April 14th was a chilly but sunny Saturday when a handful of students gathered for the first Car Clinic 101: Knowing Your Car – an introduction into basic car mechanics offered by Sovereign Grace member Gary Smith and myself and organized by Nancy Tufte. Our setting was the Hillman Bus Service in West Berlin which graciously opened its facility to our church’s members.
An introduction to auto mechanics might seem like an unlikely one to be offered by a church, but on closer examination, it makes perfect sense. I was approached by several moms at Sovereign Grace who are concerned that their sons and daughters lack basic mechanical skills and are not familiar with automotive work like adding fluids, changing a tire or how to jump start a car with a dead battery using another vehicle with a good battery.
The first mom that urged me to start a class on this topic was Nancy. When she was growing up, her dad emphasized that both young men and women should be able to understand the basics of how a car works and how to maintain it. So at an early age, Nancy was out in the driveway rotating tires, adding coolant and doing oil changes.
Gary is the ideal instructor. A former Air Force jet engine mechanic, today he repairs diesel buses for Hillman. But he’s also suited to lead such a class because he’s a hard-working Christian capable of fixing just about anything, whether it’s driven by an engine or not. His sense of humor is also an asset, along with his inventive point of view. He found a way to use a bicycle to demonstrate how the pistons in a car’s engine drive a crank shaft to convey rotational force to a rear axle.
But most importantly, Gary has a deep reformed faith, and he believes that even a class in auto mechanics is the Lord’s work. “It may not seem like it at first, but to Christians, everything we do for the Lord is something that is redeeming a fallen creation,” he says.
Besides the morning’s discussion of nuts and bolts, watching car care videos and touring a king-size version of automotive technology in the form of a school bus, refreshments were provided, students posed free-ranging car questions, and they got a chance to get their hands dirty changing a tire. One of our students went home with the raffled prize: a Maglite flashlight that can fit in a glove compartment. Plans for another Car Clinic 101 and 102 are already in the works, as are short workshops on using hand tools, power tools, and the basics of how to work with wood and metal.