy a car this semester. And we recently did. The Izzo (its new nickname) is older than all of our students, blue in most places, dented in others. Very Haitian car.

But getting a car to make life easier in the long run has proved to be troublesome in the short term. Izzo needed some work and we waited two long weeks to get her fixed. On Monday we took her out for what was to be her maiden voyage.

So Bearded Tony, Katie and I jumped in the car after school on Monday for a much-needed trip to the grocery store. Normally we would walk, but we wanted to buy lots of things- our cupboards were bare.

The Izzo started fine. I backed her up, executed a solid 3-point turn in the parking lot, and began to drive toward the gate. Pierre, a school guard, was opening the gate for us when it happened.

The breaks stopped responding.

I pressed down and nothing happened. I pumped and we keep rolling. The distance to the gate closing, I stood on the breaks and shouted at my passengers, "The breaks aren't working!"

I think they all offered suggestions or asked questions- I don't really remember. Pierre sensed something was wrong and jumped out of the way of my 5 mile per hour battering ram. We rolled out onto Delmas 75. Blessedly there was no traffic to our left or we would have been sideswiped. The Izzo, with three of us panicking inside, rolled in between two cars stopped at the stop light (remember kids, always leave one car length space when stopped) up onto the curb and hit a cinder-block wall as I shifted the car into park.

Imagine this from the perspective of a Haitian on the street. A car full of blans has just rolled at 5 mph out of a school, across traffic, and hit a wall. These white people... they cannot do anything!

I felt this big.

The school mechanic was around (he did the original work on the car, including replacing the break fluid). He and I were/are bewildered at how the breaks could work, then stop working, then slightly work again. So, the master cylinder is now being removed and cleaned and then replaced. 

Luckily no property, other than The Izzo's front fender, was damaged. Thankfully no one was hurt, except my pride.

I have been the subject to some gentle ribbing from my missionary friends- and rightly so. It was a funny... in hindsight.

But it does underscore Matt Chandler's point. It wars against.



  1. Same thing happened to me with a 59 VW in Germany (1971). God was watching over me as I crossed through 2 intersections (going downhill fast). Sounds like you need a good mechanic school down there. Can you even get parts?

  2. Tony, trust me the mechanic is very good. He was the guy who drove the box truck to the DR a few days after the earthquake. He kept all of the cars running during the relief effort, he knows his stuff. Just one of those unforeseen problems. Also, most parts are easy to come by. They are reconditioned of cars that are no longer running.

  3. Have you gotten much ribbing from the spelling teachers yet? About your brakes breaking? :^)

    [e-friend of Ruth]



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