Over the last 15 or so years I have enjoyed restoring two military jeeps—a 1944 GPW that has been in our family since 1967 and a 1942 MB which I bought in 2003. My students and colleagues sometimes ask, “Why do you restore jeeps?” They are often surprised that a professor would love working on military jeeps. Maybe I should be reading the Bible, praying, or preparing a lecture. Aren’t there better ways to use your time and make investments for eternity?
First, I restore jeeps because it enables me to fulfill a patriotic duty. During the war in Viet Nam the draft lottery was instituted and some would say I got lucky. My number was never called up and I never entered the military. Although restoring jeeps doesn’t even come close to the sacrifice made by our soldiers and veterans, I feel that for me it does fulfill a patriotic duty to my country.
Second, restoring military jeeps is a way to honor the soldiers, sailors and flyers who have served our country. Although I marked my jeep for the 11th Airborne, it is dedicated to the memory of all those who put on a uniform and took up arms to protect our country and preserve our freedoms. I am always proud to drive my jeep in the Portland Veterans’ Day Parade. I salute the veterans gathered along the parade route with deep appreciation and genuine gratitude for their service to our country. It’s a way of saying “thank you!”
Third, I restore jeeps because it is a diversion from the other work I do five or six days a week. As a Bible teacher and part-time preacher, most of my work is done with books as I do research for lectures and prepare sermons. Restoring jeeps is a refreshing change from the world of academics to the world of mechanics and military history. Instead of spending money on a psychologist or counselor learning to manage job stress, I spend money on jeep parts and find relief by cutting, bending and welding metal.
Fourth, I restore jeeps because it dovetails with my love for military history. Ever since spending a summer on Guam as pastor of a small church, I have fallen in love with military history, especially World War II history. On a cold winter night you’ll usually find me spending an hour or so reading a book like Flags of Our Fathers or Ghost Soldiers. Reading military history gives one a vicarious experience of military life. But restoring jeeps gives me an opportunity to own, rebuild and drive actual WWII military artifacts!
The fifth reason I enjoy restoring jeeps is theological. The Bible reveals that God is in the restoration business. But instead of working on old military vehicles, He restores individual lives and hearts. David acknowledges in Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul.” He does that through the truth of His Word (Psa. 19:7). God is in the business of taking hurting and broken people and making them new again in demonstration of his love and grace. Eventually God will restore “all things” (Acts 3:21). When I am scrapping rust and restoring old metal, I am reminded that I’m God’s restoration project. He accepts me as I am, with all my dents and broken parts. Then he begins a process of cleaning me up, repairing my life and making me like new. In spite of my best efforts, my jeeps are not perfect. But someday when God finishes His work, I will be (1 John 3:2).
About J. Carl Laney
J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Loving Your Enemy: A Biblical Alternative to Revenge” (Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, July 2011).