Dragging in the branches – something from nothing
by Linda Manhardt, Major –
I remember when we sent our cadets out on their “summer assignments” (It’s always summer in Tanzania) for the first time. They were to spend three months in outposts and corps throughout the country and work on “growing the Army” in the different locations.
I made it a point to visit every cadet on their assignment, and one such visit took me to a small, remote village.
The officers of the town nearest to where the cadet couple was sent directed me to the “outpost” where they had been put in charge. When we got to the location, we found ourselves in the middle of the bush! There was nothing there! But the officers seemed to know where to go, so we walked along a footpath until we came to a clearing. In the middle of the clearing, was a small chapel—of sorts—constructed entirely of branches, grass and mud.
The cadet was nowhere to be found, and I found myself feeling annoyed because he was not where he was supposed to be. He knew I would be visiting that day. I was exhausted from the trip, feeling hot, grimy and thirsty, and tired of waiting.
Just as we were about to give up and go back to the neighboring town, the shape of a man emerged on the horizon. He was carrying something as he slowly, laboriously came toward us.
It was my cadet, and he was dragging a large branch. As he approached us, he became animated as he ran with the branch as best he could, and I was struck by his smile as he came closer with his load. Here in the heat of the day, dragging an impossibly heavy burden and drenched with sweat, he met us with joy in service.
He excitedly told us of how he had built the little chapel and that it was filled every Sunday with worshippers. He was so proud of his work! The cadet and his wife and baby had been living in a small room in the home of one of the villagers. His next task was to construct a traditional hut to be used as a quarters for the rest of the summer. The load he had been carrying was the first of many branches to be used in its construction.
As I listened, I realized the differences in our outlooks. Here he was—given an assignment with no place to worship, and no real place to live—and he was joyfully making the best of the situation. He was creating something where before there had been nothing. Instead of being defeated by his circumstances, he took the initiative, made a plan, and went for it! He was not immobilized by his situation. And here I was, annoyed by the inconvenience of waiting on a hot, sunny day. What a difference in attitude!
I do not believe that it was fair or right of us to send him and his family into this situation. If I had known what it was like, he would not have been placed there. But this blessed cadet was not angry, disappointed or defeated. He rejoiced in the opportunity of making something from nothing.
As our lieutenants go forward into their new appointments, may they carry with them this same pioneering attitude. Instead of looking at the difficulties of the task before them, contemplating what they don’t have, and comparing their situation with others, I pray that they will embrace the ministry that God has placed them in, and make the best of their situation.
What a joy it is to live incarnationally, in the image of our Creator-God, and create something from nothing. How wonderful it is to enlarge what already is, and to make dreams become reality. God is the God of holy possibilities!
Every one of us is called to his service, officer and non-officer alike—whether this is in the form of cooking or cleaning, beginning a new program or service, or simply dragging in the branches.
As his servants, we can be assured that the Army cannot place us where God cannot use us. He is at work inside of each one of those who love him, increasing us, helping us to enlarge the possibilities, and, yes, at times, to even make something from nothing!