'I'm a poor preacher. That's not my gift. I fix cars'
Robert’s story | Serving Bolivia, one vehicle at a time
“I distinctly remember being in the ISCF [Inter-School Christian Fellowship] room at high school. The captain of the school was a Christian and he said to us, “If you were to walk out here, right now, onto Parramatta Road, and you got knocked down by a tram, what would happen to you?’”
“I thought to myself, ‘Well, nothing good.’
“That’s when I made a decision to follow Jesus. A few years later, in 1961, I was at a [evangelist] Leighton Ford crusade and I met my wife, Sandra. We were both singing in the choir and I offered her a lift home in my Volkswagen. We stopped for hot chocolate. I told her fairly early on that I was expecting to go to the mission field. I’d read a couple of books about people who were working in Bolivia and I felt a strange affinity with the people there.
“We went off to Bible College and we were married during that time. Then we left for Bolivia in 1969. It took us three weeks by boat. We had two children, aged two and three. Our third was born in Bolivia. I was a trained motor mechanic. When we got to Cochabamba, I worked in the mission garage and I looked after all the mission vehicles. The director was overjoyed to see me. He’d never had anyone volunteer for that role before. But I was like a pig in mud. It was the best job I ever had. I kept all the mission vehicles going so that others could take them out of town, along rough mountain roads, sharing the gospel. They didn’t have to worry about spare parts or anything. They knew I’d keep them on the road.
“We stayed in Bolivia for nine years and we went to the local church. I preached a few times but it wasn’t my gift. I’m a poor preacher. I fix cars. And I got along well with the local man, Claudio, who worked in the garage with me.
“One of the hard times was when my mother passed away. We couldn’t get back to see her.
“Romans 8:28 meant a lot to me. ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ At the time, I was reading about 18th century preachers, including Daniel Rowlands, who gave a wonderful exposition of that verse. No matter what happens, he said, the worst of what Satan can do, God still works for good for those who love him.
“I was very sad. I was so far away and we couldn’t get home. But the verse was a comfort, absolutely.
“And it’s the same for me today. I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in June. It’s too big to operate and chemo won’t help. I moved into a nursing home in August. It’s circumstances that I would never choose, but somehow it’s God’s plan and I’m willing to trust him.
“We have a church service here every Thursday and the staff are very caring. I’m comfortable. I need help to stand up but I’ve got a nice chair from home. I’ve got all my dictionaries so I can do the crossword puzzles. I know it’s good to be in God’s plan because we can trust him to work out what’s the best for us. And if I had to organise things myself it would probably be a mess!”