Lessons in Bamboo
The fence was about 50 feet long, with a gate, and was made entirely out of bamboo. On the morning of our first work day on our mission trip in Chilca, Peru, the worksite coordinator tasked us with dismantling the fence, which sounded a whole lot like a Chip Gaines ‘Demo-Day’ (awesome!). The entire project would consist of cleaning up the bamboo (not quite so fun), throwing out the rotten pieces, and rebuilding the fence once again. We got to work.
It didn’t take long to realize that the bamboo sections were attached tighter than we’d anticipated. The screws were rusted, some of the wood was hardened, and it just didn’t come apart that easy. I found that a quick karate-style chop at the just the right place could dislodge the stubborn pieces, but the bruises on my hand proved that didn’t always work. By lunchtime, three of us had gotten most of the fence taken apart, with only 1 slight mishap that may or may not have involved a flying roundhouse kick and one of our workers (who will remain nameless) laying flat on their back in the gravel. Most of the bamboo was in the ‘to clean’ pile, and about a third was in the trash heap.
The next phase of the operation involved mixing up a bucket with water, detergent, and a mild acid and then scrubbing every inch of each 7-foot-long piece of bamboo to get the grime off. That process took a while, but there was a noticeable difference when completed. While some of us bent over the bamboo laid out on sawhorses, others scrubbed the bamboo frame, which was more than a little covered with 15 years’ worth of a wonderful mixture of bird droppings and dirt.
Throughout this process, we realized that more bamboo was damaged or rotten than we had first thought. Our worksite coordinator made a trip to Peru’s version of a Home Center and came back with a pile of fresh, green bamboo. It wasn’t rotten, but it had to be cut to length and it was dirty from laying out in the elements, so it had to be cleaned like all the rest.
After the cleaning came the saturating. It seems that there are certain tiny bugs that like to eat bamboo, so we had to soak all the pieces with a repellant to keep the bugs away and prolong the fence’s life. After that dried, it was finally time to rebuild.
If you’ve ever done any remodeling, you know that demo-day goes quickly, but the rebuilding takes a while. We had to be much more meticulous in our rebuilding than we had been in tearing it down. The pieces had to be spaced correctly, not too close but not too far apart. Bamboo is sturdy, but brittle, and it splits easily, so before every screw was put in, a pilot hole had to be drilled. Then the screw had to match up with the pilot hole in both sides of the bamboo pole as well as the frame. If we were off a bit, which tended to happen more often than I’d care to admit, the pole, which we’d spent so much time on (disassembling, cleaning and debugging), would split and many times have to join the others on the trash heap.
After much longer than anticipated, the fence appeared to be complete…but there was still more to do. Now it was time for 2 coats of varnish to protect it from the elements. We got that fence down, cleaned, and back up again over the course of that week, but it was close!
Part-way through that process, I got to thinking about that old fence and how it’s maybe a little like what God has done for you and me.
God finds us…beat up, weathered, and worn. Our lives are in a shambles. There are some parts that are pretty rotten, others that are dirty or damaged. He dismantles us, throwing out the dead and rotting things. Then He goes about the process of cleaning us up. It’s not easy, getting rid of years of sinful habits and their consequences. But He scrubs, and disinfects, bringing out the beauty underneath, how we were created to be. God even gives us tools to protect us against future attacks and infestations that would seek to destroy us from the inside-out.
Then our loving heavenly Father goes about the careful, meticulous task of rebuilding. There’s care and skill involved as He creates us anew. In the end, we’re not only useful, but beautiful as we reflect the image of the One who created us.
It’s the story of the Gospel:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10
It’s amazing what an old bamboo fence can teach you…