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My journey

Teach a man to wrench and he will fix his own stuff

By Timothy J. Berg

My daughter’s 1994 Pontiac Sunbird, nicknamed Bertha, died. The oil had leaked out, causing a connecting rod to exit the left side of the engine block. I bought the car back from my daughter and helped her find another car. I installed a good used motor in Bertha and put her up for sale. That’s when Chris called.

At 17, Chris couldn’t get a loan from a bank, but he wanted to make payments. Since he and my daughter were friends, I wrote up a short contract. Chris gave $500 as a down payment, and then he drove Bertha to a local garage to get it inspected.

He called the next day and informed me it would cost $1,200 to get the rear main seal replaced. The car was leaking oil as fast as he could pour it in. I told him to just bring the car to my house and I’d give him back his $500. Instead of taking my offer, Chris pleaded with me to fix the car. I was reluctant at first, but after giving it some thought, I told him that if he helped me fix the car I would repair it.

Chris and I met the following evening. Six hours later we had the transmission out of the car. I taught Chris how to do most of the work. As we worked, we talked.

I asked Chris about his job, his mom and dad, his siblings and his life in general. It was a conversation built on everyday stuff we all have going on but rarely tell someone else about — especially when life isn’t going the way we’d like for it to go. Chris eventually told me he was living with a girl and they were going to get married.

While he talked, I listened. I began to talk with him about what God’s Word had to say about premarital sexual relationships. I never accused him of living in sin, but I explained how God gave us the Bible as an owner’s manual for life. If we followed the guidelines found in the Bible, I explained, we had an excellent chance of living a life full of God’s blessings.

I drew an analogy between the Ten Commandments and the work we were doing.

“God wanted to tell us how to live a life that was free of avoidable heartaches,” I said. “One rule about cars says, ‘If you let all the oil drain from an engine, it will stop running.’ When the pistons seize up, that’s a matter of consequence, not punishment.”

Because Chris excelled at helping me, I bought him a set of tools. The $65 investment would be worth it if he could work on his car himself. Teach a man to wrench and he can fix his own stuff, I thought.

We laughed a lot during those two nights. As we finished putting the car back together, I could see Chris was so proud of himself.

Over the next six weeks Chris called me three times because something else went wrong with the car. Each time he needed a little less help than the time before. On the last call, he told me he’d already unbolted the bad part and just needed me to help him get a replacement. He’d learned how to wrench for himself.

Six weeks later I was in my garage, when Chris walked up the drive. After we exchanged a bear hug, he began sobbing uncontrollably. I thought for sure someone had died, as he could barely choke out his words. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“I just kept thinking about all the stuff you taught me, and I had to make a change,” he said. “I told my girlfriend to move back in with her folks and that we needed to do things right if we wanted to have a marriage that would be blessed by God.”

While we worked on the car I had no outline or set of key Scriptures ready for such a moment. I was just trying to love my neighbor as myself. Evidently, that was all he really needed. Thanks, Bertha.

TIMOTHY J. BERG owns and operates CrankShaft Motor Car Club, LLC in Nixa, Mo. and attends James River Assembly of God in Ozark, Mo.

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