The food that perishes (23/11/11)
In the last few months, our work on the Kijabe Water Project has continued its steady progress, with major areas of activity including finalising the design, putting in place procurement strategies, and applying for grants.
We are in the process of applying for around $600,000 USD in outside funding.
So when at 5pm Friday last week I received an email from an official at USAID asking if Kijabe Hospital was interesting in submitting a Concept Paper for the water project for potential funding opportunities, it got my attention.
The Project Team here in Kijabe, and our grantwriting team in the USA swung into action over the weekend. After emailing nearly every hour and exchanging draft papers over the next two days, at 10pm on Sunday we walked the finished proposal to the Hospital Executive Director for signing.
I sent it by email at around 1230am Monday morning to USAID, and at 0830 I received a call. Would I be able to come into the US Embassy in Nairobi for a meeting at 1030. Why, I believe I could make that time, I said.
At this point, despite my experience in infrastructure projects and in the at-times-downright-maddening-fool-me-twice-shame-on-me vagaries of government funding, my hopes are well and truly up. My adrenaline is pumping, and I am stoked; riding on a cloud. This is it! The answer to prayer that we have been looking for for six months! Out of nowhere, someone sees the desperate need of Kijabe Hospital and wants to help.
I turn up for the meeting, and things go from good to better. The official is just lovely, and an enthusiastic supporter of Kijabe Hospital. Why haven’t you submitted an application for funding before, she asks. Everyone in East Africa knows the Hospital does an astonishing amount of good with vanishingly small resources. We’d love to help, and may be able to quite quickly. Here’s what you need to do, I’ll pass this up the chain of command and have an answer for you by tonight.
As I leave the meeting, my hopes have gone from cumulus to stratospheric. This is it, I think. It’s done. We’re not even going to have to apply for more grants. USAID will fund the Water Project, and perhaps the Hospital’s entire 5 year Capital Plan too! Hallelujah!
For the next 24 hours, my prayer life was better than it has been for weeks. Prayers of thanksgiving, joy, and hope as I waited to hear back. Planning for the future, meetings at the Hospital as we giddily programme cash flows and project expenditure, and joy just bubbling up everywhere and drowning out the stress and sadness of the last few months.
And then today (Wednesday).
I hear back from the official around noon. Actually, we’re not in a position to help you immediately, you’ll have to wait until later in 2012 and apply in a competitive process with other applicants.
I am crushed.
Despite having done this before, despite having ridden the birth-life-death cycle of infrastructure projects many times, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut and the wind has been taken out of my sails. I had such high hopes, we’ve had such excited conversations at the Hospital in the last 4 days…and now we’re back where we started?
Suddenly, my prayer life isn’t quite as filled with cherubim and elders bowing before thrones. Lord, help me work through why this is affecting me as much as it is. I am so disappointed.
I sit down for my noon Daily Office, and read this passage of Scripture under the midday office in The Divine Hours:
“So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:24-27)
Immediately I sense the Lord saying to me, Andy, don’t work only for the bread loaves, for outcomes, deliverables…be in this for me. Work with me. I am eternal, work with me and care as much about things that have eternal value as the here and now. I am in the here and now, the earth is mine and everything in it, but I want you to put your hope in me, not solely in metrics, grants, schedules.
I still felt like I’d been kicked in the gut, but now I felt the Lord breathing life back into me. Ahhhhh….yes, that’s it. That’s the lesson he’s been teaching me repeatedly for ten or more years. Work with me, watch how I do it, take my yoke and learn from me, for it’s easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29)
This weekend was a weekend of anticipation, hope, and delight. Today has turned into…something else. But as I sit here tonight and reflect on what has actually taken place, and the words of the Lord to me through them, I hear a gentle voice calling me to trust Him. To not take on burdens that aren’t mine to carry, to release outcomes that aren’t mine to own, and to find rest in the One who clothes the flowers of the field and gives the birds food to eat.
And I’m not giving up on USAID.