African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, October 29, 2011


At the bridge

Who is Wilson??

Wilson's Home and Family
In 2005 Marie and I (Drew) went to Kenya on a 2 week short term mission trip to Kenya with Wycliffe Associates.  We went to a property they owned and were turning into a retreat/conference center.  Imagine your church or work is having a weekend retreat and renting the facilities of a YMCA camp or a church camp a little ways out of the city, that kind of place just a short distance outside of Nairobi. Then the facility could be used to generate income instead of just being an expense.  About a 1/4 mile down the road from the compound entrance was a little stream. most of the year cars could drive through it to go to the conference center. During the rainy season however, the stream was too deep, and too wide.  That turned a 1/2 hour trip to and from the city into a much longer trip.  In the African countryside, when the main road is shut down, finding another route is a little more involved than just going the other way around the block.  Not good for a retreat center business.

Having a background in concrete,  I was assigned to work on the little bridge.  They had hired a number of local men from a small nearby village to accomplish a lot of the construction that had been going on and the guys were mostly working on the bridge at this point because it was the most labor intensive thing happening. These guys had done an amazing job of hand hewing rock faced block out of small boulders(with hammers and chisels) and building some beautiful dorm buildings. Apparently however, no one had formed concrete up in the air. (Except the regional construction manger who had an engineering degree - but not the time to stay on one project.)  It's one thing to stake some 2" X 4"s into the ground and pour a sidewalk.  The wall that is behind Wilson and I in the "At the Bridge" picture however, would weigh about as much as 8 or 9 Chevy Suburbans.  To hold this much weight up in the air, you need to know what you're doing. Especially when the materials you're working with are what we would have used in America about 100 yrs ago.  The trip planners were happy "a concrete guy"  was on the trip that could form the first vertical wall and hopefully teach some one else to continue after the team left.

Last Day
Now we get to Wilson. Wilson(first name) was one of local guys working at the compound.  We met the the first day I worked on the bridge and hit it off from the start.  Wilson is also a believer and frequently would say "It is written . . . ."  and quote scripture, simply as a part of his normal everyday self.  He was filled with a joyful outlook on life, was encouraging to be around, and was a diligent hard worker.  Wilson was married and had 3 kids.  He invited Marie and I and a few others to his home to see his house that he was so proud of and meet his family.  When we got there we were warmly welcomed and noticed a few things as soon as we approached  and entered. First, Wilson's house, which was very nice by the standards of the average persons dwelling, is most easily described as a concrete block single car garage.  Second, when we entered the house we immediately could not miss the scripture verses written in chalk near the top of the walls all around the house.  Have you ever met someone who says "Jesus is my everything" or  "His word sustains me"??  I've often wondered how many times that's just Sunday morning Christian talk. Do they really mean it??  What does that really look like??  Travel with me to Kenya and I can introduce you to the real thing.  His name is Wilson.  Wilson was incredibly thankful for God's provision for his family.  Wilson made about $3 or $4 a day at his full time job with which to provide for that family.

Back to the bridge.  Seeing that Wilson and I hit it off so well and knowing his hard working diligence, Wilson basically got assigned to work with me on forming the wall.  Wilson, like many people (even 10 yr olds) in Africa can converse in 3 languages Swahili, English, and the  local tribal language.  And we can think we are so smart if we know 20 words of Spanish.  He hadn't, however, been to college or had any real form of what we would call "higher education".  But Wilson was a "sponge" for learning.  Forming Concrete "up in the air"  is basically a real life lesson in the physics of  masses and forces.  If a 20,000 lb section of your wall (and the lumber holding it) blows out or falls over it can get really expensive fast and can really injure someone.  Wilson and I were side by side for several days, and I did all I could to teach him about the foundation principles of containing that much mass and that much force.  To try and get him to follow the domino effect of "This is exerting force there, and it's traveling through this to that, so we must also brace here . . .    When you pour  the concrete,  watch here, if there is a weakness, it will be the first place to move . . ." and so on.  So much information, so little time.  Such a deep friendship, so little time

There were other things to be accomplished before Wilson and I formed the wall and I had to leave just a few work days before the pour.  I was actually really bummed to not be there for it.  I was told by e-mail that all went well and the forms held.  I was also told that Wilson, who learned in a week what it would usually take me a whole season to teach someone,  got what to him was a pretty big raise and was made the main forming guy for the rest of the project.  That was 6 years ago and in our fast pace american life that we live, I haven't inquired about Wilson for a few years.  Last I heard he was still a trusted foreman type employee who was joyfully thankful for a full time job that paid him for a days work what we could spend for a "lunch on the go".  He was still a living example of "Jesus is my everything" and "His word sustains me".  So little time, so much impact.  I still haven't figured out who's life was impacted more. Wilson and his family's, or mine?  Probably mine.

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