Once every term at RVA, the students and staff are encouraged to go “beyond the fence” and plug into an outreach that blesses the local community. Today groups went to the nearby women’s prison, visited orphanages, played soccer with the local school children, and delivered firewood to the IDP camp in the valley. Some helped with the upkeep of a local beekeeping operation, others planted seedlings in the area that was washed out by the recent mudslides. There are always plenty of opportunities and it’s great to see the enthusiasm many of the students have to give the gift of a Saturday morning’s labor.
This time around there were a few projects nearby related directed to the mudslides (SEE PREVIOUS POST). One of the boys dorms where many of my 7th and 8th grade students live took it upon themselves to pool their tithe money in an effort to help out one of RVA’s closest neighbors. I had the pleasure of meeting them today. Daniel and Tabitha and their children live in a nice home that just happened to be on the edge of the mudslide. Their eldest son, Paul, a young man who recently finished his schooling and is currently looking for further job-training, slept in a one-room building detached from their house. Although the main house was miraculously spared, his room was deluged by the mud, and were it not for a fallen tree landing just so, he along with the entire structure would’ve been swept away in the night. It was really amazing to talk with the family, to go up to the tracks where the mud came from and see how physically impossible it seemed that the entire residence wasn’t destroyed, killing all inside as they slept.
In this picture from above the house (red tin roof), you can see where the mud was aimed. Then, at the last minute, it just turned right, completely missing the house it was heading for.
“God is great, God is great” Daniel kept repeating, as we looked at the path of mud, bewildered that it literally took a 90 degree turn within yards of plowing through his home.
It was great to see it through the boys’ eyes too. As their math teacher, I try to encourage them that calculations are designed to make sense, to reveal the solution that is according to the rules of mathematics, and are played out in the world through the laws of physics. Well, God has the final say, and He decided it wasn’t time for this family to go. Whether it followed the laws of physics that night or not was not God’s concern. It was obvious to all of us as we stood there; God’s providence was clearly at work, changing what should have happened into what only God could make happen. We praise and glorify His name along with their family!
As the mud careened past their home that night, it did manage to pour through the back wall of Paul’s detached room (under the tin roof above), blocking the door and his only easy escape route. Windows in Africa are protected by security bars, so they present no way out either. Thankfully, above the sound of crashing water, mud, trees, and rocks pouring down the hill, his father, Daniel was able to hear Paul’s cries for help and pry open one of the walls (made of tin) so that he could escape before he was covered. Needless to say, they are grateful for his safety and now hurting for a space for him to sleep!
Our job was to dig the mud out of the structure so that the rebuilding process can begin. With 7 boys, myself, and Daniel and Paul pitching in, we put in 3 solid hours and took out countless wheel barrow loads filled with mud.
We ignorant missionaries laughed when we discovered the hidden blessing in all this: although we saw the logs and branches that were buried every which way in the mud as a hindrance to our shoveling efforts, Daniel asked us to stack it nicely on the side of his house – free fire wood!
Only being there for part of a morning, we hardly put a dent in the work that needs to be done. But the family was grateful, connections were made, and I was able to encourage the students that a little hard work and sweat can be a blessing to others (and build muscle for rugby at the same time!) The boys are hoping to raise more money and possibly donate some items to Paul that he lost in the storm. Among other things, a mattress and computer are badly needed and they hope to challenge their classmates to pitch in as well.
It’s a pleasure working here. Every time I get frustrated by teaching, or have minor issues with students, staff members or parents, I’m reminded by an experience like this that God is using us. Despite our faults and brokenness, (and often because of them) we’ve been given the chance to pour into these kids. While we shoveled the heavy mud and debris, they loved hearing stories about my days growing up on a farm, pitching manure with my Dad and laughed when I told them to switch arms so they can build muscle in both arms evenly like my Dad would tell me. Watching a bunch of Korean boys get blisters in the first 20 minutes and then push through the pain to finish the task because they are convinced Christ’s love will be shown: priceless.
God’s at work here, in their hearts, and in my heart. And we pray He’s working in the hearts of those who are being introduced to Jesus for the first time all around the continent. Amen.