“The ’55 Dodge Truck and a Miracle” By Dr. Robert O. Stephens as told to Henry Regehr

The truck was loaded with food supplies for a region of The Belgian Congo that was experiencing devastating drought. Dr. Bob and his assistant/cook/mechanic were delayed by the weather which had turned into a tropical storm. The lightening flashed continuously, the roar of the thunder was constant, the wind and rain threatened the buildings and the trees. The trip would have to be postponed till the next day which, indeed, was cloudless and quiet. The roads began to dry quickly. 

It promised to be a rough drive through deep puddles, washouts, fallen tree branches and Congolese red mud. They made slow progress while bouncing from pothole to pothole. Without warning they heard a loud report from the back of the ’55 Dodge and noticed the left rear of the vehicle suddenly sag and bounce noisily like an old box cart on the prairie. On stopping and inspecting the problem, it was easy to tell that the main steel bar of the leaf spring had broken. It would be impossible to continue the journey. Dr. Bob’s creative assistant assessed the situation with a Congolese eye, went into the jungle with his panga and came back in a few minutes with a stick from a tree that was especially durable and that flexed easily. They jacked up the truck, forced the stick into the space in the u bolt, lowered the truck and saw that the temporary fix was strong enough to keep the body of the truck from sitting directly on the frame. 

The stick would not last long, they knew, on this rugged road. Dr. Bob, who had learned map reading during his short stint in the Canadian army, discovered that they were only twenty kilometers from a small mission station, and he knew that the director of the mission was a dear friend. The truck limped unsteadily until it reached the compound and entered the gate. Before they came to a stop, Dr. Bob’s friend rushed out of the house and without a formal welcome, he urgently said, “We have been praying that a physician would come to help us. Our daughter is extremely sick and has an exceedingly high fever. Could you please see her”? Dr. Bob agreed to see her promptly and added that the truck needed repair. His friend responded, “While you see my daughter, I’ll repair your truck”. Both men went to work. 

The child was diagnosed with tonsilitis and from his medical bag, his constant companion, he produced a vial of penicillin. This was a very recently developed medicine that proved effective against infections. He administered an injection immediately. 

The family and the visitors had a welcome supper and a good night of rest. By next morning, the girl was feeling better and was given another dose of lifesaving penicillin. The family was deeply grateful. 

The truck was fully recovered, and they were able to leave on their next mission of mercy. 

Later he discovered that the child had made a complete recovery. 

And Dr. Bob had another miracle for which to be grateful.

  1. Helen Nickel

    Henry, these stories are wonderful to read and almost experience the storms with you. I remember many rough thunder storms in Congo which made me feel quite uncomfortable.

    Thank you for sending these stories to me. I could see the picture in my mind of the muddy, pothole, sandy roads which we traveled many times. Fortunately we had a 4-wheel little Jeep. Good memories!

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