Following God's Will in a 1988 Suburban
Day 1: September 3, 2012
I used to think that Matthew 28:16-20: “leaving all for the sake of sharing the Gospel,” meant only leaving home in America and moving overseas. We did that in 2009 when we first went to the mission field and moved to Paraguay. It was during our time in Paraguay that God used our circumstances and experiences, both rewarding and challenging, to continue to conform us to the image of our Lord and Savior. This time God was calling us to leave our home in Paraguay and move to Peru. When we moved to Paraguay from the U.S., we had to sell everything and take only what we could pack into seven suitcases for the four of us. Now it meant that we would once again need to fit everything we owned into our 1988 Suburban. Everything else would have to stay behind and be either sold or given away. I wondered why we never accumulated much stuff while living in Paraguay. Little did I know God was just saving me the trouble of getting rid of it later!
We pulled out of the driveway early Monday morning on September 3, 2012. We were on our way to the Argentinean border. All four of us were filled with mixed emotions as we began driving through town for the last time on our way for the journey of a lifetime. We were saying good-bye to the country that had become home to us. Friends who had become like family, and family who would remain to carry out God's call on their lives in Paraguay. Five-year old Christian and three-year old Micah were old enough with this move to understand what was happening and knew what saying goodbye was all about. With fresh coloring books and new crayons that mommy and daddy were praying would entertain them for many days to come.
The border to Argentina was not a very far drive so we arrived mid-morning. Crossing the border was our first triumph. They took our passports with no problem and explained that our vehicle was fine to cross. We thought we were home free and on our way into the country. Then came the police who wanted to look inside our giant Suburban. They looked inside and instantly gave us a NO! Our Suburban was filled to the max. Even both boys had luggage at their feet so high that they had to extend their legs straight out in front of them. They then explained that we were to turn around and drive across the border back into Paraguay to get a document stamped by Paraguay saying it was okay to bring all of our belongings across the border. Before we began driving back into Paraguay, we said a prayer together asking God to allow us to enter into the country without the document. The police continued to insist that we head back. As we drove back into Paraguay, we knew there had to be a reason God did not do things our way. Joe went into the office to receive that document for the vehicle. Two hours later, they gave us a stamped and signed paper saying it was alright to cross over. By now, we were three hours behind schedule. It is a good thing we are not on our schedule, but on God's, otherwise we would be way behind! Once again, we drove back over the border and handed them the document. They looked at the paper and then allowed us into Argentina. As we drove down Route 12, every police officer decided to stop us and asked for “that” document. If we had not had the document, then they would not have allowed us to continue. We would also later need that document to exit Argentina and enter into Chile. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, even though sometimes we have to do a lot of work in the beginning to make life easier later on. We drove until we reached Corrientes and checked into a hotel. We were giving God prayers of thanks for bringing us into Argentina.
Day 2: Tuesday September 4, 2012
We were back on the road again by 8:00 a.m. and heading into the Chaco. The Chaco is mostly small towns and farm land. Towns can be hours apart and there is nothing in between each town. We passed many old houses made of faded, old, antique, wood. They reminded me of the old houses you see in photos from the 1800’s when people were riding in covered wagons across America to claim and settle the land. Only the ones we saw had satellite dishes on their roof. We saw many farms with cattle. I saw the beauty, but Joe saw lunch! He kept mentioning how plump, round, and beautiful those cows looked. As we were driving along down Route 12, it had been hours since we had last seen a town, and then I heard Joe said, “Pray! Pray!” I instantly began to pray for God's protection. Our brakes had completely gone out and we could not stop! We coasted to the side and rolled to a stop without hitting anything. We just barely missed crashing with a huge truck, as well. Joe grabbed my hand and praised God that we were all okay. We looked up from our prayer and noticed we were near a tire shop with an older gentleman sitting on a wooden chair peeling an orange right beside our car. He smiled a toothless grin and said so casually and with complete control, “buenas tardes” (good afternoon). He pointed the way, two blocks over to the town’s mechanic shop, so we slowly coasted over.
We knocked on the little wooden door and asked for help. His shop/home was made of clay, wood, and a few bricks. The mechanic began looking at our brakes and explained that we had somehow lost the screw holding our brakes together and all of the brake fluid had leaked out, as well. While he went into his shop to see if he had a very large screw to fit our brakes, Joe and I said a prayer for everything that was needed to fix our brakes. We knew this was a large request since we were in such a small town and in a foreign country, but God can work miracles. After four hours of waiting in front of his home, he had found two screws that would hold the brakes together until we could get to the next city. He also happened to have brake fluid. Praise the Lord; we were back on the road. As we pulled out of the little town, we were so grateful for God's provision and that it happened where it did. Towns are so few and far between in the Chaco and our brakes happened to go out near a mechanic’s home. That is God!
After two more hours of driving, we began to hear a rattling sound. We drove a few more miles until we came to a gas station. The gentleman pumped our gas and then pointed the way to the town's mechanic. We pulled up in front of his shop and he began to take a look. This was another moment of God's hand because it was now 10:30 p.m. and he was actually open. I took the boys by the hand and led them outside. I asked each one to say a prayer over our car. Christian's prayer began with, “Thank you Jesus that the car will work and that the screws will not fall out anymore.” Micah's little prayer was said with dramatized emotion, “Thank you Jesus the car didn't CRASH!” After an hour’s wait, he had the screws on tight and we were back on the road. We were praying every few minutes that God would bring us safely to the next city. We had to stop every 20 miles in order to re-tighten the screws. There were no street lights way out in the country either, so whenever we would find a lighted bus stop, that is where we would pull over. At one stop, poor Joe accidentally laid down in a pile of ants while tightening the screws. By now, the kids were asleep in the back seat with empty tummies. There was no place to stop for food the entire day and all of our snacks had run out.
It was now 2:00 a.m., we were exhausted and needed a hotel. We finally made it to Salta and a hotel was right off the main road. Joe pulled in so fast I think I might have heard screeching from our tires. We checked into our hotel and carried the boys and overnight bags up to the room. We were black from head to toe because of all the dirt from our day. I forgot to tell you that the windows to our vehicle were down all of the time. Have you ever seen how huge the windows are on an old suburban? We bathed and put the kids in their beds. My heart broke as we had to put them to bed with empty tummies. For the first time I knew what it felt like to not be able to feed your child. So many mothers around the world experience this on a daily basis and I have never known a mother's cry such as this. After a few tears were shed, I had peace for tomorrow a meal would come. Joe and I said a prayer of thanks and cried out to thank God for watching over our family.
Day 3: Wednesday September 5, 2012
A new day has come for we walked down stairs to a bountiful buffet of breakfast. The children still in their pajamas and with blankies in hand greeted everyone with smiles as their plates were being filled. As we sat around the table, we said a prayer together that Joe would be able to find a mechanic open and that he would have the exact screw needed for our brakes. Remember, they were only temporarily fixed and still needed that one correct size screw. Joe ate and quickly headed out the door. The kids and I went back up stairs to dress and wait for Joe's return. Check-out was at 12:00 p.m., so I was getting a bit nervous as the hour was quickly approaching. It was 12:05 p.m. and in walked Joe with a smile on his face. He threw his arms to the sky and with head lifted high he praised the Lord with a shout that he had not only found a mechanic, but had also found the exact screw needed. We all jumped with excitement and then headed out the door to be back on the road. We decided that since it was already mid-day we would not try to accomplish the Andes Mountain today, but wait until tomorrow. We drove a couple of hours to the town of Jujuy, which is at the base of the mountain, and checked into another hotel. We got a good meal, restocked our food supply for the next few days travel, and went to bed early. What a wonderful day rejoicing in the Lord's gifts.
Day 4: Thursday September 6, 2012
We arose early today, for we knew that if we were going to get over the Andes Mountains and do a border crossing, then we would need an early start. It was 6:00 a.m. and we were on the road. We drove into the morning fog and could not see how big the mountain was that we were about to face. We began our ascent up the mountains, driving 20 mph so that our engine would not overheat. Around 8:00 a.m. the sun had pushed away the clouds and the fog had cleared. Wow! What a God we serve! He made this magnificent creation. The mountains were filled with oranges, purples, pinks, greys, and blues all swirled together. We were astonished. On the other hand, look what man made. It was just the opposite of God’s creation; scary and pitiful. The roads were small, no railings, and swerved in and out and around the mountains like a snake slithering through sand. We thought that there would be just one giant mountain that we would need to cross over and then we would be finished. We were oh so very wrong. There are multiples that go for miles and miles. Curvy roads all zigzagged going up and down. Each time we would be going up we would slow down to 20 mph, all for the sake of the engine. And when we would go down, we coasted and tried not to burn out the brakes…..and we prayed we didn’t lose that precious screw.
When we reached the top of the 16,000+ feet mountain, we saw the exit check point for Argentina. We were to go into this building and get a stamp in our passports saying it was okay to exit. When we went to open our car doors, it was nearly impossible. The wind at the top of the mountain was so strong and blew with such force that Joe was only able to open one car door. Then he held it open with his entire body while we all crawled across seats to get out of the vehicle. I asked if it was just an unusually windy day and the local people said it was like that every day at the level in the mountain. We were so thankful that it only took a few minutes and we were back in the car and on the road. Since we were at the top, we assumed we only needed to drive down. We were wrong again. There would be more mountains to tackle. We took a moment and all said a prayer that God would carry us and the car into Chile.
After a few more hours, Joe looked over at me and told me to “pray!” I knew the drill by now, so pray I did. The engine was overheating. He pulled to the side and allowed the car to rest. We held hands said another prayer over the vehicle and that God would take us into the next city, for where we were there were no towns for miles in either direction. After sitting for an hour, the engine was now cooled and we were back on the road. By this point, I believe blisters were forming on my right hand for holding the door handle so tight during intense moments. We were again weaving in, out, and over mountains with no railings, and at points not even wanting to look out the window because I would just see cliffs. Our hearts were racing as we put our lives in the hands of the Almighty God, for only He could bring us into the next city.
God did carry us right into the city of Calama, where we would need to cross the border and get our passports stamped for entering Chile. There would be yet another hurdle to cross, for our vehicle was still packed full. We reached the offices, which looked like an old beat down wooden home, and walked up to the front window. They allowed us and our vehicle in with no problem, however, when the police took a look into our vehicle and saw the amounts of luggage, their eyes went wide and they began to shake their heads NO! The boys and I held hands and began to pray asking God to change their minds, while Joe was talking to them about what was inside and that we were simply moving to Peru. They agreed to just look through our baggage. Joe then began to take out each piece and open them for their verification. Keep in mind that each piece of luggage weighs between 70-100 lbs. After exploring only three pieces of luggage, we think they got bored with looking at cheap kitchen stuff, so they said it was okay to pass. After spending an hour to repack the car properly, we praised the Lord we had made it into Chile.
By now it was beginning to get dark and the children were hungry from only eating cracker snacks for the day because there was no place, village, gas station, or restaurant to stop at while driving through the mountains. We checked into a hotel and after eating a good Chilean meal, were fast asleep. We were filled with so much emotion that night as God had literally carried our family safely through those mountains. We knew He had His hand in protecting us around those curvy, dangerous roads, and maintaining the vehicle. We trust in our God and are becoming content moment by moment in simply resting in Him, despite our circumstances. It is not always easy to be satisfied in Him whether we have or don't have food, whether our car is working or in trouble, or how big a mountain He asks us to cross. It may not always be easy, but it is wonderful to know that He is faithful. Whatever He decides, He provides.
Day 5: Friday September 7, 2012
As I packed our belongings and got the kids ready, Joe went down to the vehicle to start it and get it warm and ready for our travel to Iquique, Chile. Moments later, he came walking back into the room and with a quiet voice told me, “the car will not start and is making a loud screeching sound.” He explained that he would walk out into the streets to look for a mechanic that would not only be open, but would be willing to come to our hotel to look at our vehicle. As I was sitting in the room with the boys, I knelt by the bed and began to pray for this was yet another big request. As soon as I said “amen,” Joe came walking in the room and said that he had found a mechanic who was willing to come to our hotel and it was only the A/C belt. Praise the Lord! Moments later we were back on the road heading for Iquique.
For six hours we drove along the coast of Chile with mountains on the right and ocean on the left. It was a little frightening as the roads curved in, out, and around the mountains going along the water. Once again rails were not found and we were traveling along the cliffs. Blisters were forming again on my right hand from holding the door handle so tight. The boys were all smiles today because at one point, we pulled to the side and allowed them to throw rocks over the edge and splash into the ocean. We even drove through a tunnel carved out through a mountain. A little boy's dream come true. As we entered into Iquique, we noticed right away how large, busy, and populated the city is with bumper to bumper traffic. People were coming and going from a hard day’s work and heading to their homes. We checked into a hotel on the ocean and were amazed at the fishing boats seen right outside our bedroom window. We were able to walk along the beach and collect some shells as a memory of our journey. It brought our hearts so much joy to see the boys having so much fun. We bowed our heads this night for bringing us this far and for continually showing Himself faithful.
Day 6: Saturday September 8, 2012
I woke up this morning with Joe kneeling beside the bed in prayer. I quickly joined him and we began to pray for this day as we would be entering into Peru today and crossing yet another border.....our last triumph and we would need God's hand guiding us through. We were on the road by 10:00 a.m. heading towards the border. Christian and Micah were in the backseat coloring and playing with their cars, laughter bubbling out every few seconds. We reached the exit border of Chile and passed through with ease. The Peruvian border was just a few seconds drive away and we began the process of entering the country. They gave us our 183 days visa with no problem and allowed us to enter into the country. Now it was time to get our vehicle and belongings approved. We took our paper work to the police and he looked inside our vehicle. The car could go, but the belongings needed to be scanned one by one. Oh my! We were then to take every bag, all sixteen, and box's out one by one and take them into a building to be scanned and then to be set aside and wait on the other side until all bags had gone through. I took the boys and waited with the checked bags while Joe took each bag through the scanner. The pile where I stood was growing and growing. I was beginning to become nervous as all the people were walking by seeing “everything” I owned laid out before me. I was trying to keep an eye on the boys and our luggage at the same time. As I was standing there a man approached me asking me questions as if trying to distract me from something. He was not a police or a worker, just a bystander. As I was trying to explain to him that I did not want to chat, I looked over and saw another man sitting right next to my boys with his eyes glued to them. He was watching their every move. I instantly grabbed my little boy’s hands and stood to the side. The men saw I had understood their intentions and they walked away together towards the parking lot, got into a car and drove away. I hugged them and gave God silent thanks for guiding me by the Holy Spirit and for protecting us and prayed for wisdom during times of distress. A few minutes later Joe came out with the last bag and was able to bring our car over so we could reload everything back in. Two hours later we were back on the road and on our way to Tacna. We made it into Peru. We gave God all the glory for only He could bring us this far safely and across three borders with all of our belongings safely in tow without any taxation for our possession.
Day 7: Sunday September 9, 2012
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your path straight.” This verse was spoken aloud so many times throughout our journey. Whenever I was feeling down, Joe would repeat this verse and whenever Joe was feeling discouraged I would repeat it to him. It brings great comfort knowing that God is continually near, especially in times when your own understanding of what is going on around you is limited. Driving from Tacna to Puno towards Lake Titicaca, we had no knowledge we would be facing more mountains. This time, we would reach heights of 12,000+ feet above sea level. At one point, we had to go through a 50 mile stretch of dirt roads weaving in and out of mountains, crossing over small bridges and not always knowing if our large vehicle would make it across. During this time, we and our belongings were filled with dust from the roads. We continued on around massive rocks, and through small villages where the houses were made of straw, dirt, or wood. We passed many people working hard on their land with their grazing llamas and sheep running along beside them. The women were so beautiful that I could not keep from tearing up a few times with their ability to work their land and homes, while still being able to laugh and play with their children at the same time. I saw joy in between those mountains. At one point during our drive, I looked over at Joe and saw tears streaming down his face as he was whispering sweet praises to the Lord for bringing us safely into Peru. This was our new home land and we were falling in love with its people. These were the people of Peru that God was calling us to love and it was coming to us so easily. I think we were both surprised at how easily it flowed from within us.
We entered into Puno, Peru after a long ten hour drive up those mountains once again. We instantly gave God praise and thanks for bringing us through this day with no mechanical problems and we were only another days drive away. We were in tears for most of the day because we were filled with exhaustion and barely any strength to continue. However, God carried us through and gave us what we needed to continue.
Day 8: Monday September 10, 2012
By early morning we were all packed in the car and ready to finish our journey on to Cusco. Joe put the keys into the ignition and nothing. The car would not start. We held hands and began to pray. As soon as we said, “Amen” Joe walked over to a tour bus driver right next to us and inquired what we could do. He then walked over with starter fluid, sprayed it a few times, and the car started. Praise the Lord! Ok, now we were on the road and headed for Cusco. Our God would carry us to our new home this day. After a ten hour peaceful drive of no mountains to climb, we made it into Cusco. As we entered into the city, we were filled with praise and the knowledge of how faithful God is to our family. We give Him all the glory that we made it from Obligado, Paraguay to Cusco, Peru. We could not have driven a single mile without Him.
Why did we drive from Paraguay to Peru in that old 1988 Suburban?
It is simple. God told us to move to Peru to share the gospel through helping to start a church. Our means to get there was through our 1988 Suburban driving taking an eight day journey where He would teach our family unity, trust, contentment, loyalty, joy, and so much more. We feel confident in His provision over our family. No matter where He asks us to go or how He asks us to get there, we will go and be obedient to His call.
We also know that without our Lord and the prayers of our brother's and sister's in Christ, we would never have been able to make this journey. While we were driving through every country, God was with us and one of our brother's and sister's was praying. No matter what time of the day, night or circumstance it was God was always with us. We had brother's and sister's in Christ continually praying for us. Thank you for your continued support.