Updated: Sep 10
The streets are packed with cars, buses, pedestrians crossing, delivery bikes and motorcycles. Getting home from orchestra classes on a weeknight involves my full attention. Driving in the city is both exhilarating and tiresome. It has taken some time to learn the rhythm of traffic patterns in Barranquilla. As we weave in and out, we come to a stop. I look over to the right and see smoke coming out of our engine. Oh no. I turn off the car immediately, however, we are in the middle of a busy street.
The girls are afraid, one asking if the car is going to explode. Once I quickly reassure them that an overheated car is normal, I roll down the window at a few waiters hanging outside of a bar. "Nos ayudan a mover el carro?" (Will you help us move the car?) They seemingly jump at the opportunity and in a few seconds are behind our car pushing it.
The car is safely out of the way of traffic, and I call Joel. Here we go, I think. These types of events are stressful when they happen in a place where you know the norms, have contacts and speak the language fluently. In a highly relational culture, Google is not the best means of getting help. Everyone knows someone. If they don't know someone, they know someone who knows someone. The search begins.
All four of us dismount and begin the process of finding help. We have one car, and Joel is walking from home to get cash out in case we need it for the tow truck or taxi. Eventually, he will make his way over to us in an InDriver (the equivalent of Uber here). Our first hole-in-the-wall restaurant is a bust. One guy doesn't look up from his phone while I ask the woman sitting folding napkins. They don't know of anyone who could help us. We walk over to the bar where the gentlemen helped and see if maybe they know of anyone. I approach the waiter and two men sitting at one of many empty tables on the patio, drinking Cokes. Greetings are important. Hola, como estan? Storytelling is key. In Western culture getting straight to the point is a priority. In a Latin context, the explanation of the story either connects the person to you or it doesn't. The stakes are higher, and I know I need that connection!
Lord, I wonder what you have for us in this situation this evening.
He begins looking on his phone for a mechanic, and as he looks he is curious about us. Turns out he is married to an American and has a daughter. We begin talking about the private school system and how expensive it is. Eventually, I tell him I need to get back to the car to see if it has cooled. He gets up quickly and asks the waiter to bring a jug of water for the car. Before I know it, I am back in the car turning it on to see if the fan is working..... nada. Thankfully the car does turn on.
Around the same time that Joel hops out of a taxi, and a woman that has come to our Potluck dinners a couple of times also walks up. Lila! Como estas? We begin catching up and asking how she has been and the courtesy is then extended in our direction. Regardless of the situation, pleasantries are still expected.
Joel starts chatting with the man from the bar about the fan issue, meanwhile, Lila points to the apartment building in front of where we stopped. "I live here", she says. "Let me check with the portero (building guard) to see if there is help close by."
After a brief moment, she comes back and tells me across the street a man named Rafa is the neighborhood mechanic. Lila walks over with me and knocks on the man's door. When he appears she explains the situation and asks if he can help. "Claro!" (Of course!) he says as he gets his shoes on. After crossing the street, Joel greets him and they begin chatting and pointing. Joel holds the cellphone flashlight as he looks around with Rafa talking the whole time. I hop in the car and turn it on when they tell me to. The girls are over on the sidewalk playing a game in a circle and giggling. Lila excuses herself to go up to her apartment. I thank her profusely for her help.
A few moments later we have been able to pull the car into Rafa's shop and he offers us a ride home. We graciously accept and start piling into the small hatchback with a cello, a viola, and a violin. Joel squeezes into the passenger seat with a cello somehow fitting in the small space between the dashboard and his face and body.
What an adventure!
On the ride home, I peer over at the girls smiling with a pile of instrument cases and bags in their laps. "Isn't it cool how God takes care of us?" I say to them as we weave in and out of traffic. They nod in agreement. "It's incredible, Mom. This man is so nice!" says Reagan with a twinkle in her eyes. Taylor chimes in "That Lila was walking by at exactly that moment, and lived exactly in that apartment!" I smile.
The visual that I get consistently over the past two years is that of a massive, rolling ocean in the deep sea. We ride all the way up and down, like the rising of my chest as I breathe in and the movement downward as I exhale. Enjoy the ride. I know exactly where you are.
Learning to trust God and others has been our master class this term. It takes real faith to believe that our God supplies all our needs and uses our neediness to accept help from others. As we trust Him it goes beyond faith and into wonderment and delight as we see our Heavenly Father care for us.
We understand Paul as he says "I have all I need and more" (Phil.4:18).
As I write this post, Rafa is driving around the city to various shops looking for the right part for our car because the dealership part is expensive. We thank the Lord for taking care of us through people. Not only is God providing for us, He is teaching us about a people and a place. Our appreciation and admiration for the people and the culture deepens as they extend their hands in help.