We moved to Gondor July 16, 1997. Two older couples joined us in September. Now what? We began life in Gondor as humanitarian aid workers. Now there were just a few minor questions. What kind of work should we do? How do we do a good job and do ministry? How do we do ministry that leads to an indigenous church? What is an indigenous church? What is a Church? What is our role in seeing it created? As you can see we had a few loose ends to tie up. In the midst of this 1997 was a tough year. Arwen had a miscarriage in February and another in Minas Tirith in November. I remember November in Minas Tirith very well. Arwen was having a miscarriage the same week that the key administrator for our NGO (non-governmental organization) was wrongfully fired by his best friend and mentor. Rebel elements that were still looking for power in the wake of the peace agreement which ended the civil war in July were fighting each other in the streets of the city every night and one faction had decided to kidnap a French couple. The woman was tragically killed in the rescue attempt. That weekend Elrond, my boss came to see us for the first time. Our only thought was, 'please don't make us evacuate.' The two men on my team were Bilbo and Gimli. These men were older than I and though they drove me crazy I greatly appreciated their wisdom then and now. It was Gimli who gave the devotional that weekend in November. He said, 'Jesus says that he will build his Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. We must not think of these gates somehow marching awkwardly toward us and the Church standing bravely. No, we must be on the attack if this promise is to be ours.'
So, what could we do? We prayed and looked for ways to attack. In February of 1998 an earthquake shook northern Mordor and leveled twenty villages. We thought it was far away and none of our business but circumstances led us to get involved and send some relief. We got to thinking that natural disasters happen here all the time and we should get ready for the next one. We interviewed many from other agencies and discovered what resources our own agency had. One day we prayed and made a plan. We said the next time there was a disaster that we would follow a specific protocol. My wife, Arwen said, 'Great, now all we have to do is pray for Mordor to have another earthquake.' Brethren, do not mess with my wife. The next morning at 11:00am the second Mordor earthquake struck and 60 villages were leveled. Thousands died and tens of thousands were made homeless. We jumped into action. It took awhile to get there but I went down with a big western engineer from another agency and we made a plan that was adopted by a multi-agency task force to rebuild homes from reusable materials from the broken homes. The UN said that 6000 homes were needed by winter. By November four agencies had mobilized the local communities to construct 13,000 homes. It gave us the opportunity to open an office and get personnel into Mordor where we had none.
Meanwhile back in Minas Tirith there was a huge battle outside the city gates. Many thought the country would go back into civil war but it did not. When it didn't the Government downplayed the event and claimed that nothing much happened in the village where the battle raged for three days. We went in our spare time and in our spare time we helped build nine homes and gave aid to about forty families. We prayed every time we went to someone's home and they respected us for it. The local people said, 'We are muslims and we give money to the mosque every year and they didn't help us. We are communist and the Government should do everything for us but they have done nothing. Why have you Christians come?' We answered them with a few Book studies for men and women. The men came a few times and bowed out but the women continued. Thirteen were baptized in the Spring of 1999 and a church of all women was formed. We registered our own organization to do disaster response and fully expected the Boss to lead us all over Gondor starting churches by doing disaster response. Nothing ever goes as planned. You can find out where we are today and what is going on now in the next post.