26 May 2010
On 25 May,we made the drive to Chitwan and back in the same day for the important occasion of groundbreaking for the new Maranatha Home. The trip is six hours on a good day, and this was not a good day. We suffered a traffic jam on the return that left us trapped among exhaust belching trucks on one side and an unprotected mountain drop on the other side. Even without the jam, road trips in Nepal are never simple sitting and riding. Driving always means hard stops and starts, constant horn blowing, twisting and curving around narrow mountains roads, close calls with oncoming vehicles, heat and dust. I actually love the road travel in Nepal, but they are not easy days. However, this note is about the groundbreaking, which I suppose should really be called a "rock laying." In actual fact, ground was already broken for the new children's home. Fencing, about 12 feet high, already surrounded the property. Work on a well was already started in one corner. In preparation for today's event, large rectangular holes were dug for the pillars that would support the foundation of the building. As we gathered, I counted nineteen men in attendance and I, the only woman. About half were pastors or Maranatha committee members. The construction contractor was among us. The others were day laborers, the guys who had already built the fence and dug the holes. It was so hot and only one small tree provided any shade. We all huddled under it until time to begin. I have participated in these events in the past for other buildings we have funded, such as the village churches. The holes are usually a couple feet deep and equally wide. THESE holes were deeper than I am tall and about five feet square. There were two of them across and four down each side. It is going to be a huge building. Praise the Lord! The plan was to put me into one of the holes to lay the first foundation stone. I could do that, but a conversation began (in Nepali, but I understood most of it)about how to get me back out of the hole. I wondered about that myself and had no suggestion to contribute. Rapture might be the only way I could get out. Arjun Dai thought there were too many loose clods of dirt in the hole, so directed one of the construction laborers to go down and throw them out. As discussion for the plans for our ceremony continued, the boy hopped into the hole and threw out the clods. When he finished, he stretched his reach, placing fingertips on the edge and nimbly pulled himself out. My own return to the surface, if it happened at all, was not going to be that easy. There was nothing I could do about it. In just a few minutes, if the men told me to go down into the hole, that is what I was going to have to do. I was not the one in charge of this. It happened that someone arrived with small handmade wooden ladder taken from a nearby home. Into the hole it went, increasing my chances of doing this thing, but still did not completely resolve the athletic challenge. To my relief, it was decided that Anand, with the pastor and three other men with leadership roles in the project would go into the hole. My honor was to hand each of them a stone which would be the beginning of the foundation. This was a good idea and I was happy. However, the stones were about 18 inches long and I cannot estimate the weight. I was to lift each one and bend over to hand it WAY DOWN to a man who would definitely prefer that it not fall on his bare feet. I did it-- then watched as they held the stones and prayed for this building and this ministy. Anand balanced his stone with one arm, while slapping very recently mixed concrete in the place where it was to go, then he carefully set it. The beginning of this building was accomplished in that moment. So much had gone on before--and so much yet to be done, but we twenty people witnessed and invested this special moment together. May the Lord multiply His work. More concrete was dropped for the next stone until all five were placed. The men, still in the hole, held hands in a circle and voices raised to the Lord once again. The unsaved contractor and all but one laborer(one who was a believer)stood silently and waited as we prayed and praised for quite a few minutes. The mixture of Christian and Hindu seemed appropriate. Everything done at Maranatha will be in the midst and under they eyes of the village people. One laborer praising among the silent ones seemed symbolic of the job we face. I cannot describe the blessing of being present for this simple event and the worth of giving the day and the hard travel to be there. Thank you Lord for this beautiful blessing. As we turned to leave, the laborers began throwing concrete and rocks into our hole with amazing speed. They knew what to do and they gave their whole strength in the blazing sun to the task. May we do the same with the work of speaking the gospel to this village and those that surround it. May the light shine from Maranatha Children's Home and Training Center. We pray for a church on these grounds in the coming days and for many, many lives changed for eternity.