10 October, 2018

And Then There Was One

      So!  Last month the Grahams left PNG for the last time.  Well, maybe not the last time, who can say if they may not come back to visit some time?  But they sold their house, sold their beat-up old Toyota Hilux, packed up whatever they wanted to keep and shipped it back to the US.

      So who were they?  They were translators here in PNG, and God blessed their efforts to translate the Bible into one of the languages of PNG.  It was a long, hard slog and though it ends well, their PNG story has more than its fair share of heartbreak in it, especially in the early years.

      But who were they to me?  Aside from being my neighbors here in Ukarumpa, (they lived just a few doors away) they were also at my POC.  Not as fellow students, but as staff members.  In 2002 they were on staff at the Pacific Orientation Course, the place where I learned so much about Melanesian culture and where I learned Melanesian Pidgin during my first 15 weeks in country.

     The students (and some of the staff members) of the February 2002 Pacific Orientation Course.  All gone now, except for the hairy guy in the back row.

      I'm sure the Grahams had their doubts about my long term PNG survival; although I was quick to pick up the language, I struggled a bit with other things.  Melanesian culture is all about relationships, and I've always been a fiercely independent sort of guy.  I'll admit it, some aspects of the culture are hard for me.  The Grahams were always kind and gracious to me at POC, no matter what doubts they may (or may not) have had.

    Heading out on a three day hike during my POC training.  I was elected as "hike leader" which in itself was a valuable learning experience!  

    As part of my language and culture training, I lived with this family in their village in Madang Province for 5 weeks.

      Each POC group is different.  Some groups really "gel" and become close friends for the rest of their careers in PNG; others, not so much.  My own POC group never got super close--after POC I think we got together one time for a picnic and that was pretty much it.  We didn't hate each other, we just all spread out to different areas and moved in different circles.  Still, we had all been through POC together and though we may not have made much of that fact, it was still a fact.

      As the years piled up behind us, various people left for various reasons.  The couple who had been the directors of our POC retired, some of my fellow students ended up moving on to other countries, others left for personal or health reasons, and some of them stayed until they felt called to leave.  There are lots of reasons why people leave.

       Eventually only the Grahams were left from the staff of the February 2002 POC, and only myself and the Scott family were left of the students.  Then the Scotts left, and it was just me and the Grahams, last survivors of that particular session of POC.

       And now the Grahams are gone, too, and, to quote Job's servants, "I alone have escaped to tell you about it."

       16 years ago (almot 17 now!) I never would have guessed that I would be the last member of that group to still be here.  God has been good to me, he has provided for all of my needs here and so much more.  Certainly "more than I could ask or imagine".


27 June, 2018

Back at Work

Okay, so first things first:

The Grand Furlough Experiment RV was a bust.  Didn't work out.  I never got the generator working (a blow to my personal professional pride, if I'm honest, I mean, it's just a small generator, I've repaired dozens of them before, why did this one stubbornly refuse to cooperate?).  In the end, I sold it for less than I had in it, which was less than ideal, especially as I had just put all new tires on it.


Chalk one up to experience, lesson learned.  In the end I did buy a car, I bought a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.  In it's former life it was a Raleigh, North Carolina police car.  It was cheap, it runs good, drives good, and I like it.  It's almost as good as the '89 Crown Vic cop car I used to have before I went to PNG.  In some ways it is better.

The whole family likes it.  I'm sure I'm permanently warping my kids' taste in cars, but I'm okay with that.  We parked it at a relative's place when we left and I expect we'll use it again next time we're stateside.

Speaking of that, yes, we are back in PNG now.  We've actually been back for several months and have gotten back into the normal swing of things.

Now, the real reason why I am writing this today:

Among the motorcycles that I work on here are a number of mid 1980's Honda XL250R's.  If you know these bikes, you likely know that although they are powered by single cylinder engines, they are equipped with dual carburetors.  In fact it would be more correct to think of them as a single 2 barrel carburetor, because that's how it works--at idle, only one carb is actually open, and as you add throttle the other begins to open.  The linkage between the two is arranged in such a way that when the first carb is about 1/3 to 1/2 open, the other starts to open and they both reach full open at the same time.  Very much like an old car equipped with a 4 barrel carb--low speed driving/riding is done using only half of the carb, but at higher speeds the whole carburetor is at work.  In theory, the system gives you all of the advantages of both a small and a large carburetor.

Why is this important?  Well, those old "dual carb" Hondas use a unique cylinder head.  Later, when Honda abandoned the progressive carb in favor of one big carb, they changed the cylinder head casting so that the 2 heads are not really interchangeable.  It is possible to bolt a single carb head onto an engine that was originally equipped with a dual carb head, but then you run into all kinds of problems when you try to put it back into a frame that was originally equipped with a dual carb engine.

Why is that important?  Well, all those old dual carb heads are cracking now.  It's true that the cylinder head is designed in such a way that there is very little material between the spark plug hole and the exhaust valves, (which is where they crack) but in Honda's defense, Honda probably never expected people to still be riding these bikes 30+ years after they were made.  Nevertheless, they are still good bikes and as long as the head isn't cracked, they are pretty easy to keep running.

Where am I going with this?  Well, over the years I have seen a number of XL250R's, (and a couple of '84-'85 XR250R's, which use the same cylinder head) retired simply because of cylinder head cracks.  Finding an uncracked head nowdays is extremely difficult--in fact when I go looking on eBay, 9 times out of 10 the heads being sold there are cracked ones.  I'm guessing that the sellers probably don't know any better, but if you know what to look for and if the seller has included a picture of the combustion chamber, it's easy to see.  One poor friend of mine here, while on a trip to the US, paid $300 for a head from a junkyard in California, carried it here in her suitcase, and gave it to me to use on her bike, only to have me tell her 30 seconds later that the new head was cracked as well.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that there are a number of overwise perfectly good old bikes floating around here with unusable engines.  Some time ago I started wondering what other people around the world were doing with their old XL250R rolling chassis, so naturally I consulted the interweb.  I had a couple of ideas that I thought would probably work, but I wanted to know what other people were doing.

Imagine my surprise when I found that there are basically NO pictures of repowered XL250R's on the internet.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really--I mean, who would bother with a 30 year old dual sport bike?  Anyway, I mean to rectify that situation today.  Here is a series of pictures of 2 things that you can do to repower your XL250R:

Zongshen/Lifan engine.  This would be a super easy one to do.  I had an XL250R on my bench with no engine in it and so I experimentally dropped an old Zongshen 200 into it:

This would be a super easy mod to do--the front and rear upper motor mounts almost line up as is!  You'd probably have to line up the rear upper mount, then make up new mounts for all the others, at least that's the way I'd do it.  The downside of course, is that you'd be going down a fair amount in power, but if you're living in a place like PNG, where just getting the bike going again is the most important thing, you could certainly do a lot worse than a Zongshen or Lifan Honda CG clone.  You could even work out a way to hook up the electric start.

There is plenty of clearance for the exhaust pipe.

and the intake is even more or less pointed at one of the intakes to the original dual carbs!  It's almost like it was meant to be.  This would be a super easy repower.

Access to the oil filler is not too good, but a bit of the frame (the flat part immediately above the swing arm pivot) could easily be cut away here without sacrificing too much strength.

And here is my OTHER idea, the one I'm somewhat excited about and I'll tell you why in a minute:
A Honda CMX250 "Rebel" engine.  Okay, so it's not the most obvious choice, but let me explain why I like it.  250 Rebels (and their ancestors, the CM185 and CM200 Twinstars) have been around since the late 1970's.  Engines are fairly cheap and easy to find.  This one I built out of parts of three motors, including all the kickstart mechanism of an old CM185, since the Rebels don't have kickstarters and I like any bike that is being used here to have a kickstarter, even if it's just a back-up for the electric start.  But Rebel parts are easy to get and there are millions of them out there.  If you are not familiar with the engines, they are 250cc twins and they have appeared in numerous Hondas around the world, such as the CA250 Benly, the CB250 Superdream, CB250 Nighthawk, CM250, CMX250, and possibly others I am forgetting.  On top of that, the chinese have copied it for various different bikes (and possibly ATV's?), so some really inexpensive parts are available out there if you don't mind buying chinese.

In this case, I made up some mounting plates that picked up the original XL250R front mounting points.  I was pretty happy with how these turned out.  The Rebel engine's front mounts are 3mm wider than the XL's frame mounts, and the way I mounted this engine, all of that 3mm ended up on the right side, which means that there is a 3mm thick shim between the frame and the mounting plate on that side.  I also had to relieve the frame a bit to clear the starter--this was probably the hardest part of the job so far, but I'm happy with how it turned out.  The starter motor in this picture came from the same CM185 engine as the kick start mechanism did, which means that it is a 6V starter.  I'm planning to just leave it in there and see how long it will last.  My 12V VW beetle had a 6V starter in it for years and it seemed to work just fine, naturally a 6V motorcycle starter isn't nearly as big as a 6V car starter, but we'll see how long it will last.

Here you can see how I relieved the frame for the starter--there is actually a carefully shaped plate welded over the hole that resulted when I relieved the frame.

Here's the rear mount I made up--the gray part.  It bolts in where the original engine's upper rear mount went.  It has two tabs welded on to it that reach down and pick up the Rebel's upper rear engine mount.

Underneath, I found that the lower rear Rebel engine mount was the same width as the original XL250R, so all I had to do there was cut out the original mounts and make up new ones to weld onto the stubs of the old ones.

I still have not got the exhaust made up, but I don't anticipate any problems there.  I'm a little more apprehensive about the carburetor--rather than using the original Rebel single carb (it would run into the rear shock so I can't use it) I am going with a dual carb set-up such as is used on the European version of the CB250.  I'll let you know how it goes!

So there!  Now I've fixed a gaping hole in the internet.  Now thee are pics of what you can do with an old XL250R chassis.


28 August, 2017

The Grand Furlough Experiment

“Clare?” I hollered over my shoulder, “Fridge!” It was pretty much routine now.
“I'm ready!” she called from somewhere in the dark far behind me.
The kids were all sleeping, the thundering of the mighty 454 V8 next to me slowed as I lifted my foot off the throttle and gently applied the brakes. Carefully, I eased into the curve.

So we're on furlough now. I know, it's supposed to be called “secondment return period” or “home assignment” or something like that these days, but in my mind, it's still just “furlough”.  Like so many things in life, it's good and it's bad.  Good to see family and friends, good to experience so many of the freedoms we have in the US and the UK, bad because it involves incessant traveling and doing that part of my job that I am least confident about my ability to do well, that is speaking in churches.

We have in the past often dreamed about how nice it might be to have a motorhome for our travels in the US. New motorhomes are well beyond out price range, but hey, I'm a mechanic, how hard could it be to pick up an old one and fix it up? Right?

So we decided to do an experiment. I started looking through craigslist ads in the area where my parents live and asked them to look at several of the more promising ones. We set ourselves a limit of $5000. We eventually ended up with a 1988 Coachmen Catalina for $4000. It's 31 feet long and, somewhat remarkably, had only a little over 25,000 miles on it. Also the roof had recently been sealed with a quality sealant.


Normally, when I buy a used car, the first thing I do is put new tires on it. I know how important good quality tires can be for safety, but in this case the previous owner assured us that it had new tires on the rear. So we decided to get new ones only for the front. As they were kind of an odd size, we ordered them online. While waiting for them to arrive, I discovered that the previous owner had not been perfectly honest about the condition of the rear tires—they were old, and out of 4 tires, 3 different manufacturers were represented. One of then looked like it had good tread on it, but it was the lowest quality one of the bunch. In fact, an identical one that had been on the front had gone flat while the previous owner was driving the motor home to my parents' house. And another one, also flat, was found on the spare wheel.

We also discovered that the generator was not working, though it looked like it could be repaired. Since we were planning to be in Waxhaw, North Carolina on the 21st, I had the new rear tires and the parts to repair the generator shipped there.

And then something happened. When the new front tires arrived, there was only one of them. The other was supposed to show up in a couple days, maybe. Anyway, we ended up with an extra week in Florida waiting for it to arrive, much to the delight of my parents!

Since we had time to kill, Dad and I did some work on the brakes, on the lights, and on various other things that needed attention. Eventually the missing tire arrived and we had it installed.

Was it all ready to go? Not really. We had new tires on the front, the engine ran good, the transmission shifted properly, the brakes worked, the lights worked, it was good enough for the 600+ mile trip to Waxhaw. During my last test drive, the refrigerator tipped over when I went around a curve, but I put it back into place and made a mental note not to take corners too fast. As the dash board AC wasn't working and the roof AC wasn't usable on the road, we decided to travel at night. Night time would also mean cooler road temperatures, and I was hoping that would make life easier for the rear tires. I knew that if I could keep the tire temperatures down, that would maximise the chances of them lasting 600 miles.

So finally the day came. We spent much of the day loading up our stuff, (how have we ended up with so much stuff?), and at around 7 p.m. we headed out onto the road. It started to rain pretty heavily, which was fine with me as it kept road temperatures and ambient temperatures down. Travelling at night, raining, and keeping our speed down around 55-60 mph, I figured our rear tires just might make it.

The journey was not without it's little hassles. Every time we went around a right turn the fridge would tip over. (Clare and I worked out a system where I would call out “Clare! Fridge!” and she would rush over and brace herself against it to keep it from tipping.)  The cruise control didn't work. It was hot and the windows weren't really big enough to get a good breeze in, but the wind noise was pretty loud, loud enough to make conversation difficult without shouting. When it got really dark, we also discovered that none of the 12V interior lights were working, nor was the water pump for the sink, toilet and shower. On the plus side, the engine ran great, the temperature gauge never got hot, the oil pressure was perfect, the charging system was rock steady at around 13 volts. And driving in the rain had not revealed any leaks.
We made it out of Florida, then through a small part of Georgia that we had to cross. We crossed the border into South Carolina and I was feeling pretty confident. Only 150 miles to go. Once or twice I looked down and realised that I was edging up to 65 mph.

And then something else happened. A little after 3 a.m., a little north of Savannah, in the middle of nowhere, BANG! Clare was up in the front seat and yelled “What was that?!” “We've blown a tire!” I hollered back. We were in no immediate danger—there are 4 tires on the rear axle, so with one blown out we could continue rolling on 3. My greatest concern was that the remaining tire was now overloaded and might blow out in turn, or that pieces of the blown out tire might cause damage to the remaining good tire. I turned on my hazards (emergency flashers) and slowed down to 45 mph. Thankfully, we were only a mile from Exit 28, (Coosawatchie, South Carolina) so I decided to limp into there rather than try to put on the spare on the side of the road.

Exit 28 proved to be almost completely empty. I followed signs to the nearest gas station, which was also a small truck stop. I investigated the rear tires, and sure enough, one of the inside tires, (the low quality one that had the best tread) was blown out. No problem, I had a spare. Admittedly the spare was not in any better condition than the other rear tires had been when we set out, but...

So I got out the tools to change the tire. I wasn't real happy with the jack, but it was there, so I put it in place and started lifting the motor home off of the ground. It was extrememly hard to use and eventually, (before the wheels were lifted off of the ground), it broke. It was then that I took another look at it and realised that it wasn't a jack at all, it was a leveling jack, which was never intended to bear the full weight of the vehicle. I made a mental note to buy a good quality hydraulic jack as soon as I could.

Frustrated, tired, hot and absolutely drenched in sweat, (rivers of it were running down my nose!), I climbed back in to the driver's seat and moved the motor home into an empty parking spot next to a semi/lorry. Before we had left, a good friend of mine in Waxhaw had told me to call him if we had any trouble, so I asked Clare to give him a ring. It was around 3:30 in the morning.

Well, long story short we didn't get ahold of our friend until almost 8 a.m., and it took him a little while to get ready. We spent the time trying to catch up on sleep, (tricky to do with temperatures around 90F when you are not used to it and when you are covered in a mix of sweat, axle grease and South Carolina sand). I managed to doze a bit, and a little after 1p.m. he showed up. He had with him several jacks and other tools and parts. Together he and I got the spare tire on and then he followed up most of the way back to Waxhaw.

So that was our first motor home experience! Things to fix:
--dashboard air con. This will make it much less tiring to drive.
--cruise control. This will make it much less tiring to drive.
--generator. This will make it much easier to actually live in.
--12V power in the house part. So that we can have working lights, outlets, and running water even when we are running down the road.
--get the new rear tires installed.
--get a good jack that is big enough to do the job!!
--that cabinet under the refrigerator!

29 November, 2016

The CHEVOTA Part 2 engine installed

      So Ben left PNG a few weeks ago now.  But before he left, he and I managed to get the Chevy 350 engine into the Land Cruiser:

    And because the internet is so slow these days, it just took me 15 minutes to up load these 4 pictures.  Will add more later.

27 June, 2016

the CHEVOTA, part one: the V8

       Alright, so if you've been paying attention, you know that some time ago we got a new rescue truck for the shop, a 2002 Ford F350 with the big, bad, beautiful 7.3 litre International turbo diesel V8.  And it has been great.  Going out on a rescue knowing that you have enough power, weight, and traction to pull a Land Cruiser out of a ditch SIDEWAYS is an awesome feeling (if you are into that sort of thing, and I am).  Also, having 6 big, lockable tool storage lockers is something you quickly come to appreciate after you've had a few tools and jacks stolen.  That and still having a full length cargo area and 4-6 seats in the cab, (I could go on and on); suffice it to say that our F350 is truly an awesome PNG rescue vehicle and one I thank God for providing every time I use it.

      Our old rescue truck was a late 1990's Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up truck, (an HZJ75 for those who want to know).  Old, beat-up, half-a-million hard kilometers on it, seems like every time we took it out we discovered yet another area where it was lacking something we needed.  And yet...

      There are times and places where the Land Cruiser is still the better vehicle.  A rescue out in a place where the bridges are nothing more than a couple of logs laying across a river, or where the risk of damage to the rescue vehicle is particularly high either due to road conditions or due to unrest among the tribes in the area where the rescue needs to happen.  In short, if we have to lose one or the other, we'd certainly rather lose the Toyota.

      So the Land Cruiser is lighter than the Ford, has good 4x4 capability, and is more expenadable.  It is also (perhaps surprisingly in a country where Toyota is pretty much far and away #1 in sales of new vehicles) harder to support.  The Ford is no problem; if we need a part, we simply look up the part number, contact our co-workers in North Carolina, ask them to buy it and ship it to us and in a month or so it's here.  No drama.  The Toyota on the other hand can be a huge hassle.  Finding part numbers can be a pain, trying to figure out exactly what you need with the dealer (often while communicating in a mix of English and Pidgin) can be a pain, and then it still takes a month to get the part from Lae (around 250 km from here).  Then we often discover that we've been sent the wrong part and have to start all over again!  And before you suggest it, getting parts for a General Export Market Land Cruiser from Australia or from the US is not the neat solution you might think it would be.  In their infinite wisdom, most car manufacturers make very different cars for different markets, and I'm not talking about just different engines or different emissions control systems, oh, no!  Simple things like tie rod ends, ball joints, suspension parts, things that we have to replace all the time here are usually not interchangeable from one market to the next.   Plus a car sold here as new in 2005 might not be anything like one that was new in Australia in 2005, but might more closely correspond with one that was new in say, 1997.  So we've learned over the years that it's best to try to get the parts from our local dealers, even though it's a hassle and they tend to be very expensive.

      So back to the Old Black Land Cruiser.  We had another similar truck in the fleet that was due for retirement.  We stripped it down and transferred a lot of its good parts to the Black Land Cruiser, which caused it to become the old Black and White Land Cruiser now.   The engine from the retired truck was still good, but we saved it for another truck, which means that the Old Black (and now White) Land Cruiser was still suffering with a worn out 1HZ diesel engine.  Because a lot of us in the shop are sort of natural born hot-rodders, we used to laugh and joke about how cool it might be to put a 350 Chevy engine in the shop Land Cruiser.  "Hahaha!" we'd say, "cool idea, but it'll never happen." this was usually followed by a collective sigh.  Not that we dislike the original diesel engine, it's fine, and not bad for a diesel, but it's nothing special, either.  1HZ fuel mileage is terrible, power is so-so, they don't handle abuse terribly well, and they can be expensive to support.

      So when it became clear to us that we needed to keep the old truck around as a general use/extreme rescue truck, (replacing it with a new truck wasn't an option for us--I won't get into that right now), and when it became clear that we needed to either rebuild or replace the engine in it, we did a feasability study.  We checked on what it would cost to rebuild the original engine, (doing the work ourselves here in our own shop) vs. replacing it with a brand new small block Chevy V8 and the assorted adapters needed to install it.  After months of research, it eventually became clear that the cost of rebuilding the Toyota engine was going to be almost exactly the same as converting to Chevy power.

      At the time, me and Ben were managing the shop, so it became our decision.  We thought about it for a while.  On the one hand we'd end up with a rebuilt Toyota engine, an engine that was adequate at best, got lousy mileage (for a diesel) and really wasn't the best engine for our use (lots of short trips) and on top of all that was hard to support and getting harder to support.  On the other hand, we'd end up with a completely new engine, one that is perhaps the easiest engine in the world to support and (perhaps surprisingly) gets just as good a fuel mileage.

     Yeah, it wasn't a hard decision.   Last Saturday Ben and I started getting the engine ready for install (happy, happy, happy):


06 April, 2016

Ben Parry

    Over the years, I've seen dozens of people come and go from this place.  A lot of the guys who work on the support side of missions, (mechanics, plumbers, welders, carpenters, etc.) seem to have a very difficult time raising the funds they need to be able to stay here long term.  And so, every couple of years or so, we lose valuable workers and good friends.

    Take my friend Ben Parry, for example.  Ben is a good mechanic, but like many of us who are good with our hands, he's not very good at selling himself.  He'd rather just plug away at his job,  quietly doing good work and being as low maintenance as possible.   Such people are often important, even vital to supporting the work of Bible Translation, and yet, because they are not good at being "squeaky wheels", they are easily overlooked, forgotten, or taken for granted.

    Ben's financial support is not so hot.  Because he is not very good at hyping himself, I've decided to write a letter about him and about how important he is to the work that is going on here in PNG.  Here it is:

 22nd March, 2016

    To Whom It May Concern:

     My name is Andrew Koens.  I would like to talk to you about Ben Parry, and what a great asset he is to the Ukarumpa Autoshop,but first a little background as to who I am and why I am writing this.

     Since 2002, I have worked in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  I am primarily a motorcycle and small engine mechanic, but because we are usually understaffed, I have had to learn to do and be many other things over the years.  Welding, auto electrical, buying and shipping parts and equipment from overseas, these are all areas where I have needed to become proficient.  Lately, we have been critically short on managerial staff and I have been learning to do that as well.

     From time to time over the years, our workshop has been fortunate enough to be fully staffed.  Those are the times when our shop functions best, when we can offer the best possible support for the Bible translators and when we can offer the best training to our national co-workers.  When we are fully staffed, we are able to help people from other missions and people from communities all over PNG.  When we are fully staffed, it becomes possible to devote time and energy to exploring new (or old) technologies that might be appropriate for use here: Technologies like sustainable alternative fuel production, methods of generating electricity in remote villages,  coming up with a vehicle that would be truly "PNG proof", that sort of thing.

     Perhaps the biggest barrier to our being fully staffed is finances.  Men who are great mechanics and good at hands-on, nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes support work are seldom good at raising the finances they need to be able to stay here.   I know because I have seen many of them come, work here for a while, and then have to leave.  Fixing and improving machines is hardly the stuff of legends, our culture typically doesn't make heroes out of guys who fix trucks or repair generators, nobody would watch a webcam feed from our workshop, it'd be boring.

    But nevertheless, these people who quietly plug away behind the scenes are needed.  Here in PNG, there are dozens of translators from around the world and from within PNG who depend on us to help keep their four wheel drive trucks running so that they can get to the remote locations where they work, their generators working so that they can keep computer batteries charged up or as back-up for their solar panels during the rainy season, their chainsaws working so that they can mill the lumber needed to build village houses and translation offices and training centres.  Thousands of people all over PNG rely on our workshop to maintain the huge, heavy duty lawnmowers which they use to keep their airstrips open in some of the most remote, hard-to-reach areas on earth.  Many of the services we offer are simply not available anywhere else in country.

    Ben Parry has been a member of our team for some time now.  He brings expertise and a good attitude, which are extremely valuable to us.  Ben is a talented mechanic who has a good understanding of the 4 wheel drive trucks and other vehicles and machines that he encounters here.  Our Papua New Guinean co-workers often ask for his advice and opinion when dealing with complex maintenance or repair problems, and he willingly helps them to understand the issues and how to resolve them.  He also takes time when he can to teach about various automotive technologies, aiming to increase the level of expertise out on the shop floor, so that our employees/trainees can become really proficient at what they do.

    Ben has also become something of an expert at sourcing hard to find parts for some of the vehicles we work on here.  For a lot of reasons, cars and trucks used by missionaries here are a bewildering mix of Australian, American, Indonesian, Japanese and General Export market specification vehicles, so keeping up with what vehicles need which parts and where to get those parts can be very difficult, but Ben has really done wonders in spite of this challenge.  He also has a good sense of what needs to be kept in stock and what doesn't, and since he started working here at the AutoShop he has helped us to save thousands of dollars per year by cleaning up our inventory.  His contributions in this area alone have been invaluable.  I cannot overemphasize how much of an asset he has been just in this one area.  He has really turned our parts room around.

     Personally, I have greatly appreciated Ben's efforts in the past few months.  In December the manager of our department was forced to go back to the US for family health reasons.  This left us without a manager and since I was the assistant manager, a lot of that job has fallen to me.  Without me asking him to do so, Ben has stepped up and supported me, even though, like me, he is not a manager and has no interest in managing.  Nevertheless, he saw that I was struggling under the load and has taken some of it on to his own shoulders, for which I am very grateful.

    Ben's generally sunny disposition makes him fun to be around and this is more valuable than you might expect.  Sometimes he has just the right funny story or comment needed to lift people's spirits.

    Unfortunately for us all, Ben's financial support is low, and he needs to raise more monthly support in order to be able to stay here.  Ben is a valuable asset to the work here and if I were I able to pay him myself to stay here, I would do so, but I can't.  Please consider helping him to be able to stay here and keep working with us to support Bible translation in Papua New Guinea.

     Yours sincerely,

     Andrew J. Koens
     SIL AutoShop
     EHP 444
     Papua New Guinea

18 August, 2015

Why I almost Never Turn Down Free Junk

A long time ago, shortly after I arrived here in 2002, I bought this:

      It was a circa 1965 Toyota Land Cruiser that had been made into a fire truck.  It had been used as a firetruck for many years, but then was replaced and was wasting away.  I paid the princely sum of USD $133 for it.  I removed the firefighting equipment and made it into this:

That was fun for a while, until I realised just how impractical an open top car really is in Ukarumpa.  Eventually I sold it to a Papua New Guinean friend of mine for something in the neighborhood of $70.  I didn't really have time for it or a place to store it and I really wanted him to have it.  It did not take him long to turn it into this:

which got driven all over the place, including back and forth to Madang, which must have been an all day trip in that truck, which had a top speed of around 45 mph.  I was amazed at how well it held up.  Eventually, the new owner swapped out the petrol/gasoline engine for a diesel, and then left the faithful old petrol engine sitting in his backyard for a couple years.  One day he came by the shop and asked me if I wanted the original engine back, and if so, I was welcome to just come pick it up for free.  So together me and my friend Ben took a tractor out to his place, lifted up the engine and brought it back to the shop, where I used an old chinese three-wheeled truck to make up an engine stand for it:

     I was assured that it still ran, and sure enough, after a little bit of fiddling with the ignition system, it started right up and sounded really good.  So now I had a good running 1965 Land Cruiser engine without a home.  It sat on the engine stand for about 6 months or so.  And then something interesting happned--a missionary working near Goroka told a friend of mine that he had a "dead" Land Cruiser sitting on his property that he needed moved and that anyone who wanted it could have it just for the price of moving it off of his property.  He had no idea how long it had been sitting, but it had been a long time, there was a 20 foot tall tree growing through the frame in the back.  Well, my friend didn't want the truck, so I took it.  Now I had a good running Land Cruiser engine and a "dead" Land Cruiser.  Here's what it looked like when we got it back to Ukarumpa:

So!  without me even really looking for one, a classic Land Cruiser has fallen into my lap.  Yes, it does need quite a bit of work, but it's all stuff that I can do here.  I've never had a pick-up/ute here, and I am looking forward to getting this one going.  I hope to build it up to be good enough for road trips, as right now none of the cars we have is really suitable for that kind of thing.  Here it is after I've started cleaning it up.  In this shot the original engine has been pulled out, the seats removed and about 3 tons of mud cleaned out of the cab.  Because this truck sat for so long, it has dozens of peoples' names scratched into the paint.  I would like to preserve that graffiti if I can, just because some of it is interesting, some is funny, and a lot of it is cryptic in the way that PNG graffiti so often is:

      All for now!