I don’t want the enemy to get any of our heavy equipment, so take a couple of the oldest bulldozers and dig some holes in the jungle. Big holes! A bunch of them! Then gas up the rest of our bulldozers, loaders, and jeeps and drive ‘em into the holes. Bury every one of them so deep and well-hidden that the enemy will never know they’re there.”
The United States Army commander was serious, but with a sly smile he turned to one of his most respected officers. “Make sure the most trustworthy villagers know where the holes are. After the war they might have a use for some of the trucks. Maybe even for a jeep or two.”
* * *
Tom and Betty wanted to be missionaries. It would be a great adventure, they thought, a divine opportunity to serve and share the gospel in a distant land. Because Tom’s grandfather had worked in India, they asked church leaders if there might be a chance for them to go back and continue the work the family had begun before World War II.
When the assignment finally came through, they were asked to go to the state of Assam in northeast India, where they were to serve at a boarding school.
“And to visit villages and share the gospel in the state of Nagaland,” Tom and Betty read in the letter. Though they were excited to be going to the Shillong school in Assam, it was the adventure of taking the gospel to people in Nagaland that captured Pastor Tom’s attention.
* * *
Once in Shillong they quickly learned that Nagaland wasn’t giving missionaries visas to visit their villages. “No” was the immediate and certain response to every creative approach Tom made with officials. Then, after nearly giving up, Tom was finally given a visa to visit the village of Yacool. “For two hours only,” the visa read.
Trouble was, there was hardly any transportation, the roads were terrible, and it would probably take days to get there. All for only two hours with the people. Yet Tom “knew” this was why they had come to India, so he begged rides and finally was able to use his visa and visit the village.
“What do you do with two hours in Yacool?” Tom asked himself. “You make friends with the chief!”
It took several visits, but Tom and the chief became good friends. One day the chief asked if Tom would like to have his own vehicle to drive on the rugged mountain roads. “That would be like a gift from God,” Tom answered. Together, with a small group of men, the chief led him deep into the jungle until one of the men pointed at a bumpy pile of dirt, rocks, and vegetation.
“Dig here,” the man said. Everyone went to work. You guessed it! In the overgrown jungle burial chamber they found a genuine U.S. Army jeep. Tom cleaned it up, topped off the gas, started the engine. He was thrilled when God’s little green gift ran perfectly!
* * *
Yet the jeep wasn’t perfect. It was too small to carry all of the supplies and people he would be moving around in the mountains of Nagaland, so Tom added a five-foot pickup bed. With more scrap metal and spare parts, he built a small trailer to follow along behind. Now the Jeep was uglier, but much more useful.
Pastor Tom made many trips back to the villages to share about Jesus. Even though he was only beginning to learn the Naga language, a few of the villagers had learned some English from the soldiers, and together they found ways to communicate. Several people were impacted by the Bible messages and chose to be baptized. A couple families told Tom that their children were in a government school that required Saturday exams. If they accepted the Bible Sabbath, they would have to leave school.
* * *
Pastor Tom went to the chief. Though his friend understood the Sabbath testing problem, he was unable to fix it. Yet he felt favorably toward the families who were accepting Christianity, and was eager for all of the village children to get the best possible education. “I wonder, could the boys go back to Shillong with you and go to school there?” the chief asked.
On Tom’s next “two-hour visit,” the chief called the people together and told them to bring any young men they would like to have go with Pastor Tom.
“Pastor Tom will be here only for a few hours, so you must make a quick decision and get ready fast if you want your sons to go to school with him.”
An hour later 13 teenage boys showed up at the jeep, eager for a better life,
and willing to join Pastor Tom on an adventure. By pushing tightly together, all 13 of the boys were barely able to fit into the jeep and trailer.
Just a few minutes down the rutted road they heard a call from the village. One of the youngest boys had hurried home to ask his parents’ permission to go away to school, and he was now sprinting down the track, eager to find a place in the “school jeep.” Even though the jeep was already too full, all the boys yelled, “We can take one more! We can take one more!” Somehow, the last boy found a slice of space, and Tom bounced down the road with 14 new students in God’s jeep.
Four days later, when they arrived at the mission compound, Betty, Tom’s wife, was thrilled to see Tom and his jeepload of dirty, muddy, happy boys! She had been waiting, without hearing any word from her husband for more than a month, as Tom had transformed the jeep, secured the necessary permits, driven to Yacool, found the boys, and driven home with his jeepload of excited teenagers—young men who had been gathered by God to become future pastors and church leaders in Nagaland and throughout India.