God Provides an Efficient Plan

Desks and Discipleship Created

by Dale Fisher

Simple, rugged mango-tree desksHappening at the same time, sawdust filled the air, shavings curled off of mango tree boards, and you could hear the pounding of nails. I had joined a crew of nine men who accepted the job of building school desks on the outskirts of a Kenyan village. But it took a lot before we could become constructive.

At the start of our Kenya 2009 mission, we ventured to a remote village where all the men raised cattle. Obviously, we wouldn't expect to locate any carpentry tools in the area. That became one of our first challenges.

Schoolhouse without desksWe were told that the village's three-room school, having eight desks that we'd built last year, wasn't adequate today. Accordingly last year, a few months after we helped build that school, the Community Development Fund of Kenya was motivated to build a second schoolhouse having three additional classrooms to accommodate the increase in the number of students. Realizing that 70 primary school students were currently sitting on those new classroom floors with no desks, our goal became obvious. On this year's mission, it became clear that we needed to build at least 20 school desks.

Such a goal didn't seem to be too overwhelming a challenge for us. Originally, we planned to be in the village for more than a week and had a team of a dozen or so short-term missionaries, plus a number of others to help us. But things changed. Only four team members were able to join us. And we had only two and a half days to complete the same goal.

My son Andrew and I decided to make some changes. We knew we needed more manpower so we devised a better plan, deciding to train (a.k.a., disciple) three village men who were cattle farmers by vocation, to build desks. We chose three from the village population, one of whom had accepted Christ into his life last year.

Before our arrival, our national missionary host purchased a large mango tree and had it cut into raw timber boards. Hiring two carpenters from the Malindi area, we brought them with us to adequately train our three apprentices. We proposed that if the three men would work the full two-and-a-half-day stretch, learning how to build desks, it the end we'd give them some of the carpentry tools that we were training them to use. They agreed and we all began building desks.

Fresh-cut boards from a mango treeOn the morning of the last day, we assessed our progress. It was clear that if something didn't change, we'd be in big trouble to complete our project. With a goal of 20 desks, only six had been constructed after one and a half day's labor. Our previous approach entailed measuring the boards for cutting, sawing the pieces, planing them smooth, and then assembling the pieces. Because we had an electric circular saw and a generator, cutting was fast and easy. Our saw could slice a 6-foot-long 1x8 board in about 20 seconds. Cutting the same board by hand would take 15 to 20 minutes.

But by the end of that day, we'd have to pack up our electric saw and generator and take it with us at the end of the day. So, we wanted to do as much electrical sawing as possible before we departed.

Thankfully, God granted us the wisdom to make this effort more efficient. Instead of attempting to cut, plane, and assemble the remaining desks, we chose to create desk kits that could be finished and assembled after we departed.

Board after board was cut to exact dimensions After we successfully communicated our idea to the "true carpenters," the pace began to pick up. By about 2 p.m., we'd cut out an additional 14 complete desk kits that needed only planning and assembly. All the mango timber had been used, producing the stock needed to build 20 desks.

On the ground surrounding the carpentry area, we carefully placed the boards in distinct piles. The apprentices could then assemble the desks without our help or power tools.

Our team praised God for his provisions: the correct amount of lumber from one mango tree; the efficient "Plan B" that we instituted; and the fine apprentice carpenters who had learned to make school desks for their children. Upon departure, we left each of the disciple carpenters a personal handsaw, plane, hammer, triangle, screwdriver, and collection of screws. One of the "true carpenters" stayed behind to help the three disciple carpenters turn those kits into desks.
Love and thanks,


Here's the series of desk-building photos, from beginning to end.

1.  It all starts with These are planted mango trees, growing on the river's edge, within sight of where the team stayed on a remote Island. The host had purchased one of these trees and had it cut into timber that was used to make 20 school desks. a large mango tree.

2.  The tree gets cut into timber and then sawn into Here are a few rough boards of lumber that were made from a large mango tree. 42-inch-long 1x8 boards.

3.  The boards are Dale shows three apprentices how to "rip" a board (make it narrower) to a uniform width. "ripped" with a saw to meet a uniform width.

4.  Each board is then While an apprentice firmly holds down a board, Andrew uses a power saw to
cut it to an exact 42-inch length.
trimmed to the correct length

5.  All of the boards are Apprentice carpenters learn to appreciate how a plane can make rough wood smooth. made smooth with planes.

6.  Finally, the components are A carpenter (right) shows an apprentice how to set up one board over another before nailing them together. laid out and assembled.

7.  Five school desks So far, while construction work continues, five of 20 school desks
have been completed and set aside.
are complete and ready to use

8.  Were they well built? Village boys were eager to give their own test to one of the new school desks.
It was clear that this desk "passed the test with flying colors."
This desk gets the test of tests

Word of God, speak: "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

September's family photo pages:

† Dale: God Provides Desks Along with Discipleship

† Marti: Pad Party Leads to Personally Useful Product

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