One of the really cool things that JAARS does for Wycliffe missionaries is that they have whole departments who have the responsibility to assist missionaries-in-the-field in sorting out the best transportation solutions for their field locations. For example, there are some folks here in North Carolina who advise field organizations about cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles that can be used to meet their needs in their location–the Land Transportation Department.
Last week the folks in our ICC program offered for us to participate in a off-road driving course hosted by the Land Transportation Department. Naturally, as I would with anything involving engines, and tires, and dirt and mud, I jumped at the opportunity!
We had the classroom portion of the course on Tuesday afternoon. Three of us from the ICC class showed up, and Mike Smith, one of the guys in the Land Transportation Department, showed us around a ’96 Isuzu Trooper, one of the project and demonstration vehicles kept at the JAARS center–it and others like it are used to test technologies, systems and parts before they’re recommended to folks serving overseas. It was a really cool time, as we started under the hood, and then ultimately ended up under the SUV itself, where we were able to get a closer look at the drive train and the various components.
That wrapped up the classroom portion of our course, but all that demonstration had an end-goal…to prepare us to complete the driving course! I went out this afternoon with Dan (a colleague of Mike’s) and completed two different sections of the off-road driving course. The “course” is located behind the airport here at the JAARS center, and consists of three or four one-lane, dirt-track, rutted, scarred, mud-laden, bog-hiding, bone-jarring, vehicle-bruising roads to drive. Dan drove the first one while I rode shotgun. After completing one full loop on that one, he put me in the driver’s seat for a go-round.
I gotta admit, it was lots of fun to drive these courses! It brought me back to my childhood, days spent getting various vehicles stuck in that beautiful Southeast Texas black gumbo swamp mud. I drove the first course (the one he demo’d for me), and only got stuck once–but I didn’t feel too bad, as it was the same spot where Dan got stuck. He then let me go down the more challenging second and third tracks.
On the third track, the difference between the left- and right-side ruts is about 3 feet vertically. The Cherokee canted about 30 degrees to the driver’s side as we crawled down. However, about 50-60 feet in, the washout shifts across the ruts, and then the lower rut is on the passenger’s side. As we crested the switch, and then came back down on the other side, the cant of the Jeep shifted about 60 degrees. It was pretty awesome!
I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to explore these skills at a place like this, with really cool guys like Dan and Mike. They love Jesus and they really know their stuff when it comes to mechanical issues–and even more, they know why we need folks like them to help make God’s word available in the heart language of the people he created.