International Ministries

Wagons, selfless service & building a future

February 4, 2011 Journal
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I don’t really care about the money.  I just want Lusekele to make some headway.”  Emmanuel Souza and I were looking down at the rear axle from an old cannibalized LandRover.  “Pretty soon you will have palm fruit bunches coming out of your ears and you will need a way to transport them.  I’m glad to help.”

Those are rare words in a world dominated by project-induced dependence where many people are looking for the next patron to get themselves through the year.  He was casting a vote for a renewed rural economy based on shared knowledge and local innovation.  And the thing that struck me most was that it was done in the spirit of Paul’s admonition to the Philippians: “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”

Last year Emmanuel was sick for months with some ill-defined digestive track problem.  His energy dissipated.  He hardly got out of bed.  Almost everyone thought he would die.  But he didn’t.  He says that God healed him.  Over the last couple of months he has gained strength and regained some of his long-term interest in adapting simple technology to the local people’s needs and opportunities.  He is a gifted mechanic and millwright.  Joining me in a do-it-yourself tractor wagon project was a way to keep a hand in life.

The rear wheel assembly of the LandRover will make a perfect axle for a simple wagon able to carry ½ to ¾ tons.  ACDI’s immediate concern is to quickly move palm fruit from its own plantations to the small oil extraction installation here, save money, and free workers for better plantation maintenance. 

However, more fundamental concerns drive me.  First, make the plantation and oil extraction operation profitable.  That’s kind of a strange concern for a missionary.  But the long term ability of the Baptist church’s extension program to help members and their neighbors depends on stronger local income.  A profitable business provides the surplus that makes it possible for a few believers to serve others and proclaim God’s good news. 

Second, innovation, combining the best of our own experience with the creative inspiration that comes from God, is part of our mandate to join God in the continuing creation of this world.  Building a suitable wagon out of local materials and discarded hardware is a local solution to a local need.  It demonstrates in a very small way that God has NOT destined us to live within the limitations of our current poverty. 

Third, small successes help Lusekele Christians to maintain hope and a measure of enthusiasm.  I want people to have enough confidence in God and in themselves that they are willing to take well-considered risks that have a good chance of creating new opportunities.  An old proverb says, “Nothing succeeds like success.”  My colleagues in the business and technical side of the Lusekele ministry need a few good successes.

We finished half the small wagon bed yesterday and played around with ideas for mounting the axle.  Kester, the Lusekele mechanic, is scrounging around Vanga for parts we lack.  In a couple of more weeks we should have another very small piece of the Lusekele sustainable ministry puzzle in place.  Emmanuel's willingness to serve others with his experience and enthusiasm encouraged me.  It echoes Jesus' orientation to life:  "He was humble and walked the path of obedience . . ." -- for others, for all of us.