Dec 7 – 18th, 2016
Ouaddai 4X4 Adventure
Chad, Africa, Eastern Region
After three hours it was my turn driving the Toyota Land Cruiser dodging the pot holes, ruts, craters and massively deteriorated roadside with a 3 -5 foot drop off. This was the paved two lane main highway east through the country. In both directions vehicles were driving as if on a double diamond downhill ski slalom, taking up the whole road and at times jumping off the road to try and find smoother ground. As you might imagine, this is very focused driving. About four hours out I noticed the truck steering pulling to the left. I’m thinking to myself, that’s new, why would it be pulling to the left? The light comes on in my mind, a tire is going flat! Right at this point the road is level with the surrounding terrine and I pull off. The tire is destroyed, but still intact. This is why one buys good quality tires! It takes about 15 minutes to change the tire. Our teams always carry two spares. In the process I asked the owner of the Land Cruiser, “In your 20 years of living and working here, do you have any idea how many tires you have changed?” She said no, but in her first year, on one two week survey trip they had 13 flats. She is a prime example of the single ladies who come to work in Chad. The bold, beautiful, courageous, intelligent, enterprising, sacrificing single women who are willing to go and do what so few men would ever think of doing. I’m in awe of these women.
On this trip I was able to help out four teams with upgrades to solar systems, structural housing repairs, plumbing, electrical, automotive, refrigeration and even a kitty door installation. Before you start thinking, wow, he can do a lot, please know it’s God using this cracked pot (me). I often find myself in over my head. When possible I email, call or Skype friends who are actually good at these different things and I get advice as I go. Sometimes it’s just a prayer, “God, please don’t let me mess this up.” God is good, I am willing, people get helped and we all get blessed for it.
For one lady, I built a wooden box with insulation inside that slips over her tabletop solar refrigerator freezer. It’s a beautiful stainless steel fridge, but it’s always cold on the outside. That told me it doesn’t have enough insulation in its walls. The heat transfer coils are located on the small front and side cut outs allowing me to do this type of modification. Hopefully it will be more efficient now. And it is so pretty!
In this photo I am replacing dry rotted lumber and adding three 4″X4″X20′ support beams to the roof, that will allow the team coming after Christmas to install a good sized set of solar panels on the roof.
Vehicles in Chad
With my love of 4X4 vehicles, I have to digress the maintenance now. Below is an example of the bush taxi I took to the far east, near some Darfur refuge camps. In our early days in Cameroon we took bush taxis that were old beat up passenger vans, massively over loaded and going places they never should have. But today here in Chad, there are many of these Toyota Hardtop Troop carriers acting as bush taxis. In general they are the right vehicle for the job; one of the toughest production vehicles made. There were 11 of us in this one. Just as we were heading into the bush we came to a police and immigration check point. They asked all of the men for identity papers. I gave them my passport. After going page by page and back again they said they were sorry, but I didn’t seem to have authorization for going into this part of the country. Oh yeah, the special papers I was carrying that were stamped by the the proper gov’t office in N’Djamena, These were my authorization for entering this area. They weren’t overly happy with these additional papers. They really wanted to see a stamp inside the passport. I also don’t know Chadian Arabic, which is spoken more than French out here. I called the teammate with the new fridge cover, who lived 5 minutes away. She was there in four minutes and after she spoke with the authorities, in Arabic, they allowed me to continue. Being able to communicate in the local language sure is important.
So, this Land Cruiser climbing out of a dry river wash is exactly how we did it over and over again on our 4 hour journey. Very steep entry and exit to and from the wash. Our taxi had an excellent driver, but his vehicle had some mechanical problems. The 4X4 system was not operational and his transmission clutch mechanism was slowly becoming disabled. About two hours into our four hour trip the clutch quit completely, meaning it would no longer disengage. This meant each time he stopped he had to turn the engine off, put it in second gear and use the starter to get the vehicle moving and the engine started. He had a very difficult time shifting to a higher or lower gear after that. A diesel engine has low rpm power, so sometimes when crossing the soft sandy wash, the vehicle would sink in. When that happened the engine would slow down and he really needed to down shift to first, but couldn’t. Amazingly it kept chugging along and most of the time we made it through. Just twice did it quit while in the middle of the wash. Once there were men waiting to help push people through, (for a small payment of course). The next time was a 1/4 mile wide wash and we were behind a small vehicle that did not have enough ground clearance. It got stuck when the underside of the vehicle started dragging in the sand and the drive tires just couldn’t get traction any more. Its called being high centered. Our driver did a sharp left turn trying not to hit them. As he got off the path, we sunk quickly getting stuck right along side the other vehicle. All 11 of us surrounded the other stuck vehicle and tried with all our might to get them unstuck. But we couldn’t. They would have to wait for a larger vehicle to tow them out. Then 10 of us got around our stuck vehicle, pushed and got ours free. This only happened three times before we made it across that wash!!!
God is good, all the time. I love this work, but I am wearing out.
God, please send a young maintenance couple or family to replace us.
Pray for courage and wisdom for followers of Jesus in Chad.
Pray for Gods words to bring people to Him and help them know Him.
Pray for our funding, we are still at about 75% of where we should be.
Pray for the country of Chad, its in a severe financial crisis and looks to get worse in the new year.
We are so grateful for you our team, we could never do this without you!
Jim and Judy McCabe