The Red Beetle

by Tom Baird, as told by Dr. William Lovick

I shall try to relate the experience of the red beetle as it was told to us by Dr. Lovick at a Sunday service in the little Alaskan frontier church of Willow Chapel.  Early in Dr. Lovick's missionary experience in Zaire, Africa, the Lord's hand so plainly worked in this experience of the Red Beetle that I pass it on to you that you too may be as greatly encouraged as I. And now the story by Dr. Lovick:

While back in the United States on furlough, my wife and I were speaking in a little Kentucky Mountain church. After the morning service an obviously very poor, aged beyond years, share cropper came up to me and said, "The Lord told me to give you my pickup so that you can use it to get the kind of vehicle you need in your work in the jungles of Africa. It isn't much but it's all I got."

I thanked him and he insisted I come over to his place to see the pickup. This I did, and later in the evening service he again emphasized that I was to take the old rundown pickup on the morrow before I left.

After the service, the pastor was beside himself as he explained to me that the farmer had that pickup as his sole possession. He owned nothing else. He worked all his life on his landlord's land and couldn't even afford a Sunday suit of clothes. He had been a particular heathen up until just a few weeks ago when he had gotten saved. The pastor continued, "You shouldn't accept this gift, he is just an overjoyed new Christian and doesn't have good sense. Without the pickup, his wife and he will have to cart their groceries miles to their place. It will work a terrible hardship on the family."

I told the pastor I hadn't planned on taking the pickup and that I was planning to leave very early in the morning and would simply 'miss' him.

Early the next morning at 4:30 AM, I went out to leave, only to run into the farmer. He said, "I figured you would try to get away without the pickup. God said, he has need of it and so here are the keys and the title signed over to you."

With that, I took the old worn pickup and drove on home to the Norfolk, VA area, where we were packing everything to ship to Africa.

A couple of weeks later, having shopped for the last groceries, we were in a left turn lane in heavy traffic when the old pickup died and wouldn't start.   Right across the street was a car dealership and out in front was this bright red Jeep. My wife exclaimed, "The Lord said that is our Jeep."

I tried to discourage her, explaining my doubt that the Lord wanted that Jeep, and that we needed to get going. All this time the pickup wouldn't start. Finally, I agreed to just 'look' at it, and with that the pickup started up and traffic opened up for us to pull over to the side of the road and enter the dealer's parking lot. My wife insisted I bargain for the red Jeep, so to keep peace in the family I asked, "How much do you want for the red Jeep?" I expected he would give me a ridiculously high number which we wouldn't have and that would be the end of it.

He said, "Well, there hasn't been much call for these red Jeeps. It's the first year they have come out in that color. We have reduced the price to $2,000.00. What do you have to offer?"

We were in his office and I said, "We have that pickup over there and $1,400.00." The salesman shook his head and was about to refuse the offer when I noticed the owner's name on a plaque above him. I interrupted him and asked, "Is that the owner?"

The salesman said, "Yes, but he is in New York right now."

I replied, "He and I went to college together. Give him a call and see if he'll accept the offer."

The salesman did, only to find the owner was out and would return in a couple of hours. I said, "We'll go get a bite to eat and finish packing and be back at 4 PM."

As we pulled back up into the dealer parking lot, the salesman came out wagging his head. I remarked to my wife, Martha, "See, he can't even wait to tell me we can't have the Jeep. Look how he's shaking his head."  As we got out of the car the salesman said, "Now I know there are TWO crazy people in the world. The owner just accepted your offer. The Jeep is yours."

We picked up the Jeep and drove it right to the dock to be loaded on the ship and we left the next day for Africa.

Several months later the Lord impressed on me that I was to go to the far reaches of the jungle in Zaire to the Motombo-Mukulu tribe. In great excitement, I went to one of the native pastors and told him what the Lord had told me. His immediate reaction was, "No way! The Lord may have told you, but He hasn't told me. Those are the dirtiest, most savage people alive. They wipe themselves with their hands on their bodies. They never wash, and they torture their enemies. No! I'll not go! You can go alone!"

I replied, "Before we make that decision, let's go pray together." We entered the church reluctantly and after several hours, he emerged so on fire to go that even the preparations to go seemed a hindrance.

We set off through the jungle with the red Jeep through trails that were hardly discernible. The third night, we were settling down to sleep in the Jeep, when we heard a movement out in front. I turned on the flashlight and saw a large male lion coming up the trail toward us. He stopped when I turned on the flashlight. I turned to my now nearly pale, black African pastor and asked him what we should do. He replied that he didn't know but we should pray that the Lord not let them be the lion's meal. So, as we prayed, I flashed the car lights. The lion took another step toward us. The now trembling pastor said, "Don't do anything else or he might come closer." I, also trembling, shouted and finally the lion backed off the trail and disappeared in the jungle. We didn't sleep that night.

After traveling five days, we came to a large river crossing and drove down the muddy bank. On the opposite shore, stood the savage warriors of the Motombo-Mukulu tribe with their spears and arrows ready.

The Lord said, "Take off your pistol and leave it in the Jeep." This I did, and I told my pastor to stay very still as we got out of the Jeep. AS I got out, I picked up my bible and held it in my hand. The fierce leader approached us and looked back and forth at the two of us. We were prepared to die for our Lord and almost expected to momentarily, when the leader brushed past us to stand beside the Jeep. He took out a long machete knife and with one blow chopped a coconut in two. He dug into the center of that nut and pulled out a beetle. He then wiped away the caked mud from the fender of the red Jeep and placed that beetle on the fender.

He put his hands to his mouth and called out loudly to the right, to the left, and straight forward in his language, "It is them! It is them! It is them!"

At that moment, men, women, and children rushed across the river toward us. As they surrounded us, we asked what was going on. The chief than stated, "Three years ago an old woman was visited by the living God who told her He would send messengers to us to tell us about Him. They would be two men, one black and one white carrying a little black book that told about Him. And that they would come on a four wheeled bicycle that was the color of the red beetle found in the center of the coconut. See, look at the beetle."  As we looked, the color of the Jeep and the beetle were so matched you could not tell where the beetle stopped and the Jeep began!

The chief continued, "Tell us about the Living God."

We, being very tired and the day nearly over said, "Please let us get a night's rest and then we will tell you, for we have been traveling many days and are tired."

The chief replied, "No, you tell us now! We have waited three years. You must tell us now!"

So--for three days we read the bible to them nonstop, changing off between us as one's voice would get hoarse. At the end of the reading, we gave an invitation, "All who would like to receive Jesus as their Savior and be baptized, please step forward."

The entire tribe stepped forward. We told them to stand back and explained, "No! Only those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God are to step forward."

Again, every man, woman, and child stepped forward. We pleaded, "No, you don't understand..."

At which the chief raised his hand for silence and said, "We do understand, and we all believe and wish to be baptized."

And so -- through the faithful, selfless gift given by an old poor farmer and the faithfulness of the Lord, the entire tribe came to the Lord. But the Lord's work did not stop there. After several years, we were back in that Kentucky Mountain church and the farmer's widow came up to us with the following testimony:

"After George gave away our only possession, the pickup, I knew it would be hard, but I was grateful for the Lord's work in my husband's life as a new Christian. I resolved not to discourage him. Shortly after you left, he walked into town to get a haircut. While waiting, a couple of guys were poking fun at him declaring the stupidity of a guy to give all that he had to the Lord and put himself out on the street walking everywhere. The fellow in the chair getting his hair cut said, 'Where is this fellow? I'd like to meet him.' They all laughed, and the barber said, 'That's him right there.' The fellow took my husband with him to the largest dealership in Virginia, which he owned, and had him pick out the pickup he wanted. He gave it to him for free! Next, the Lord would just bless everything my husband's hand would touch. We became so prosperous that we bought the farm, free and clear, that we had sharecropped all our lives. The Lord caused enough income to come in that we had a lot of money laid aside in the bank before the Lord came and took my husband to be with Him in Heaven. And now I am taken care of here in my old age by the faithfulness of our Lord."

And so ends the testimony of the Red Beetle. The facts are true and the names are as close as I can recall. How awesome is our God!