The World’s On Fire!
Loosely based on a hospital fire in Calcutta, India
Posted: 03 May 2014 06:26 PM PDT
To all my brothers and sisters in Christ;
"Some say I've made quite a sacrifice in spending so much of my life
in Africa... I never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of 'sacrifice'
when we remember He who left His Father's throne on high to
give Himself for us." ~ David Livingston
As I sit down to write inside my climate controlled room, painted in rich hues of blue and brown, and decorated with African paintings, I wonder if the comfort I enjoy makes me complacent. Why aren't we willing to make genuine sacrifices?
Perhaps the continual relaxation is removing my need for the Comforter and Guide by sedating my spiritual appetite with lesser things; things that are worthless. Perhaps I am being sung a lullaby and rocked to sleep. I must be alert. I must watch and pray.
Our house is on top of a hill and cannot be hid, at least from a distance. Up close, no one can see over the wall and into the shimmering oasis amidst we dwell. A stone staircase carved out of the dirt meanders from the garden and up to the patio, where we often grill chicken, hamburgers, and steak. The lawn, grown from American seed, glistens with droplets of water from the sprinkler. A rainbow of flowers adorn the beds in front. What is life? Why aren't others as blessed?
But that's enough. Let's step out of this murky swirl of abstract thought, and I'll tell you what we've done since I last wrote; about building wheelchairs, visiting the sick, buying new vehicles, touring a coal mine, seeing an old volcano, climbing a tower, and almost being crushed by a fuel tanker.
Most of our projects revolve around repairing wells, so when Kevin mentioned that a handicapped man had asked for a wheelchair, I jumped at the opportunity to do something different. We had an old tricycle from several years ago sitting in the yard that the guys before had built. Looking at it, we decided that the design could be improved by making it lower, using bigger wheels, and reworking the steering.
This meant a radical departure from the beaten path, but in many ways that's when I'm the happiest. After a couple of days of welding, stopping to reconsider, and remaking what already has been done, we had a crude prototype of what we envisioned.
Gene, Mark and Beth's interpreter,(they are the missionaries in Ulongwe) was at our place planting grass while we were working on it. He came down to the armazén, our workshop, and in his bold manner proclaimed.
"This isn't good! These axles need to be removable. You need too think of the person using it, not just yourself. These are not good ideas at all."
His words bit. Just because the design was different didn't mean it was necessarily worse. Besides, I was fully aware of the imperfections and was wondering how to go about fixing them. It irked me immensely to face criticism from someone who had no solution and no pretense of helping me.
It was discouraging, but I swallowed my pride and began on an improved design, ignoring the 'I told you so' comments from Gene when I unceremoniously tossed the old one into the trash.
I felt I was entitled to praise rather than condemnation; a far cry from the servant described by Jesus who comes in from working in the field and serves at his master's table, realizing he is just doing his duty. I thought I deserved better than just crumbs underneath the table, but rather a place of honor. With an attitude like that, genuine sacrifice is impossible.
Taking turns joy-riding the wheelchair around the yard, we discovered several deficiencies and rectified them. Once the prototype was complete, we made four more and painted them each a different color: red, blue, green, yellow, and gray.
Each wheelchair has 3-26" bicycle wheels; a 19" wide, padded vinyl seat; a locking park brake; 1:1 gear ratio; and a breaking hub on the front drive wheel. We spent 6000 meticais (200 dollars) on parts and are selling them for 1200 metz.
While in Angonia, we dropped the blue one off for Gene's father, who has nothing but two stubs for legs. He didn't know what to say, but was obviously holding back tears of gratitude. He pedaled around his mud hut and declared that his new bike was for going to church.
We also found people to give the others to. The green one we brought to a man in Dondo, near the ocean. We sold the green one to a man in Changara, and the red one to a man here in Moatize. The gray prototype we will keep to make more off of.
The genuine appreciation we are shown is humbling and reminds me of how undeserving I am. They have no hesitation to compliment because we might become proud or think we are better than them. It's not as if they would be eaten up inside if we looked down on them anyways - they're rather used to that from white azungus.
One Sunday afternoon, we went to visit João's sick baby in the provincial hospital. I wasn't really enthused about going along, and Trevor wasn't, but eventually I decided to 'make the sacrifice.'
There are people everywhere pressing into the hospital with their families, hoping to receive treatment. Two mothers share the same bed in the intensive care unit. Both of their babies are breathing oxygen from masks. Ten beds are packed into a room roughly the size of our living room. In one corner, a boy who is stiff and sweating is surrounded by ladies chanting for an evil spirit to be gone.
We sing a dozen hymns in Chichewa with Albino, his wife Maria, and Samuel. (They are all members of the congregation in Chingodzi.) Some of the tired patients seem a little embarrassed when we see them singing along, but continue anyways.
The baby is doing better than he was yesterday, at least now he is crying. Before, his eyes were motionless and he didn't make a sound. Cerebral malaria has beaten him down. Leaving at four in the morning, his parents walked twenty kilometers to the road to catch a bus to the hospital. They have done what they can, but now he needs another blood transfusion.
João already donated blood two days ago, so I offer that they can take mine. Kevin's go home for supper, and Albino, João, and I stay to wait for the nurse.
After testing me for the disease, they take a half-liter of blood and we're on our way. We walk down the dark streets of downtown Tete and stop for Cokes at a stand wired together from dinged up pieces of tin. At the taxi stand, I ask a driver how much he'll charge us for a ride to Chingodzi. It's 300 metz, which is extravagant compared to the chapas which would have cost only 30, but I'm wanting to enjoy the beautiful evening in the spacious open air.
We cross the brightly illuminated bridge over the Zambezi river and stop at Albino's house. Of course I must stay to eat something, even though it is already 9:00.
Maria serves us massa with fried termites and broiled tomatoes. During super I learn that Albino is a driver for businessmen arriving at the airport. They rent cars and have him drive them around. For 18 years now he has been doing this.
It is late and I must go catch a chapa, one of those rickety, packed busses. There is also the two km walk from the main road to our house.
We try to wave one down, but all the chapas are packed. Eventually one stops and I get in. I have to look over my shoulder to see ahead of me so that I don't miss or road. We sit as a tangled mass of humanity, with legs and arms invading the personal space of everyone else.(which doesn't really exist) I can't see the back of the bus, but my guess is that there are about 25 of us inside. Once I tell the doorman to stop, he taps a coin on the window, 'tap tap - tap tap', and the driver pulls over. I manage to squeeze out and walk the lonely stretch home.
The evening wasn't a sacrifice at all. Instead, it served as another examples of the great oxymoron: who seeks to save his life will lose it, but who loses his life for Jesus's sake will find it.
Some of the vehicles on the mission field are due for replacement, so Kevin has been involved in purchasing three new Nissan Patrols. We went down to Beira to try and get the import duties worked out. The vehicles cannot leave the shipping containers until they clear customs, and there has been difficulties. At first we were told a 15% tax would apply as we are a non-government organization and the Patrols are a ten passenger vehicle. Then, once the vehicles had arrived, the customs officials charged 55% as the Patrols are a 4x4 SUV. Only a $40,000 difference. It made for more than a little annoyance.
On the way home, we were stopped for speeding. When we protested at the step fine, the officer retorted in Portuguese.
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Taxes on imports and money from speeding tickets are definitely not the main source of the government's revenue. That distinction would have to go to mining royalties.
One Saturday, we were lucky enough to get a tour of Vale's Moatize mine. One of our neighbors, a man from Brazil, works in the mine overseeing equipment maintenance. He offered to navigate getting through the tight security for us and show us around.
Construction on the mine began in 2008 and continues today. The first coal shipped out in 2011. Three massive open pits are all that they are currently mining, even though a large percentage of Tete province has coal underneath it. It is estimated that by 2025, Mozambique could supply up to 25% of the world's high grade coal, which is what most of it here is. The coal from this mine is used mostly for metallurgical purposes, mainly in the production of steel.
Currently, 4 trains of 42 cars each leave on the track to Beira every day. Each car is overloaded with 180 tonnes of coal, making a total of 30,240 tonnes per train. The market value is about $120 per tonne, so that is $3.6M of raw material per day, and $1.3B per year. The government's share is 5%.
With the completion of the 912 km rail line to Nacala, the mine capacity will be tripled. Right now, the heavy use of the Beira line by Vale's competition is their limiting factor. Already 68 locomotives and over 1400 cars have been purchased for the new track, which will be operational late this year. Each day, eight trains loaded to overflowing will depart on it.
Coal isn't the only mineral deposit that Tete has. In the extinct volcanic mountain, Muambe, there is over 1 million tonnes of blue and yellow carbonatites, a crystal-like rock.
Trevor and I went to see this mountain one day while on a trip repairing wells. About 5 km across, it is 780 m high and has a 200 m deep caldera. We wanted to go down into it, but there were guards with ancient rifles held together with wire that stopped us. Exploration companies were doing seismic work that they didn't want us to disturb.
On another trip to repair wells, the pipes fell down into the casing and we were unable to get hold of them. We left, leaving the villagers with the pipe fisher and telling them that we'd be back when we had a better tool made.
The next morning while I was working on the new tool, they called to inform us that they had caught the pipes and removed all of them during the night. This was good news, but I was disappointed that I couldn't continue engineering a better solution. We went back to finish up that afternoon.
While we had been there the first time, Trevor had marveled how Movitel could afford to ruin a generator to power their cell tower way out in the bush. It was right beside the pump we were working on, but miles from any significant population. This had reminded me of my longing to climb one, and this was the perfect opportunity.
I asked one of the natives who was helping us of it was alright if I went up, which he said it was, even though he was too scared to do it himself.
The tower had 14 sections bolted together which had 18 one-foot rungs each, so it was approximately 250' tall. About hallway up, I checked the bolts and was disturbed to discover that they were loose. The tower was stable, however, as it was supported with plenty of gywires. After clearing away a nest, I enjoyed a bird's eye view of the village and nearby river that wandered through the savannah.
"So what was the view from up top like?" I was later asked, but I didn't know exactly how to answer without deviating from the realm of concrete details.
Sitting up there, I remembered driving home from Fingoe with Wendell in the back seat, his mouth opening and closing but making no sound. We were almost continually out of control, was his statement later, but that was an exaggerated claim. After all, the riders in the box were still grateful when we arrived.
In the passenger seat, Trevor had sat downing his third Red Bull of the afternoon, slamming the can back against his aviator sunglasses. He was levitating over his seat, but whether from the drink or the driving it was hard to tell.
"So tell me," I asked Wendell, "will your report of Africa include us, or will you have to gloss over that part?"
He hadn't been able to say - perhaps because he was too kind, or maybe because his mouth was too dry; and in my abrupt way I blurted.
"Why aren't we willing to make real sacrifices?"
We were bouncing through the middle of nowhere; a nowhere crowded with people who had no good water, no electricity, and no Savior. Who was going to go to them?
Sitting on top of the world on the cell tower I could see it all again: the distance we tend to make between us. The blessings we refuse to give up because we firmly believe we deserve them, that we earned them with all of our hard efforts. I could look down on the primitive huts as one who observes artifacts in a museum, and be intrigued. I could shout down advice, but remain far separated from the ripped clothes, the hunger, and the poverty, of which I knew nothing of.
Last week, when we were driving from Beira to Tete, we witnessed a horrific accident. It was on the road between Changara and the city, which is hilly and full of curves. We rounded a corner and saw a white flatbed semi on the left side of the road flipped on its roof in the ditch. The red sea-can that it had been carrying lay tossed 40' behind it.
Although we were only the second vehicle to stop, a crowd of more than 50 people from the nearby village was flocked around the truck, trying to assist in some way.
We stopped a hundred feet ahead of the wreck and Kevin and I jumped out and walked back to see off we could help out. The rest of the family stated in the vehicle.
Making my way through the crowd, I asked if everyone was okay and had made it out alive. Everyone had, I was told, except for the driver. He was alive, but trapped between his seat and the steering column. As well, his foot was pinched between the crumpled door and the frame.
I helped to remove the fuel tank, which was blocking access to the door.
While I was standing with my back to the highway, trying to pry free the man's foot, I suddenly heard screaming. Looking up, I saw the crowd frantically fleeing as a gasoline tanker truck barreled towards me. It swerved, overcorrected, and lost control.
The image seared into my mind is of the truck spinning through the air as it ploughed into the throng of people. All I had time to think was 'this is going to be ugly.'
When the semi stopped, gasoline was pouring out of the top of the tank, facing me. It had rolled one and three-quarter times. Trevor, watching from the Patrol, said that it had almost appeared to go right over me. In reality, it had passed within 10 feet
Kevin, who had been farther away, took off to move the Patrol out of harms way. The driver of the tanker took off running across the bridge. An explosion seemed imminent.
I ran to the police officer who was standing beside his car and demanded that he stop the traffic. He told me it wasn't possible here at the bottom of the hill. "Not here! At the top of the hill!" I said, and he left to do it.
I rushed to the victims, and was the first one to reach them. It wasn't as devastating as I had feared. Three were obviously dead. One boy was in critical condition, and since there was no chance of medical help outside of the hospital, I recruited two men to bring him there. One lady was hurt, but got up on her own and went to her house.
This left only the man still trapped in the first truck. The entire crowd was gone by now, shook up and keeping their distance.
Checking in on the trapped driver, he looked into my eyes and begged. "Please help me! I'm dying!"
I promised I would, but we had no tools, and no one else did either. I grabbed a steel sign post, knocked over from the crash, to use as a lever. With it, and a chain, we pulled on the steering wheel until it was all bent out of shape. It gave him more room, so that his thighs weren't pinched, but he was still trapped by his foot.
We tried and tried, but without tools it was impossible to get him free. I explained to the police how we needed to lift up the one side, and was told that a crane was coming. They would get him out then.
The family in the Patrol was desperate to leave, as we had to pick up Fred and Denise arriving back from America at the airport, so we took off. I washed my hands of the blood and dirt, and changed my ripped clothes.
That night, my conscience bothered me. Had he really got out? I prayed he had. When he was calling out that he was dying, I'd asked him if he knew Jesus. "Yes." He replied.
Why did I leave him? If it was my parent, my friend, or my sibling - I wouldn't have. If it was someone I deeply loved - I wouldn't have. Even if I couldn't do anything to help I would have spent the night together sharing in their agony.
If it was Jesus - would I have? The Lord's words stung. "In as much as you've done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it into me."
The phone rang, and Wade, the missionary in Songo, had forgotten his keys. He was locked out of his house. Trevor and I offered to drive out to meet him, to save him from driving two hours back to get his keys.
We passed the wreck that had happened earlier that day and I asked Trevor to stop. I had to see if the man had gotten out. I walked down the hill in the dark and found some men stripping the truck of parts. He had got out, I was told, after the weight on his foot was lifted. He would live.
Feeling free, I returned to the pickup. It seemed as if I was released. The night was dark, with no moon, but a billion stars shone brilliantly from the Milky Way. "Turn off the truck," I said to Trevor, "and take a look at this!"
With a God like this, we need nothing but to be still, and stand in awestruck silence. Who else can protect us? What can compare? What else is worth pursuing? It's all mere rhetoric to even begin.
"That business you have is booming! Will you purchase the treasure of heaven with your profits?"
"Wow! What a great smartphone! Does it give you an instant connection with God?"
"What a peace-making country Canada is! Will she be able to make peace for you in eternity?"
"Those Oilers in their heyday made Edmonton the City of Champions! Do you think they'll sit enthroned in heaven one day?"
"How marvelous is your house and your beautiful furniture! Will you dwell in it when the world is on fire?"
The night is late and this letter is long, so I must say goodbye until next time. Remember me in your prayers.