Toiling on a Foundation
Guest Blogger – Brian Hatchell, Partnership Development Officer at cbm Canada
I recently returned from a trip to Fiche, Ethiopia where – alongside a number of cbm Canada donors and local residents – I spent 7 days lifting, carrying and dumping dirt, rocks and boulders in order to help lay a foundation for 4 new homes that will be given to families living with disabilities. The concept is incredible, but the work was gruelling. Especially in the heat and elevation of Fiche (7000 ft. above sea level). But sadly, at times, it also felt monotonous and frustrating. Hour after hour, day after day, we simply carted dirt, rocks and boulders back and forth, back and forth, back and forth from a pile over there, to the foundation over there. We must have done it – no word of a lie – at least 100 times a day, each load weighing around 60 pounds.
Now, hard work has never bothered me, but I must admit that prior to the trip my expectation was that we’d be laying cinder blocks and truly ‘building a house’. So the monotony and frustration came from unmet expectations. But I didn’t let that ruin my experience. I simply persevered and could have done so happily until the end of the trip.
But somewhere amid the blur of days and countless trips back and forth, the Holy Spirit started opening my eyes to what we were actually doing. The famous scripture in Matthew came to mind about building a house on rock instead of sand. We were actually building a house on rock, that would stand for generations to come. And as I opened my eyes even wider, I saw that we weren’t just building a stone foundation for a house to sit on, we were building a foundation that was actually connecting the past, present and future. Hopefully, I can explain this properly.
Firstly, we were actually completing the foundation that our fundraising campaign had been resting upon for the last couple years. We raised the funds to build these homes from donors based on the promise we would use those funds to build safe, affordable homes for families living with disabilities. We started raising those funds 2 years ago with the vision to do exactly what we were doing every day – building homes. It ultimately took 2 years before any homes or foundations were actually built. Not only did we fulfil our promise, we now have a foundation of honesty, integrity and commitment to build upon ourselves in order to raise more funds for future building campaigns. This foundation was the completion of a past-promise and a foundation for hopefully more homes in the future.
Secondly, we’ve laid a foundation for the future lives of the beneficiaries. For those whose stories of suffering, loss, despair and isolation we heard about during our trip, these homes represent hope for their brighter future. Without going into all the detail, we heard time after time how these homes will quite literally help transform their lives. As we worked side-by-side we were, stone-by-stone, fulfilling their dreams of yesterday and building their hopes for tomorrow. And it wasn’t just about the families we met. This project raised funds to build homes for 40 families living with disabilities, but our staff in Fiche told us there are still at least 80 other vulnerable families in need of safe affordable housing. So, we were also laying a foundation of hope for families we haven’t even met and that don’t even know they may receive a new home yet.
And finally, for me personally, I felt that I was laying a foundation in my own life of true servant-hood. It’s easy to think as you prepare for one of these trips, ‘Wow, I’m going to help build a home for people in need, how great is that’. As I said off the top, I had an expectation to build a cinder block home and when I was told I would spend my week walking back and forth carrying dirt, rocks and boulders, my heart sank a little thinking I wouldn’t get to do what I wanted to do. What I hoped to do.
But, in a gentle, soft voice, the Holy Spirit asked, ‘Are you here to serve or fulfil your own needs?’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely there yet. My journey of servant-hood is just beginning. But I feel I have been shown that if you truly want to serve others, you have to be open to doing whatever is needed to be done. In the simple act of carting dirt, rocks and boulders back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, I have been shown how monotonous work can actually help build something pretty amazing – a foundation on which to build a home, a life and a future.