Parental Discretion Advised: (meaning my parents might want to think twice before reading the following.)
It was an ordinary day in the neighbourhood. I was at home putting some finishing touches on my Bible study for the church in Kwara Tagui just up the road while Jenn was picking up the kids. She arrived calling, “Dave come see the car.” With a note of panic in her voice, she explained how on the way home the breaks started giving out. “Take the car around the block to see what you think.” I hopped in a drove around the neighbourhood, testing the brakes periodically. Whenever I touched the breaks the pedal would drop quickly to the floor without resistance but as soon as I pumped it would grab and stop. I’m not a mechanic but it sounded like I was leaking break fluid.
Next dilemma: how was I supposed to get to church for Bible study?
Solution: my parents’ worst nightmare. My motorcycle.
When we were home two years, we received an email from friends in Niger who were selling off their stuff to head back to the UK for good. Among other things was a motorcycle for $200-300. My wife in a moment of weakness said, “Go ahead.” When we arrived back in Niger we initiated the process of getting it “dedouanee”, that is, because it was originally bought by an NGO the customs duty on it had never been paid, and permission needed to be given in order to sell to a non-NGO (me). A year and a half later, when the paperwork was finally in my hands, I set about getting it tuned up and ready for the road. What I had neglected to consider was the fact that it had gas in the engine which had gummed the engine after sitting for that time… After a month or so of it sitting at the mechanic’s shop and few minor mishaps it was finally home. (I have a feeling the delays have something to do with my mother’s fervent prayer life.)
I should let you know that I’ve never driven a motorcycle in my life… The closest I came was on a one week “mission trip” to Bermuda in college (O to be a missionary to Bermuda!). We’d raised enough money for the group to rent motor scooters for twenty-four hours, two passengers per bike. Five minutes out of the shop I hit a car travelling in the opposite lane. Fortunately, no one was hurt (except the scooter and the Scirocco) and I had insurance. I exchanged the scooter for another one but for some reason the girl riding with me always found someone else to go with after that…
Back to Niger. My first time out I needed a neighbour to help me get the thing started and managed to go twice around the block, though when I tried to stop my pants got stuck in the kick start and I just about lost it. I took it in with my neighbour shaking his head and all the children laughing and shouting, “David si wani poporo” (David doesn’t know how to drive a motorbike.) Since that first excursion around the block I’ve taken it once to my language class (instead of walking), but other than that it’s sat in the yard.
So taking my life into my hands and my Bible in a backpack, I started it up set off down the road. It’s a ten minute ride but three quarters of the way there, the foot rests came loose and started to swing around with my feet swing around bumping the gear shift up and down and into neutral. (So that’s where that big screw in the driveway came from!) The church is on the very edge of town and the roads get increasingly sandy and other than stalling in the sand the journey completed without major incident.
After the Bible study, one of the members took a wire (that’s a step up from binder twine!) and secured the foot rests back into place. While the work was in progress, I commented, “A friend told me there used be a lot of bandits in the neighbourhood at night, do I need to be careful on the bike?”
“Oh no, there all gone,” said one person.
“Yeah, there still around,” said another.
“We’ll go with you to the main road,” said another.
“Hey Robert is going down by his place. He can ride with him.” suggested someone else.
Robert said, “I think it’s going to rain, so we should just leave the bike here till tomorrow. Pastor Soter will be here soon with his car he can take us home.”
In the end, they convinced Robert to get on behind me, the brave soul. We headed out and came to the main dirt road without too much trouble. Another interesting feature of my bike is that it still doesn’t have a battery. That means that the head light only comes on while it’s running, and when you speed up it gets really bright but when you slow down… I got Robert home with only one wipe out in the sand but he was very gracious nonetheless.
This morning I managed to get the car to the garage without any trouble. The mechanic figures he will be finished in the early afternoon. My only problem is I’m supposed to have a lunch date with Annie’s step father. She’s given him a couple of books to read about the Bible and now he would like to talk to me about them. I think I’ll catch a taxi.
Thanks to all those of you praying about our electricity. We are pleased to tell you it is working much better now and have even been able to use the air conditioners. We just have to get an electrician in to replace all the things the died while the electricity was playing games with us.