There are times in life when you find yourself in a position you never thought you would be in. I have my comfort zones; those areas that I know something about and am comfortable being in. God has a way of stretching us and making us useful, even when there are no obvious ways.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to take a trip to Gabon, Africa. Specifically we were headed to Bongolo Hospital to help with a construction project there. I am not a contractor and don’t have any background in construction, but I thought I could maybe do some ministry there. As it turns out, I didn’t need to have experience. In fact, I learned that if I had ever touched a hammer before, I was considered an expert.
One of the areas that we were to try to help finish was the HIV/AIDS clinic there. One of the biggest issues was the electrical wiring. Over the course of months they had several groups come in and work on the wiring, but no one had ever finished. This meant the next group came in and didn’t know what the other group had done.
I went over there with another man from our team to try to make sense of all the electrical. Step one was trying to figure out what had taken place prior to our arrival. There was one man who had an understanding of this, at least more than anyone else.
He came in and started feverishly pointing and using a screw driver to open up ceiling tiles. We had no idea what he was talking about because he spoke French and we didn’t. Thankfully someone came and translated for us. Basically, we needed to finish putting in 220 volt and 110 volt wiring. That was fine, except I had no idea how to do it. The closest I had ever come to this was changing a few outlets in my house. We got started, but immediately ran into snags on this.
First, we had the huge wiring mess that ran from a box upstairs to a bundle of wires and then into the building. This became tricky to figure out because a wire that was red at the box might change colors two or even three times before its final destination. Apparently whoever was doing the wiring wasn’t worried about color coding the wires. We sometimes had red wires that had power, sometimes black and sometimes green. There was even the occasional blue wire in there. What a mess!
We played with it by turning on the power and testing it with some rudimentary tool that we had. At one point I heard my partner yell in pain as he received a jolt from the box as he poked around in there. I also made sparks a few times. Then after we turned the power off, I still got shocked a few more times. Figure that one out. I started to wrap my fingers in electrical tape, since I had seen someone do that before. It seemed like the right thing to do. It took us two days to sort out the wiring mess and we finally started to label them and make some progress. Having no electrical training actually turned out to be better than having any because any rule books on this were just thrown out the window.
Once we started to figure some things out, we also had to deal with the people who would hang around there. Right outside the door was the emergency room waiting area, so there were plenty of people milling around there. At one point, as I was wiring a switch for a fan, a man walked in and started to watch me. I acknowledged him and he said something to me. He quickly realized I had no idea what he is saying to me. That is alright, he was content to just watch. At one point I needed to step aside for a second and I had turned the power on for some testing. All I could do was try to tell him that touching those wires would be painful. I pointed at the wires and made electrical and explosion noises. He got the message.
We struggled to make sense of things and left multiple diagrams in order to help the next group finish it up. We found out months later that they had been able finish it up and start to use the building. The whole point was to minister to people in the name of Jesus. God has a way of taking us out of our comfort zone sometimes and using us in our weakness. I would not be allowed anywhere near the electrical wiring at any construction project here, but there it was what they needed. When these things come up for us in life, it is God who leads us in it.
One last piece of this for us was interacting with the children who were there. Yes, they came in and painted things because we left the paint out. But, they also just watched in amazement and tried to communicate with us. It was moving for me to experience such unbridled enthusiasm to see what we were doing.
The lesson in this : Sometimes God will take someone without electrical training and make the a master electrician in order to accomplish His purposes.