Fifty Marks Short

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

It was on one of these trips that year that the courageous little car engine breathed its last.

It happened in West Germany. I was on my way home from a trip to East Germany and Poland. With me in the car were two Dutch boys I had picked up in Berlin, students who had spent their Easter vacation working in the refugee camps. At five o'clock one afternoon we were spinning along, when suddenly there was a crackling sound in the rear of the car and the engine died.

We coasted to a stop and opened the little door in the rear, but nothing we could do would make it start again.

Then I straightened up and saw that beside the road, at the spot where the car's own momentum had deposited us, was an emergency telephone box. I picked up the receiver and asked for a tow truck. Within twenty minutes we were all bending over the engine with the manager of the service garage.

He inspected the various parts in silence for some minutes, then walked forward and looked at the odometer.

"Ninety-seven thousand kilometers," he read aloud. His puzzled frown had not left him. "It's a good mileage, of course, and yet unless you've been over unusually rough terrain. . . ."

Now I saw what was bothering him. A little shamefacedly I admitted that the odometer had long since reached its maximum reading of 99,999 and flipped over the zero mark again: this was the second time it had registered ninety-seven thousand.

"Then I should say," said the manager, wiping the oil from his hands, "that you've got your money's worth. That engine just hasn't any more to give."

"How long would it take to put in a new one?"

He stopped to consider. "My crew leaves in ten minutes. They could have a new engine in for you in an hour, but you'd have pay them a good tip for staying overtime."

"How much would the whole thing cost, including the tip?" "Five hundred marks."

Without hesitation I said, "Go ahead. I'll go get some more money changed at the train station."

It was on board the streetcar going to the station that I counted my money and realized that all I had with me would not make five hundred marks. There'd be no help from the two students back at the garage: they were riding with me in the first place because they were flat broke.

Should I go back and cancel the work order? No. I could see God's hand too clearly in all of this. Stopping precisely at the emergency telephone, having the engine wear out here in Germany where it came from, rather than in some distant and hostile spot where replacement would have been impossible and questions awkward. I was far too familiar with the way Christ looks after the practical side of the ministry to miss these signs. This was all His timing, and the question of the money was also in His hands. I was not worried, just fascinated to see how He was going to work it all out.

When I had changed every last guilder, it came-with the German money in my pocket-to 470 marks. Fifty shy of the amount I needed to pay the bill and buy gasoline on the way home.

"Well," I said to myself, "something will happen on the street­car going back."

But nothing did. I got to the garage to find the workmen just finishing up and my two passengers nowhere to be seen. They'd gone for a walk, one of the men said, packing away his tools. The others were cleaning up too. I could delay the moment of reckoning no longer.

And at that instant, the two young Dutchmen raced through the door, one of them waving something in his hand. "Andy!" He shouted. "Craziest thing ever happened to me! We were just walking along the street when this lady came up to us and asked if we were Dutchmen. When I said yes, she gave me this bill! She said God wanted us to have it!”

The bill was for fifty marks.

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 245-248.

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