A present on Sunday morning

The search for an open garage was daunting, but things ended up better than expected


2 min read
Fr. Vernon Kohlmann

The tire on my car had a blowout on a Saturday afternoon while I was on my way to celebrate Sunday Mass at Mariapolis Luminosa, the little town of the Focolare. Though I called AAA, they could not come out because I happened to be on a state highway. The local police brought a mechanic, who put a donut tire on the car, good for 50 miles. 

It was Saturday afternoon, so no garages were open to do repairs. Sunday would not be much different. AAA did recommend a garage that I could try on Sunday morning. 

I stayed overnight at a hotel and went to that garage the next morning. However, they did not do repairs and recommended trying another garage further on in town. I arrived there just to learn that they also did not do repairs, but they recommended another garage not too much farther away. That garage opened at 8am to 12 noon, as the sign indicated, but no one was there. I called their number and left a message. 

I called Mariapolis Luminosa to let them know about my predicament. There was the possibility that I might have to stay another night in the town, which would mean there would be no Sunday Mass with the group of teens who were there participating in a youth program. 

Then, right after our conversation ended, an employee came by, but he couldn’t open the shop. However, the manager soon arrived, and when he opened my trunk, he found the spare. 

“You are a wonderful Christmas present!” I told him. He asked, “Are you a priest?” 

In the conversation that ensued, he shared that he was Seventh Day Adventist and an assistant military chaplain at a Catholic hospital. He and his wife had established two orphanages in the Dominican Republic and hoped to expand their work on the island. 

In the garage that morning, it was impressive to see how available he made himself to the customers as they came in — one about a car battery, another about a tire, etc. What I saw and heard called me to make a conversion, as I recognized the hand of God at work in these few moments.

As we talked, I was beginning to get concerned about the time. Would I make it to Hyde Park by noon? He assured me I would. He didn’t repair the tire — he gave me another tire that seemed as good as new. 

When I ask for the cost of the tire and the labor, he said there was no charge! Ever since then his Noah Auto Repair Shop card in Teaneck, New Jersey has been in my billfold!

Needless to say, I made it on time to celebrate a beautiful mass at Mariapolis Luminosa. And I was filled with joy about this encounter, which showed me how we can build relationships even in unfavorable


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