Saturday morning, we set off to build a fence for one of the schools where we had ministered. We ate a hardy breakfast and then enthusiastically began the work project. What you might not realize though is that some of the biggest challenges in developing countries are the little things… In this instance, inadequate tools.
Our contacts do a really wonderful job of communicating ahead of time that all the supplies should be ready before our team arrives. What sometimes goes amiss is a local construction organizer’s idea of exactly what is needed. They are not blessed to have access to the same tools we do in the US, and, even when they are, the local fence-building experts sometimes have different ideas than we do…
In this instance, our task involved digging twenty fence post holes and then stringing wire between the posts. Our tools included 20 pound iron rods (instead of shovels!), old sheet metal and rusty wire. They also planned for us to scavenge rocks from the area to fill in the holes around the posts (instead of pouring concrete). Obviously, we had to be flexible and improvise!
You might be thinking, “I see an easy solution… just go to the store, buy all the right stuff, and do the project the RIGHT way.” But, that is somewhat culturally insensitive. It’s actually pretty easy to offend locals by suggesting that we know better than they do or by replacing supplies they worked hard to gather with our “better” supplies. As missionaries, we have to learn that some things are not wrong, just different. We have to adapt and be flexible and prioritize relationships that lead to Gospel opportunities over other things we value like efficiency and productivity. This requires a certain amount of mental fortitude!!
Eventually, we began taking shifts with the exhausting work, and people from the community joined in to help. It was a long, hard day, but we’re trusting God that our faithfulness in the small things will be used to open BIG doors for the Gospel.
In fact, we were really encouraged later in the week when we visited a different school. There, we discovered that RIM team had come in March and painted the building, chopped down a dead tree, and cleared land for a safe play area for students. Because of that team’s hard work, our team was allowed to visit the school, perform our drama and share the Gospel. Their labor paved the way for us to see students’ salvations.
Please pray that our work with the fence lays an equally good foundation for future mission teams to this area!