- ask for help from one of the 25 Africans that have immediately gathered around your stalled car
- See if a local farmer can hook up and tow you with his donkey
- Load all your belongings on a bicycle (which is not an uncommon sight!)
- Have a nervous break down, cry, and pray (not necessarily in that order)
Having car trouble in America can be a stressful experience, but a simple phone call can have a tow truck hooking up within minutes. Africa is much different!
A couple days ago we drove 60 minutes to Nairobi for our family’s final shopping trip to stock up on groceries before the dorm boys return on Monday. Our 22-year-old car was running rough and getting worse. When we parked in Nairobi I tinkered with the carburetor but couldn’t find anything wrong. Before going any further, I must give you a little background about driving in Kenya.
People are everywhere. No matter what size road or highway, there will be pedestrians and bicycles on the road, crossing the road, pulling carts, or who knows what else they are doing in your driving lane. There will be carts pulled by donkeys or by men in your lane. There will even be cars and motorcycles driving on the shoulder in either direction! Yes, they could be coming right at you on the shoulder! Roads are almost never marked with lines of any kind, and vehicles pass anywhere they want.
It is hard enough to drive in broad daylight. At night, add to those many difficulties that some cars have no lights on, and most come at you with their bright lights on, blinding you. To make matters worse the night rain makes your windows muddy on the outside and foggy on the inside. The grand finale is the night also brings drunken pedestrians stumbling in your lane wearing dark clothes. The driving conditions are so bad that our mission organization forbids driving at night without special permission. For a video of driving in Nairobi: https://vimeo.com/64490333
So with a couple hours of daylight remaining, we leave Nairobi for our one-hour drive back to RVA. The car continues to run worse until we get to a hill the car cannot climb. Because it is a four-wheel drive I drop it into low range, but eventually we get to a point where the car will go no further. I pull onto the shoulder and look for a place to roll backwards onto a side road. As I begin to roll back a truck pulls over in front of us to help. 30 minutes later this kind gentleman is pulling us to his farm nearby which has 24 hour security guards and is a safe place to leave our car overnight. A friend from RVA picks us up and we finally arrive safely home. A one-hour drive has turned into three hours, but we thank the Lord for the willingness of a Kenyan farmer to tow us to safety.
The next day our staff mechanic at RVA went to the farm, fixed our car and brought it back. Perhaps someday Kenya will have AAA, but until then, we are thankful for God’s provision and protection!
As a Bible teacher and department head I cannot leave campus very often, so Jennifer is the one who drives every week or two into Nairobi for supplies. Thank the Lord I was the one driving this time. It is our concern that our old car could break down when she is driving alone or with a couple other women. Dependable cars in Africa are not cheap; in fact the average cost is around $20,000 for a used and dependable vehicle.
Two years ago we purchased a 20-year-old 4×4 for $5000 because it was the least expensive well-maintained vehicle we could find, and it could seat 9. At that time we still didn’t know if we were going to remain at RVA beyond our first two-year commitment. It has served us well for those two years.
80% of our driving is on paved roads (trips to Nairobi), although the condition of the roads is sometimes so bad that gravel roads are actually better. The other 20% requires four-wheel drive. Much of our ministry to Kenyans outside of the campus of RVA is included in that 20% which requires the use of four-wheel drive.
We have the opportunity to purchase a Toyota station wagon with only 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles) from another missionary family that is leaving our area. The price is $7,500. It has been well maintained and is in great shape. This small station wagon has seating for 10 people—legally (well, legal in Kenya)! We can do 80% of our driving with this station wagon, and keep the old 4×4 around for the 20%. This solution is much cheaper than upgrading our 4×4.
We have started a car fund, and have until July before the car is available. Giving a special one-time gift is easily done online by clicking “donate” on the right column of this blog. Be sure in the “Comments” section of the form to type the words “Car Fund”. If you prefer to send a check, be sure it is payable to Africa Inland Mission, and include a separate note that says, “For Bill and Jennifer Hildebrand car fund” (our name is not to appear on the check). The address to send a check is:
Africa Inland Mission
P.O. Box 3611
Peachtree, GA 30269
Thanks for all your prayers and support. I know that we just finished raising $2,500 in monthly commitments a few months ago so we could return to RVA, so I hesitate to mention another need so soon. But we are trusting God’s provision—where he calls he provides what is needed to be obedient to that call. God may put it on the hearts of some to help, and not on the hearts of others—we are trusting him.
In Christ’s love and blessings,
The Hildebrand Family