One of my room mates, Marc Rucquoi.  This picture was taken in Villars.

As I settled into the daily life of L’Abri, I realized that it was a different culture than what I was used to.   Breakfast was at 8:00 each morning, so if we overslept, we missed it.  Wednesdays we would be assigned another Chalet to have breakfast since that was our host family’s day off.  After breakfast I would go to the Farel Center for my studies.  We were assigned to a different Chalet for lunch each day, or we could opt to go to “Yogurt Lunch” at Chalet La Bourdonette. 

After lunch I went to work wherever I was assigned that day.  Some of the work I did was to move dirt, walk dogs, sand and paint furniture, work in a compost pile, (stir it up with a pitch fork) and spread ripe compost over a garden as fertilizer, wax stairs and my favorite, organize a garage. 

I recall one time I was walking two St. Bernards that belonged to the host family of Chalet Les Sapin.  One thing I learned quickly is if the dogs wanted to go one direction that is where we went.  They were a lot bigger than I was strong.  I walked them up the mountain along some paths.  All of sudden, they decided to go straight down the mountain which at that point I was just hanging on so I would not lose them.  As we were going down the mountain at a pretty good pace, we went right through a Platoon of Swiss soldiers who were out on maneuvers. The soldiers were going up the mountain on their stomachs with weapons in hand.  It was an interesting experience going through their group as they watched, and I tried to apologize to them in French as I went past hanging on to the dog leashes.   

As the L’Abri leadership got to know each of the students, some of us were placed permanently in a job where we had skills. For instance, if someone was an office worker in life, they may be assigned to the front desk where visitors would make first contact.  In my case, since I knew how to work on cars, that is where I ended up, and I loved it! 

In Switzerland at that time when a car was at the end of life, it had to be cut up and discarded.  In the parking lot near the chapel, was an old Citroen that had been there for a long time.  Dr. Schaeffer’s son in law, John Sandri asked me if I could disassemble the car and what I would need to cut up the rest.  I said if I had an acetylene torch, I could cut it up really fast.  They ended up finding an electric saw for me to use.  The next day I started by pulling the engine and transmission and mounting those to a pallet.  I then removed the doors and other things bolted to the body.  Removed the interior as much as I could and making a pallet for those.  Then I used the saw to cut the rest up into as small a pieces as I could and making another pallet for those.  I think I finished working on that car in three days.   A few days later the pallets were picked up and that was the last of that car. 

When I finished the Citroen, a L’Abri worker named Bob asked me if I could replace the engine in his VW Type 3 Squareback.  I could not refuse that.  I told him that I would need to be able to “test” drive it.  He said no problem.  In fact he needed to go home for a couple of weeks to California so I had plenty of time for the work and test driving.   

On 27 March, the day that I planned to pull the engine out of the car, my roommate Marc Rucquoi cut two fingers really bad so I drove him to Villars in the VW to get five stitches.  I was glad I had access to the car to drive him, and I enjoyed the drive, my first time in Europe. That afternoon I started to pull the engine at 4:00 pm and had everything out by 6:00 pm.

The next few days I did not work on the car since I had my day off, then Sunday when I was not allowed to work on the car.  Where I had set up to work on the VW was in the chapel parking lot so I had to have everything taking up only one parking space for the day.

On Monday, during my work time I started to install the crate engine into the VW.  I had it running after a few hours.  I slept well that night knowing that the hard part of the engine swap was complete.  I spent the next work day finishing up all the little details involved in installing a new engine.  Then the test drives! 

The next few work days I spent doing “shake down” drives. I really enjoyed exploring the nearby roads to Huemoz. 

When Bob, the car’s owner was scheduled to arrive back from California, I drove to Geneva to pick him up.  I got to the airport a few hours before his arrival.  I recall sitting in a chair next to the area where people exited customs for arriving flights.  I fell asleep and before I knew it, I felt something hitting my foot.  I woke up staring down the barrel of a sub machine gun of the Swiss Police.  Needless to say, I did what they wanted and moved away from the area after showing them my passport and explaining that I was waiting to pick up a friend who was due arrive soon.  When Bob arrived, he asked if I would mind driving back to L’Abri since he was tired from the long flight.  I enjoyed the last drive before handing the car back over to the owner. 

I did not have any major car work after that but did a few oil changes and tune-ups.  For me, working on a car not only fixes it but fixes me as well.  I am in my natural element working on anything mechanical.

This is the Chapel at Swiss L'Abri.  The parking lot where I worked on the cars is to the left of this picture.