"Missionario, there were heavy winds here in Ribeira Peixe and the church was damaged."
Thursday night (30 March 2012): The missionary woke up quickly and asked the caller for details. There was a storm with high winds, parts of the cement wall facing the ocean collapsed and the roof was blown off.
He called Pastor Adi of our PortoAlegre Church and asked him to contact Pastor Jorge of our Malanza plant. He went on to tell him about the damage and asked them to meet him at the Ribeira Peixe Church in the morning. Both of the pastors live within an hour from the damaged church.
Friday (31 March 2012): Jorge phoned the missionaries in the morning before they could leave. Jorge and Adi were at the church and assessed the damage. Jorge gave a list of the initial material needed over the phone (many supplies here can only be bought in the capital). Cement, iron rods, nails, etc., were purchased and loaded into the missionary's truck. They drove south with Pastor Hilton of the Sao Tome Satom church plant and a lay volunteer from the Sao Tome Central Church.
At a distance, the building was not as bad as described, half the roof was torn off (the very new roof which was mounted last August) and the church side double doors were blown out.
The ocean side wall was intact with only a small part of the upper part broken off.
While some were cleaning up the debris and preparing walls for new cement, others went out to collect needed sand and rocks to mix in with the cement.
Together they fortified the two open walls with a "viga" (cement row along the top with metal rods going through for support). The viga was finished by nightfall.
Saturday (31 March 2012): Pastor Adelasio of the Sao Tome Central Church arrived with more volunteers, including two carpenters.
The STP Nazarene pastors are all bivocational. Pastor Marcos of the Ribeira Peixe Church is a mechanic. Pastor Jorge is a builder by trade and he actually cancelled a project he had lined up so that he could help. He is coordinating the repair work. Pastor Adi is a fisherman and each day he has been alternating between helping in the work and fishing close-by for food for the group to eat that night (much like Jesus' 12 disciples must have done when they were working together). Pastor Adelasio is a city firefighter and had Saturday and Sunday off from his secular job. Pastor Hilton is a night guard.
The torn off aluminum sheets from the roof had to be gathered from the surrounding building roof tops placed with the others found on the ground. Volunteers worked to straighten out the twisted sheets.
Sunday (1 April 2012): The "good" half of the sanctuary was used for Sunday School and morning service. All the STP congregations were represented. All but one of pastors were present (each pastor had arranged for a guest speaker in his respective congregation on short notice). After the service, everyone went back to work. The projects included fortifying the wood brace under the remaining side of the roof and correcting its position and rebuilding the missing parts of the wooden brace on the other side. They were waiting on the needed wood to arrive. The "barrotes" were ordered on Friday through a local vender who cuts the wooden planks himself. The wood did not arrive on Saturday nor Sunday so the workers kept busy with what could be done. (It was decided to work on Sunday because this needed to get done before the next major rain storm. It is like harvest time in farming communities).
Monday (2 April 2012): The missionaries left the city with four volunteers. On the way down, the 10-year-old truck's gears were acting strangely. They were stuck at the halfway point. They waited a half hour and then tried again, this time with God's help, the gears worked. They carefully drove to the church.
The wood ("barrotes") finally arrived that day and the remaining supporting structure for the roof was worked on.
While the volunteers were there, Jorge went ahead and chiseled out openings in the walls at key points to insert needed metal columns missing in the wall for basic support. Throughout the day, spaces for the columns were chiseled out, the metal rods were inserted and cement was poured in, setting them in place.
At the end of the day, Pastor Marcos (who is a mechanic) looked at the truck and suggested that the problem was with the clutch disk and that someone in the city should look at it. The missionaries drove back to the capital carefully with the volunteers.
Tuesday (3 April 2012): No trip was made to the church because the truck had to be to be checked out. Down in Ribeira Peixe, work continued on the wooden support for the roof and a wooded frame to encase more cement on top of the church (to hold the edges of the roof when the aluminum sheets are in place) was built). By the end of the day, the only thing left was to mount the aluminum sheets in place. Word also came back late evening from the city mechanic he advised the replacement of clutch disk and said that the estimate would be ready in the morning.
Wednesday (4 April 2012): Sao Tomeans in the city woke up to the sound of more wind and rain. The missionaries phoned Pastor Jorge to see if it was raining there. The pastor said that they could not do anything until after the storm passed but that re-mounting the aluminum sheets would then go quickly. They were looking forward to going home (they spent the four-five days there - an hour's drive is a long walk and there are not many transportation options on that part of the island).
God had given them four days without any real rain to get this job done. The difficult parts were finished before this morning.
Jesus taught that "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10).
Please continue to pray that the STP Pastors and congregations will continue to grow, working together successfully as a district - seeing the possibilities that God has for them and working together to meet His goals.
Sao Tome is a very poor country and one could easily say that there is a dependency culture here. The pastors and volunteers themselves organized this impromptu project; the missionaries helped with transportation and material.
Phil Patalano is a Nazarene missionary who serves as superintendent for the denomination's Sao Tome and Principe District in Africa. This story appears courtesy of the Africa Region's newsletter, Out of Africa.