The Car, My Master

By Bro. Douglas Simonetti, SVD

I am a Missionary Brother of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) and I am from Brazil. One of the experiences which excited me the most in the missions is travelling by car. When I decided to be a missionary, I never thought that I would need to drive a car that much.The demands in the mission have taught me to realize that missionaries need to be skilled in various things— and driving a car is one of them.

With time I became more conscious that driving a car means responsibility. It is related to the awareness of my context of mission, the community living as well. Having a car is connected with regular care, expenses, preservation and maintenance. For already one decade, I have been a missionary in the SVD Kenya Province. Currently I am the Biblical Coordinator of the Province which covers two countries: Kenya and Tanzania.

I also serve as bursar in our SVD school, called Divine Word Boys High School. I would say that driving became a regular work of my life and mission. There are weeks when I cover between 300 and 600 kilometers and others when I have to drive more than 1,000 kilometers. There are times when I experience driving as pleasure and times that are hectic, tiresome and stressful. I remember very well two occasions which I found myself drained. It happened in 2021 at a construction site of an expressway for extending the Mombasa Road in Nairobi. There was a U-turn where it normally takes 3 or 5 minutes to cross the avenue. But on that day by surprise, suddenly I found myself in a traffic jam, with no way to leave the car or to return backwards. That U-turn gave me a deep experience about patience and humility. I spent EIGHT HOURS driving a distance of only 900 meters.

At a second occasion, I went to our Common Formation House in Nairobi, which is 30 kilometers away from the school. I left the school after lunch. Everything went well. Packing and cutting firewood was hard work throughout the afternoon and evening. On my way back to the school at around 8 p.m., I got into a heavy traffic jam on the last 10 kilometers. It took me the WHOLE NIGHT at the steering wheel of the pickup. I didn’t reach the school until early morning the following day, around 5 a.m.

Since the time of my temporal vows through my last years in formation up to today, I have driven several kinds of motor vehicles in the SVD mission: buses, minibuses, tractors and small vehicles like pickups. Which kind of a car should an SVD drive? I would say a good one which serves not him but also the whole community where he lives, according to the demands of the mission context. Because we are religious missionaries, the car is neither to attend to my personal desires nor to be my own possession. Perhaps the best is if we ask not what kind or type of car a missionary should drive, but which kind or type of a car would the community need according to its mission context. We live neither for ourselves, nor alone. We have to learn how to share, how to trust each other, how to use responsibly the vehicles entrusted to us. Without abusing it or possessing it.

We embrace a style of life in the world which is different from others. We are called religious missionaries. Thus, I believe we should not nurture a feeling or emotion that the car entrusted to us in the mission is our exclusive personal car. It should be applicable to our projects. When we apply for a new vehicle, they should not be for personal or individual projects, even if the vehicle is inherited or gifted by relatives or friends. These vehicles should be registered as SVD vehicles serving the community under the responsibility of the confrere in charge.

Currently I am driving a school car which is an old pickup Toyota Land Cruiser with hard body, engine 4100cc, manufactured in 2006. This vehicle tells a story which is exemplary for the Province. This 17-year-old pickup has covered 259,400 kilometers. The KAX460S has passed through the hands of over 20 confreres, has served different missions within the Province, from interior missions in the dry savanna areas of Isiolo, Dol – Rift Valley, the hills, forests and valleys of Uasin Gishu County of Kenya, up to the roads and landscape of Machakos County and Nairobi City. It has also served confreres for outings to the Kenya National Parks of Nairobi, Amboseli, Mount Kenya and Tsavo.

Despite the age of this car, it has a strong engine. Due to its services in the last two years, I decided to keep a good maintenance of this vehicle which, so far, has expended $3,000 in replacement of bushes, springs, shocks, bearings, brake pads, time belt, battery, power steering arm, seat belts, seat covers, new tires, new paint, and regular maintenance. It gives the feeling that the vehicle is practically new or it gives the feeling of a two-year old vehicle as someone drives it.

The KAX460S became my teacher. It made me to look at my inner self and my vocation, as well. I have learned much more about the importance of responsibility, the need to share with others, the meaning of regular accompaniment and care, to be patient and humble as we drive, to be attentive to others along the road. Best of the best, once you are in charge or behind a vehicle’s steering wheel, it is the best mirror to reflect on your life, emotion and attitudes. Who am I? Why am I doing it? Where am I going? In other words, how do I drive myself.

Br. Douglas Simonetti, SVD, coordinates the consciousness for SVD Brother vocations in the worldwide SVD.  He is the SVD Generalate Assistant Secretary for Brothers' Formation and Education

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