Of wooden planks and boiled eggs

(By Jess Lembelembe)

Along with the rest of the team, I have enjoyed seeing incremental progress on the several building projects going on these days in Kibuye - the pediatric ward, the octoplex residence, maternity ward renovation. Since I happen to know the construction manager, I like asking for special guided tours when the crew has already gone home, so I can ask all my curiosity questions:
"How long does the concrete stay in the wooden forms before you remove the wood?"
"What will this room be used for when it is finished?"
 "Where will the stairs be?"
"Are you sure this platform is strong enough to hold me?"
One of the most amazing things to my untrained eye is to see how rough unfinished planks of wood, crooked pieces of timber and simple string are useful for producing perfectly flat and level concrete beams and columns. I comment on it almost every time I'm on site. Hopefully the photos below give you a sense of what I'm talking about.

When a pole is too short, the solution is simple: wedge a few piece of wood underneath.

And when the pole reach the top, they are attached to the bigger frame with random bits of wood, too.

But standing back, the point becomes clear... All those unfinished poles line up to support a flat concrete slab.

It isn't only wooden poles that will hold up the slab, because these wooden forms were already used to pour concrete columns.

I started to wonder why these building techniques fascinated me so much, and I realized these very imperfect bits of wood held a lesson for me.

I am a perfectionist, and I find it impossible to leave a task until it is completed to meet my (high-ish) standard of excellence. When I am unsure of my ability to complete a big, important task, I wish there was someone more qualified available to do it as it "should" be done. At times it is hard to believe that God not only can, but actually prefers, to use me in my weakness to be a part of his beautiful kingdom. My pride would prefer that I be called upon only in my moments of (perceived) strength.

In a team of committed and competent people, I know I am not the only one who finds it uncomfortable to live out of my weakness rather than strength. Whether it is the person preparing a sermon in a second language or a doctor who realizes their skills and strength alone are not capable of meeting the medical needs of all those who fill the hospital beds, I doubt many of us make it through a week without feeling about as impressive as a splintered bit of wood at least once.

A week ago I was walking around on top of the wooden frame that all those concrete columns and skinny wooden poles are holding up. Looking down from above, I saw just how many pieces are needed to build the platform, all of varying lengths and widths. But they are angled and attached with precision, and leveled out using string to ensure that they will eventually produce a straight beam and flat upper floor.

 When this complex arrangement is finally covered over with boards, the purpose becomes more clear. This structure is going to support a strong concrete slab in just a couple of days.

After all, the slab on the ground floor started with wooden forms, too, and the photo below shows just how pristine the result was.

God's Word reminds us that we are actually a body made up of many parts, and he makes us all fit together to cooperate and serve one another with the gifts he has placed in each of us. There is no need to look down on the parts that are less impressive, since they still are valuable in performing their particular role.

I recently volunteered to serve as one of those "modest" parts in the complex body that is the feeding program for malnourished children and their mothers. My job: boil 250 eggs to be distributed each Friday morning to the mothers. When I was in the middle of the actual boiling task, one question rose to the surface: This is a mundane job; should or could someone else do this? I'm happy to help, but if the rest of the food (specifically Busoma, a porridge mix made from several nutritious grains) that is given to these mothers is produced at the Busoma factory, shouldn't the staff there just take care of preparing the eggs, too?

The next day, when Matt and I carried all the eggs up to the Busoma staff in time for distribution, I caught a glimpse of the bigger operation that is actually going on. Staff at the factory were sifting grain to make more porridge mix, staff at the gate were ready to distribute it to the mothers enrolled in the program, who were already lined up outside. Others are responsible for procuring all the grain and even the eggs that I had boiled. Come to think of it, I hadn't even been the one to boil all these eggs. Acheri, the kitchen helper who works at our house, did most of the boiling. And there aren't electric hotplates or stoves just sitting around the hospital or in any of the surrounding homes. Entrusting Acheri with this small, but important work, and making my kitchen available, is actually contributing to the bigger ministry of offering hope and health to many families struggling with malnutrition.

Sometimes we can only see our crooked edges and rough surfaces and wonder what they are good for. Thankfully God has a bigger perspective, and He is actively working out a masterpiece we can only partially comprehend. When we do get a glimpse, the views are never short of beautiful.

Many of you reading these posts also play a significant supporting role in the mission of Kibuye Hope Hospital from a distance, and we are grateful for you. It is a privilege to be a part of this greater Body, working together for transformation in Burundi.


drsmyhre said...

This was excellent. Thanks Jessica. I was wondering if anyone would take up the eggs! What a great visual tying it to the building. Just like 1 Peter!

onewhostrives said...

Beautifully observed and written. Thanks Jessica. I kept reading, waiting to see how the boiled eggs fit in with the analogy. You nailed it! [pun intended]

John and Jessica Cropsey said...

Just what I needed to read today as I struggled with comprehending Quickbooks & organizing finances!

Sandy said...

Yes, this is a good reminder that God has plans for us. Sometimes they're really different from the ones we have for ourselves! Great post, Jess!