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
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
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.
Andrew J. Koens
Papua New Guinea