As a young boy, I loved climbing trees. I guess that is why I admire those Gogodala lads who climb fifty-foot coconut palms to knock down coconuts. In general, the Gogodala are agile and physically balanced people, accustomed to paddling tippy dugout canoes from a standing position. The combination of these skills is stronger in some than in others. William, one of twelve young men who has been helping to construct our training center, does well with heights. Because of his love of heights and reputation for being agile, William gets called to do jobs that require more guts than the average person possesses, earning him the nickname “Climber.” I will never forget the day we, along with some extra men from the village, hoisted our mammoth-sized wooden truss to the top of the training center walls. No sooner had we gotten the truss settled in place, but William was climbing up to stand on top of it. He gingerly walked from one end of this 30-foot-high balance beam to the other, the span of about 40 feet, while the rest of us watched from below with gaping mouths.
God has blessed us with a safe build. Despite the number of times we perched high up on ladders, balanced on bamboo scaffolds and hung over the edges of high roofs, we have not had any serious injuries. We begin every work day with prayer, thanking God for the angels that He stations around us. The ninety-first Psalm says, “He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11,12). We do not use promises like this presumptuously but claiming them does strengthen our trust in God.
Something happened to William recently that gave him a healthier respect for the law of gravity. We were installing metal facias under the gutters of our guest house, requiring the gutters be temporarily removed and reinstalled after the new facia got fastened in place. We stationed ladders at either end of the roof. The roof, being corrugated metal, can be very slippery when wet. William was happy to be assisting from the roof that day despite the hot sun. We had just removed the gutter when a light sprinkle of rain began to fall. We scurried to put tools away before the rain got any heavier.
For some reason, William headed for the ladder at the far end from him instead of going down the closer one, a decision he would later regret. As he crossed the middle of the roof, his feet had become moist enough to create a nearly frictionless surface beneath him, and he began sliding precipitously towards the edge. He frantically scanned for an anchor to grab, but nothing was near him. The gutter that could have been his saving grace was not there to stop him. He knew this was going to be a long drop. Spread out on the yard below were sheets of metal and timber pieces that could be very hazardous on which to land.
It happened so fast I did not have time to formulate a prayer. We watched helplessly as our comrade climber dropped thirteen feet from the roof. Miraculously, he fell feet first onto a clear grassy spot of soft ground. If he had slipped a few feet in either direction, he would have landed on hard objects, and the results could have been catastrophic. Praise the Lord! The only damage he received to his body was a few scrapes from sliding over the sharp edge—no twisted ankles, broken bones or worse.
This event got us all thinking about how delicate life is and how faithful God is to His word. We were all humbled by that experience. More than half of our work crew was gone when this event happened. Some weeks later, when they returned, they had already heard about William’s fall. William happily took them to the spot and recounted in detail what had happened on the day God spared him from serious injury. We do not understand why bad things happen to good people, but God always works things out for the good of His children (see Romans 8:28).