He brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because he delighted in me. - Psalm 18:19
The house we live in was built forty years ago by a Gurkha soldier and its solid walls endured the 2015 earthquake with only minor cracks in the plaster. the soldier's son and family stay on the ground floor, while our family rents the second and third floors as an apartment with separate entrance. One of the things I like most about the place is its openness - rooms leading onto a total of six airy verandas. Deirdre and I sleep on the second floor and our boys each have a bedroom upstairs. It's not grand, but it is homey. In front of the house is a flagstone driveway which serves as our basketball court. Out back is a vegetable garden about 20 meters wide, extending to the compound wall. Just on the other side of that wall sits a relatively new cream-colored house, which fills the view from our bedroom window. With the house's sharp, jutting eaves and small windows along expansive all, it feels like we live facing the hull of a small ocean liner. The cream house carries four air conditioning / heating units - metal boxes containing a fan and motor, with a cable of wires and heating duct running from each unit through the adjacent wall of the house. These units face our apartment and therein lies the crux of this story. Soon after we moved n the summer of 2013, I realized that one of the four A/C units was in disrepair. It was located on the second floor, across from our bedroom window. In the quiet of the evening, it sounded like an old helicopter was touching down amongst the corn stalks of the garden. This went on all night with a deep throbbing that rendered earplugs useless. After several disturbed weeks of sleep, I ambled over and met the tenants. Tom was an amiable Norwegian recently posted by his company as director of a hydro-electric project in eastern Napal. He and his wife seemed bemused by my request that they look into quieting their A/C unit. He chuckled, "What can we do? It's not our house. The technology of the unit is what it is." She added, "In this climate, we'd melt without that A/C." Summer gave way to fall and the units were turned off. In winter they were turned back on for heating, and I found this mode equally loud. Although I could close our bedroom windows, the 'boom' off the unit was enough to vibrate the glass. I ventured a note to Tom, but got no response. I again visited and found that his friendliness had faded. Nevertheless, a week later, while phoning during my field trip, Deirdre informed me, "Good news: the landlord out back has moved the 'Boomer A/C' down behind the garden wall." Towards the middle of 2015, the Norwegians moved out of the cream house, a family of Indians moved in, and all the while the Boomer continued to deteriorate. By now you're probably thinking Mark's really obsessed with that air conditioner, and you might have something there. What I found most annoying about the unit was that it cycled. This would start with a 'boom', which led into the groaning-and-clanking helicopter phase lasting ten to fifteen minutes. Perhaps if this had continued all night, I'd have gotten used to it and fallen asleep, but then with a sudden, sharp 'crack' the machine would go silent. My hopes of drifting off to sleep during this interlude were soon banished as another boom inaugurated the next cycle. A resolve to take matters into my own hands emerged gradually. I met the new tenants about the matter. They said that someone might get pneumonia if they didn't turn on the heat at night. I thought to myself that 99% of people in this temperate city survive the winter, without the luxury of electrical units, by simply adjusting their bed-clothing, but I said to them, "Sure, but maybe you could have your landlord switch the units so the noisy one is not the one used all night." Two months later I dropped off another polite note with the guard at their gate, continuing my strategy of personal importunity plus regular prayers. They neither replied nor did anything about the unit. Life proceeded along its various lines. Our boys grew, seemingly doing better each year they moved beyond primary school. Deirdre juggled home, friends, church and working in an organization for which struggle was the status quo. I approached the end of my tenure at the Nick Simons Institute anticipating a work transition. We all looked forward to our home assignment. When we returned to Nepal this past summer, I began working at Patan Hospital again. After a long hiatus, I loved being back taking care of patients and found a warm welcome among friends with whom I'd shared previous decades. But it was physically harder than my previous desk job with NSI. In-patient rounds meant three hours on my feet, plus out-patient clinic, between which was often sandwiched medical student teaching. I had to focus more intently and had less leeway for the continuing disturbed nights of sleep. I began to wonder if we'd have to move from our apartment, which except for the night noise suited us so well. A plan emerged from the hinterlands of sleep and I poured over its details and timing much as a surgeon might mentally rehearse the interlinked steps of an upcoming operation. Two of our 18" barbeque skewers could be slid through the grillwork of the A/C unit while it was in idle phase. When it started up again, these could jam the fan and I hoped burn out its motor. In my repair shop, I rigged a ski pole with hooks that would allow me to reach over the wall, slide a skewer deep into the machine and disengage it there. In the daytime I made two reconnaissance trips across the garden to the six foot high brick wall to be sure that I could climb its ledge at the right location. Of course, in the morning when I sat for my quiet time it was difficult to reconcile this plan with my faith. However addled my brain, I couldn't escape this as being vandalism. When I brought the plan directly into prayer, I came upon the passage in Philippians in which Paul writes of entering into the suffering of Christ. I became more tired. I wondered if a small prescribing error at work was related to my fatigue. I began to pray, 'God, whatever your will in this, let it be done, but I feel I must take some action. Let this plan succeed (admittedly, a long shot) or let it fail (I could get picked up by the police) according to your will. I doubt I can keep going on like this.' I don't recommend this theology, but that's where I was. I prayed it before I went to bed last Wednesday night. Deirdre had heard me unfold my half-baked plan during the previous months. Reflecting on both my poor sleep and the inappropriateness of my 'solution,' she let me ventilate. I couldn't tell if she thought I'd follow through, but I knew she was praying about it. Wednesday night, I let her drift off to sleep as I counted the cycles of the Boomer out back. As it turned on for the third time, I padded out to the living room where I donned dark clothes and a headlamp and then to the front veranda where my barbecue skewers and rigged ski pole awaited me. Downstairs, I flipped a bony treat to the landlord's dog, who followed me quietly into the garden and then wandered away. I quickly walked across the yard and sat down with my back to the wall. Our house with its drawn curtains lay sleeping in front of me. A nearly-full moon lit the garden and I sat in the shadow of the cream house looming behind me. The air and the ground were cool. the familiar din of the Boomer A/C resounded in the hollow between the two houses. I loaded one skewer on my pole and stabbed the other into the dirt at the ready. As I waited for the unit to enter its 5-minute off phase, I reviewed the steps of my imminent operation. I felt nervous but primed. What happened next will always remain etched in my conscience. The more I reflect on it, the more I'm at a loss for words. As I sat with my back to the wall, a light flashed above and behind me, throwing a bright arc across the garden. My first thought was that somehow this modern house was equipped with an anti-burglary device and that id been detected. Then the light surged like a flare, emitting irregular streaks of red and yellow trailed by smoke. I looked over my left shoulder and there one story up on the wall of the cream house a small fire was burning, hissing and popping to life along the wires and tubing of the A/C unit. It had ignited at the place where the wires had been spliced together two years before, when the unit was repositioned behind the garden wall. The cable continued to burn brightly. Thoughts flooded my mind. I reassure myself: you are not dreaming this. You did not do anything to that until; you were still sitting here waiting when it started burning. Then I wondered what I should do if the fire started moving up the wall of the house. After what seemed like five minutes, the flame died out, leaving only a tail of gray smoke wafting into the moonlight. The night was now completely quiet. The air contained the smell of burnt wires and plastic. I waited like a statue in the shadows, praying in amazement at what had just happened. A dog in another compound barked. The cream house had a night watchman and I guessed that he might be coming around to investigate. After another ten minutes, I heard someone walking on the other side of the wall and then tapping on what I thought to be the A/C unit. Perhaps his tenants had complained to him that their heating had gone off. I listened intently. After the neighboring compound had gone still for another half hour, skulked back across the garden, patted the dog on the head, and walked up into our house, where I laid down mu unused skewers and pole. In bed replaying these events in my mind, I took a long time to fall asleep. After years in this condition, how had the unit caught fire at just that moment? I could come to only one conclusion. During subsequent nights, I have gloried in the peace. An occasional dog, a screech owl, and nothing else but sleep. When I wake in the morning, I pull back the curtains, gaze across at the charred cable on the cream wall and shake my head.
Mark, Deirdre, Zachary, and Benjamin
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Third Sunday of each month: The Missions Committee collects funds and small personal care items to support Pat Nissel's Lighthouse Ministry. A basket has been designated for personal care items you wish to donate. Also, if you choose to make a financial donation, please make checks payable to Pat Nissel. Thank you for your support!
On the first Sunday of each month, the Missions Committee collects peanut butter, canned tuna fish, and hot dogs for the Allison Hill Community Ministries Food Bank. There is a basket and a cooler in the Narthex for your donations. We also have a basket for personal care items and cleaning supplies for their mission. Bill Jamison thanks you for your continued support.
Soda can tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House. You can bring your tabs to the church and place them in the container on the table outside of the office. Help support families with children with medical needs that keep them in the hospital.
We support our local schools by collecting box tops and labels for education found on the labels of Campbell's, Vlasic, Pace, Swanson, Pepperidge Farm, and Prego products. Please place your labels with the UPC code in the basket under the Campbell Kid in the Hall located outside of the church office.
Used eye glasses can be placed in the designated basket on the missions table located outside of the church office. The Lion's club distributes these glasses to people in need of glasses around the world.
The Society of St. Andrew gleaned and collected over 33 million pounds of produce and food in 2012. Volunteers glean nutritious produce from farmers' fields and orchards after the harvest. This food is delivered to those in need. Truckloads of unmarketable potatoes and other produce, donated by the agricultural community are delivered to agencies serving the poor. This saved food amounts to over 100 million servings to feed the hungry. For more information on this ministry, visit their website: endhunger.org. You can make contributions to their ministry by placing your spare change in the jar marked PENNIES FOR POTATOES on the missions table in the hall.
The lioness Club of Paxton collects and delivers cancelled stamps to the VA Hospital in Lebanon. The stamps are used for "hobby therapy" for wounded veterans in more than 130 Veteran's Administration hospitals. It has been in operation since 1942. Stamps for the Wounded accepts any U.S. or foreign stamps that are not torn or damaged. The organization requests you leave at least a quarter-inch margin around the stamp and don't try to peel or steam the stamp off. Collect enough to fill a large envelope or box and ask the Post Office clerk to put stamps on the shipment.
Millions of keys become lost or obsolete annually. Don't throw them in the trash. There is a basket on the table in the lobby where you can donate unreconciled keys to support people with kidney problems. Pat C. will deliver them where they need to go. Thank you.