In my last post I recalled how we began our work in Mordor. Once the money was in we still needed personnel and we needed them fast. We had a three and a half month window to build 6000 houses or people would perish in the snow. My Engineer friend took advantage of the Red Cross pulling out by hiring one of their administrators. Later we would be priviliged to pick up a highly trained national engineer. These two men saw the project through even when we didn't know if we could go back to Mordor ourselves. The civil war got closer. As the Engineer stayed on after everyone else evacuated I began to get concerned. If he suddenly had to leave could we get him out? I began to look into it. Then another agency assured me that they had everything under control. Our Engineer could come out with them across the river by boat. All the permissions were arranged. Fine I said and assurred my friend that all was ready. When he got across the river, with bombs clearly heard in the distance, he was told by the border forces that his name was not on the list. He called me on his Satelite telelphone and exclaimed that there was a huge mess up. He as not happy as they sent him back across the river where there was only a small guard house and nowhere to spend the night or get food. Fortunately, the Mordor border guards took pity on him and fed him and gave him room in the guardhouse to put down a sleeping bag. He would remain there for three days while I ran around from morning till night everyday going from office to office trying to get permission for him to get across. I was one stamp away from getting a helicopter with the Gondor Army when the big boss from out of town came in unexpectedly and squashed the plan. I finally got his name on the approprate list and he came across the river and was picked up by our national guys who drove him the seven hour drive up to Minas Tirith where we live. I am not sure he ever forgave me for letting him sit on a dangerous border for three days but I promise all of you I did not rest an hour while he was there. Such is life, or at least such is Middle Earth.
Our next task was to get personnel on the ground. We had a functioning office, some great national staff, and a big budget but no expatriot staff to run the project or more important, to take advantage of the ministry opportunities. There were several families who had lived in Mordor before they had all been kicked out two years before, there were several more families that had claimed to love the people of Mordor and worked in neighboring countries to serve these people. I was sure once they knew about our project they would be begging to get involved. In many ways I was still operating out of my area of responsibility. Mordor was someone else's job, not mine. I had a full-time job right here in Gondor as my team continually reminded me. But after a few weeks I realized they were not coming. It is difficult to say exactly why but I will put forward two reasons that I think are valid. One, they did not come because they had always had city ministries and several of them had families that were used to the city and our project was more than just rural, it was remote. Two, I think that once someone is settled, even if it is not in the place one wishes to be, it is very difficult to pick up and move on a moment's notice. We were asking a lot, and in the end we were asking too much. No one came and we concluded the project that fall with no international staff on the ground. It may interest you to know that our little organization built 500 homes in four months and that the four NGO's combined built 13,000 homes- that's right, THIRTEEN THOUSAND! The people of northern Mordor had the shelter they needed for the winter. I am very proud of the project we did, of the plan that we came up with and I want to be really really clear here: This is all credit to the Holy Spirit who gave us the plan and the resources to accomplish it.
That winter our region had what we call our Annual General Meeting. During the meeting there was a special session called by our leadership to address the problem of Mordor. Several people made presentations about how they might could try and do something from some direction or another to get people in. I stood up and described our project, our entrance into Mordor and I plead for people to come and join the project. Now, you may not believe this but several people stood up and opposed me. They said that Mordor was too dangerous, it was too risky, we were not ready etc. etc. I replied that we would never impact the lostness of Mordor without risks and sacrifices. Much more annoying to me was that there were non-Christian international workers there doing projects right now while we Christians hid behind our own timidity. I challenged them to take up the task or renounce their claim to love the people of Mordor. Yeah, I know, I am not much of a diplomat.
I was discouraged.
But later that day a young man I will name Arathorn came up to me and asked me more about the project. He had been working for the last year in the mountains north of Gondor and he said this was just the kind of challenge he was looking for. I talked to his supervisor who gave the ok and we arranged for him to go down in six weeks time. I warned him that I was going on Stateside Assignment later that year. He would be all alone, the only known Christian in all of Northern Mordor and we would not be able to support him well. He said he understood. He said he was ready. I don't think he has ever forgiven me for our lack of support and the really difficult time he had for the next three years. But that will be the topic of my next post.