“I Will Never Forget It!”

elephant never forgetIn and around 1977, we were traveling from Tennessee Temple College to Paterson, New Jersey.   Gas was 30 cents a gallon, and we were driving a “Buick” Opel.  Yes, even back then, 30 cents a gallon was enough reason to buy a small gas-saving vehicle.  Add to that, we were living on a professors’ salary of $9.700.  We bought the Opel used, and I worked on it now and again as needed.

Over some weeks, I began hearing a noise in the “rear-driveshaft-pinion-gear-wheel-bearing” area????

I removed the driveshaft, along with the pinion gears and the two axles.  I checked it all out, and everything seemed good!  I reassembled and filled up the differential with new lubricant.

What I didn’t know was that after you worked on the differential, you had to “stake” the “threaded rod” holding the differential gears in place.  “Stake”? — In essence, deform the metal on the very end of the threaded shaft to prevent the nut from working its way off the threaded rod over time, since a lock-washer was not a possible method for a spinning drive-shaft.

I didn’t do that!

As we were traveling up to Jersey, I again began hearing sounds in the rear end.  I thought — maybe I still didn’t solve the problem, and I will have to pull the axles off again — AND I had all the tools in the trunk to pull off both axles (my trunk was a tool and parts store most of the time)!

“That is what must be the problem.  I should have just replaced them in Chattanooga!”

So I pulled off the exit (Bristol, Virginia), looked for an auto parts shop that might have the bearings, and if they did, I planned to have them press on new bearings, install the axles myself in the parking lot, and then back on my way!

It was just 12 noon on a Saturday.

As the Lord has it, there was an auto parts store right at the exit.  I mean, a real auto parts store that has everything and does everything — including pressing on bearings!

But they had no bearings for an Opel.  It was made by Buick, but it was still a German-made car!

“There is a Buick dealer in town!”


“Yea, they are open till 2 on Saturday!”

So, I drive off to the dealer, but it is getting close to closing time on a Saturday afternoon!

We’re about to close.  We can work on it Monday!”

“Okay . . . . Is there a motel in town?”

Yes, right down the road — a Holiday Inn.”

“Can someone drop us off at the Holiday Inn?”


We get a hitch from the Buick dealer to Holiday Inn.
$12.00 a night!  — Ugh — UGH — That is 46 gallons of gas!  More than 6 fill-ups!

We check-in and plan on being there Saturday and Sunday night — at least two nights — but may more?

“Let’s see what churches there are in town — for Sunday services tomorrow.”

We find one with all the markers for being a Bible-believing church — AWANA, Sunday night services, Mid-week services, etc.  So I call up the number listed in the Yellow Pages.

Yes– the Yellow Pages!

The pastor answers and introduces himself.

I introduced myself.

I indicated that I am a teacher at Tennessee Temple.
(I thought that might help as well in getting a ride to the church.)

And I asked him for the times of the Sunday services.

“Can someone pick us up at the Holiday Inn tomorrow morning?  Our car is in the Buick dealer’s parking lot for repairs.”

What happened?”

Yada-yada-yada . . . .

“Look, check-out of the Holiday Inn.  See if they will refund your money and stay at our house — whether it is only till Monday or all week — whatever it takes!”

Holiday Inn agreed!
That was a surprise!

We stayed at the Pastor’s house till the car was repaired.
Surprisedly, it was finished on that Monday, and we left as soon as it was finished. [1]

It was at a church in Bristol, Virginia/Bristol, Tennessee!  Never forgot that experience!

I found out what it feels like for someone to take the time and show care and concern for a “poor” and broken down TTC professor!

Never forgot that — nor the feelings I felt when the pastor showed that love and personal sacrifice to help us out!

Never forgot it– even now, over 40 years later, those feelings come back!


NOW . . . .Zoom forward to the later 1990s.

I am now pastoring in Trenton, New Jersey.

Our family home phone was the parsonage church line and number— the kind with the dial that was fairly stationary – – lol.

It is 2 o’clock in the morning, and the telephone rings next to me.

I pick up the phone, pause a moment after clearing my head, and say — “Pastor Martens here — how can I help you!”

“My name is Jimmy Harrison.  I am a student at Tennessee, Temple University, and I broke down on 95 at exit 61 (that’s our exit — we are but a few miles off that exit).

 “I looked up your church in the Yellow Pages and got the church number.  I wasn’t sure I would get anyone this time in the morning.  Is there someone who can help me out?”

What do you think I said – – – –

Like I said — I never forgot how good it felt for someone in Bristol, Virginia to care about me — to step in and step up to help!

When you are at the receiving end of the kindnesses of others — whether it be help, a lift, a card, a call, a hand, a place to stay, some extra bucks, an opportunity, a job, or just demonstrating that someone cares — It really FEELS GOOD! 

You can either absorb those feelings and kindness — maybe even thinking you are entitled or deserving of such kindness — or you can “never forget it.”

You can either consume it or be reminded again how caring feels when you are on the other side of need.

“Never forgetting” means that it feels so good that I imagine others would also feel like I felt on that Saturday afternoon.  Therefore, I am going to let that experience change the way I respond to people in need — whether it be a phone call — a card — a visit — a helping hand — some money — a job — unloading a moving van, proving an opportunity — making a referral — et.al.

You can either absorb the kindnesses of others, OR you can let it so affect you that you put yourself in their place and think — “I bet that they would never forget it as well —  if someone showed that they cared — in whatever form that takes in their sickness, sorrow, crisis, financial strains, or time of need.  I would wager that they are just like me!”

I think there is a Bible verse that teaches that principle — may be more than one!

II Corinthians 1:4 — Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Philippians 2:4 — Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Maybe it is just the God-intended and inherent design of the Golden Rule — “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

P. S.: Now, let me tell you the times I have failed at this as well!  I know one thing, not remembering Bristol, Virginia, will only cause more such failures!

P.S.  That principle works in reverse as well.  You know how lousy it feels when ______ . Well, that is also how someone else feels when you do that to them!

1. For the mechanically interested, the noise was not the wheel bearings — The pinion gears were loose and sloppily gyrating in the housing.

2 thoughts on ““I Will Never Forget It!”

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