By Dennis Messimer
About 15 years ago at a conference in South Africa, we were told about acongregation high up in the Drakenberg Mountains, which had split. A second building had been built about 150 yards from the first building.
The plea was made to have the local authorities lock both buildings until they would make peace. Eventually it was decided that I would go with a delegation from the Johannesburg area, and Michael Stanley would go with a delegation from Natal to try to bring peace.
When we arrived we learned that the groups had been vandalizing each other’s buildings. The buildings were made of mud and manure, which made the buildings easy to tear down. I had learned that when you build with cement you mix three or four shovels of sand with one shovel of cement and was curious about the ratio that you would use with mud and manure. When I asked one of the men about it, he said, “I don’t know. That’s women’s work. That lady over there is my wife. She speaks English. Go ask her.”
The Ease of Physical Restoration
His wife gave me a tour of several buildings she had helped build, and she showed me a trough where they would mix the local building ingredients. (Just in case any readers of The Lookout ever have a reason to build that way, you use equal amounts of each.) I was also informed that they did the mixing using only their hands. Women on both sides of the trough push the ingredients back and forth until the ingredients are well mixed. Some of the mixture is used to make sunbaked bricks. The rest is used for mortar and plaster. If part of a building is damaged, they can usually wet down the affected area and push things back together. They were quite proud of the smooth finishes they achieved.
The Joy of Spiritual Restoration
Restoring the relationships between the two groups was more difficult,
but peace was eventually made. Five years ago I was able to return to the area. Working together the groups had built a cement block building with a nice tin roof. Best of all, they were joyful because they were united in Christ, and their witness was bringing many in the area to the Lord.
Dennis Messimer is minister to international students with the Christian Campus House in Columbia, Missouri. He and his wife, Linda, served as missionaries for 39 years in Belgium, South Africa, and Mozambique. They have four children and will soon welcome their eighth grandchild into their family. (Dennis was also editor Shawn McMullen’s fifth-grade Sunday school teacher.)