To stop or not to stop?

How many times have we passed a broken-down motorist and had a hundred excuses not to stop and render assistance? As a good friend once me: “it’s easier to find excuses not to do something than it is to do it”.

Perhaps the media-driven fear of what can happen – but very rarely does happen – to a person giving assisting to those in need feeds a fear and puts us off helping, – or perhaps we are in a hurry, perhaps it’s not convenient, perhaps it’s hard to turn back once we have passed the unfortunate person needing help. But what if we saw the pastor of our church broken down on the road, would we be in two minds about stopping?

In our travels, my wife and I often hear: “if you stop to help them or give them a lift, five more will jump out of the bush.” Or “their cars are always breaking down; some don’t even have engines, they only want a tow to the nearest town.”

The story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 is a familiar one: The traveller heading to Jerico (most likely Jewish) was set upon and beaten, first the priest crosses to the other side of the road, next the Levite also passes by. Both avoid the beaten man, with neither taking the time to see if he was dead or alive, perhaps one reason being that they wanted to avoid becoming unclean. It’s a bit uncertain but what we do know is that neither offered assistance and it was the Good Samaritan who assisted the man, tending to his needs and paying for lodging and care for him. Klyne Snodgrass wrote, “on the basis of the parable we must deal with our own racism, but we must also seek justice for and offer assistance to those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong”.

So here my wife and I are hurtling along a Northern Territory road with a posted speed limit of 130 kms, as if our motorhome is capable of that sort of speed, or as if I would even trust myself to reach such an incredible speed on roads that in Sydney would be posted as 90!

Heading down a steep winding hill we pass a clapped-out four-wheel drive with a bunch of teenaged aboriginal girls standing around it. We see they are in need, and we start to slow, they wave at us and I change down gears and start slowing up. Our motorhome has 2.7 ton over the front axle and 2.5 over the back and at 8 metres long, stopping takes a bit of time. Trying to do a U turn on a two-lane road is far from easy but round we get and pull up behind them.

This is one very clapped-out old Ute. The girls tell us two of the boys have set off walking to get diesel at a truck stop up the road…’s 38 in the shade and the girls are back and forward over the hot black top and gravel without shoes, something my Irish feet could never do.  

We were not there long when the two boys returned empty handed, telling us that no one had fuel. This is a bit hard to believe as we all carry spare fuel out here. Anyone who has crossed the Nullarbor or travelled the Stuart Highway and paid $3.20 a litre knows to carry as much fuel as possible to avoid the exorbitant fuel cost at roadhouses.

We have a spare 20 litres, and we set about filling them up. My wife Cherylyn is busy with the girls’ supplying bottles of Coke from our fridge and information on FEBC Far East Broadcasting Company and talking with them about going to church.

Readers with a mechanical bent will know putting fresh diesel into a vehicle won’t automatically start it, it must be bled to get the fuel to the pump and into the engine. The young boys are busy pumping the fuel pump and sucking diesel by mouth up the line. I am sure one of them swallowed a litre of diesel in the process. When we have the pump bled, I tell them to try and start her….and would you believe it I am told she has a bung starter so we will have to push it.

They suggest rolling it down the hill and jumping it in reverse, after all that the way she is pointing. I told them that this would not work – again readers with a mechanical bent will understand – but they are insistent. So we try it, no luck, – and cars and 55 metre long road trains are passing us at incredible speeds.

I suggest that we do a three-point run with everyone pushing her down the hill nose first and drop the clutch on my call in second gear Off we go, and lo and behold the driver is seated in the driver’s seat facing downhill, vehicles whizzing past us and is ready for us to start pushing and I see to my fright he still has the bonnet up. I had visions of him heading down this road with the bonnet up blocking his view, right into oncoming traffic, so I shout out: “Do you think we should shut the bonnet, cousin?” (“cousin” is good for aboriginal teens when you don’t know their names). This time, thankfully, no dissension.

We push, he drops the clutch and with a stutter and a spurt, thank God she fires up, so round he comes and parks behind us, Cherylyn is back with more bottles of Coke and is talking to the girls again, one girl told her she knew something about Jesus and her aunty goes to church.

Not long and they leave, and they are very thankful for the help, and we are more thankful to have helped, thankful to God that He has put us in this situation, thankful to Him we had spare fuel and thank to Him for the knowledge I have in things mechanical.

We wonder will we ever see these youngsters again? Probably not in this life but, who knows but God, and what that little bit of help and a chat did? Perhaps we will see them in heaven, how good would that be?  This is not about us; my wife and I think it’s simply about trying in some small way – sinners as we are – to allow God to use us.

– Gary McArthur