An unexpected auto mechanic lesson - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Francis (middle) and two students, examining chassis and body components from under the car.

Yesterday was the best day I have had so far teaching at Marianist Technical Institute (MTI). The plan for the day was passed over for other concerns, then, through confusion and patience, a different course presented itself.

The actual lesson plan for Tuesdays and Thursdays is a practical auto mechanic lesson that follows the theory lesson given the previous day. What the students do on practical days is arranged mostly by the real mechanic, Kalama, a Kenyan who has a mechanic shop in nearby Ukunda and comes to teach on those days. On practical days Kalama teaches the second-year students, while I teach the new first-year students. He explains to me the day’s lesson of dismantling parts, proper cleaning and handling, and then reassembling.

Francis on his bike

Well, that day the MTI van broke down and needed the attention of Kalama. Kalama and some others had worked on the van the previous week, but the problem had not been repaired. Therefore, Kalama took the vehicle to his mechanic shop in Ukunda. He was gone for the day without giving me instruction. I was a bit at a loss for what to do.

Stanley, a Kenyan and the head mechanic teacher, told the students to wash the vehicles, to give them an activity to keep them busy (this happens often too). The place where I was standing became busy with students moving around hurriedly with buckets of water and whisk brooms. But I was unsure of what to do next.

I decided, as I have done before a few times, to go get dressed in my Tuesday practical cloths and reappear ready to do work. When I returned the students were jacking up one of the practice vehicles and it was teetering on one jack stand. My lesson plan developed from that point. I instructed the students to put two jack stands under one side of the vehicle and stabilize it. This created enough room for me and two students at a time to scoot under the car on our backs and have our lesson there under the car.

The practical lesson for the day was chassis and body components of the automobile. I began to instruct: This is the steel frame, this is the chassis cross member welded to the parallel frames, the oil pan, the transmission, the front axle gear box, and on and on, describing the components and their functions. Fourteen students scooted under that vehicle two at a time.

When the lesson was complete, I came out from under the car with a feeling of success. I went to the head teacher, Stanley, and thanked him for a good lesson plan. It is days like these when I am sure that it is grace which holds me in the moment with patience just to be present, and to wait for the lesson to unfold.

As the Persian poet Rumi said, “Stop weaving and watch the tapestry improve.” I am becoming part of the tapestry.

Francis Wayne
Francis Wayne teaches auto mechanics and math at Marianist Technical Institute, a vocational school in Ukunda, Kenya. This is his second term as a Maryknoll lay missioner. He previously served from 1993 until 1996, also in Kenya.