Wednesday was a much longer workday for us. Because we didn’t have to stop to buy supplies, we were able to be on site much earlier and so we were able to accomplish a lot more. Agatha’s House is coming along nicely!
When we arrived, we saw that the foreman (a young man named Ndongo) had hired a team of about eight to dig for the foundations of the new kitchen, the new latrine and the new wall. They were hard at work as we arrived using heavy pickaxes and shovels to clear two and a half foot ditches. By the end of the day, they, along with some members of the team had dug about 350 feet of ditch! Tomorrow they’ll begin laying the foundations! I wouldn’t be surprised if we are able to see some new walls being added before we leave!
The majority of the team was back inside painting. Together with Nyakio, the team decided to use a palate of pastel colors to cover the primer from yesterday. Pink, Blue and Green feature prominently in the interior decorating of the bedrooms and the living room will be mostly orange. The hallway is a bright yellow.
My job today was to work with the crew who was doing “pointing.” Pointing is a process by which you take a rough, natural stone wall and make it look very clean and very sharp from the outside. Taylor, the campus ministry intern at K-State, and I learned how to do pointing using mason’s tools. We were both dually shocked by how difficult it was and how skilled our Kenyan teachers were.
As I continued to practice the art of spackling the wall, I meditated on Paul’s words to the Corinthians recalling his first days with them: “I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” (1 Cor. 3.1-2) Paul is talking about how the journey of faith starts with easy to understand concepts before it moves into the harder theology. We take baby-steps as we learn our faith.
I was feeling very inept as I began tossing grout at the walls of Agatha’s House this morning. I felt like I could theoretically grasp what I was supposed to be doing, but my technique was terrible and I’m sure that my Kenyan brothers were feeling very put-on to teach me how. I started by roughly throwing liquid-ish combination of concrete and sand onto the wall. Once I had mastered that, it was time to learn how to smooth out my work. After that, we moved into more detailed work that would give the impression of the pointing. As I practiced more and more, I understood more and more. By the end of the day, I can say that I get it and I’m “okay at it,” but I don’t even come close to the masters of the art.
Mission trips are interesting opportunities to be taken down a peg. I mean this in a good way. Every time I’ve ever done something in the mission field, I become very well aware of just how much of this world I don’t actually understand or am unable to do. It can be humbling to learn that I will never be as good at masonry as the men I worked with today, but every time I’ve been on a mission trip, I’ve learned that nothing is actually totally beyond me. I’ve accomplished something if I can shed the ego and realize that the work that I am doing is more about building relationships than building a house. What matters is that we try and that we understand that we need to drink milk before we can eat solid food.
It’s very likely that in our time in Kenya our construction abilities will never progress past the “milk” phase, but our spiritual abilities and our relational abilities are already moving quickly into the “solid food” phase; getting stronger in each conversation and each relationship grown. Today, as I worked with masters of masonry, I grew in my masonry ability just a little bit; I grew in my spiritual self much more, hearing stories from the men I worked with and imagining the healing that Agatha’s House will bring to the women and children of Naivasha and Maai Mahiu.
Christ empowers us in construction and in relationship, but I think that Jesus cares much more that the time we spend here in Kenya becomes more about relationships and less about trying to accomplish a specific goal.