Friday, December 19, 2014

Fences: Life Unbounded

"Good fences make good neighbors" -Robert Frost

The hammer falls, connecting wire to wood and the sound takes me back to an endless row of posts standing like sentries across our backyard. A gallon-sized jar of tea brews in the sun and I watch sweat run like rivers between the strong shoulder blades of my grandpa Harry. The blue fishing hat on his head looks like it was dunked in water. He and my father are putting in a row of cattle fence. 

At the time I was convinced that it was to keep out beasts, monsters, and criminals, but I suppose it was just to contain a young boy and his dog. That fence marked the boundary on my world for years. When I crossed it, I was setting out into a conceived wilderness that was merely a few acres of woods surrounding a creek. 

It must have been the summer of 1979, but it still stands on that Preble County acre of dirt today.

Our life here in Guatemala draws more than a few parallels in my mind from those decades passed. Today I sit inside and watch through sun-glared windows as my children battle imaginary foes in an unbounded kingdom... which, to my grown-up eyes is simply a walled garden.


A walled garden with a fatal flaw... our backside is mere chain link. And here, the villains are real. A family playing in the backyard can be watched by the eyes of those with ill intent. A crowd of men after a hard days work, relaxing with adult beverages can see young girls playing with ribbon on a hillside and begin to entertain unnecessary thoughts. Mice or even rats can pass freely and our family is on display. Every other side is solid concrete wall, but our back is open.


And so a solution was necessary. Even so, I wrestled with the concept of perceived safety. Certainly we did not come here to be safe. We don't operate that way. We came here to be obedient. We do take reasonable precaution though, and we reduce risk with preventative measure. Our mission director, Fontaine, stated it like this, "Now, if someone wants in, a wall won't stop them. What a wall does, is keep an honest man honest."

And I'm sure that the men living next door are honest. I just want to keep them that way. The cost of digging a footer and laying block is substantial, so we've found a way to get it done for about a third of the cost, right around $1,000.00, and the work is underway.


This is our first completed section. Two men, Byron & Diego, are using the existing chain link as rebar, pouring concrete around and through it to form walls set between the existing concrete supports. It is ridiculously difficult and tedious work. As our project manager, Edgar, often laughs and says, "In Guatemala, everything is possible. Nothing is easy."

Plywood forms are prepared.

Forms are installed with tire wire and lengths of rebar.
Cement is hand-mixed with sand and water
to form concrete, which is then poured by
bucket and trowel into the form.
The form is secured and the concrete is allowed to dry, forming a
solid wall, with the existing fence providing an internal support.
A second layer will be added to bring the height of the wall to a minimum of 2 meters, with razor-wire across the top. This will then provide privacy from the apartment complex, and a uniform degree of security around the entire perimeter of our property. We have armed security at the front gate, and upon completion, enough of a wall to keep an honest man honest, and to keep wandering eyes off the activities of our children.

Love your neighbor as yourself, but don't take down that fence. -Carl Sandburg

We don't live in fear, but we understand that precautions are only wise. Things are different here than in the U.S. No-one here assumes that society will keep you safe. It is understood that common sense and providence are better anyway.

Somewhere up the mountain, a party has started with a strong latin-beat that covers up the sounds of construction. The sun will begin to set and we'll look towards the red glow of Volcano Pacaya as the temperature drops and we settle in for the night. My mind again drifts back to my childhood and cool evenings sitting within a secure yard that was unbounded by the release of my imagination. 

As the kids tuck into bed tonight, I know that I want them to have that same experience of childhood that I enjoyed. I am also keenly aware that this simply is not the case for much of the children of the world. We hope that our obedience here can shine some light into those dark places.

The simple truth of it is that our world is covered with fences: things that restrict us. But we are created by a God who offers us life unbounded. We simply must yield to Him in order to release this limitless life. 

This project was not in our budget. You can help us complete this wall, and provide a meaningful salary for the families of Byron & Diego by clicking the link below and hitting us with a tax-deductible contribution.

CLICK THE LINK, CONTRIBUTE, & we'll put your name on the wall!