by Michael E. Brooks
“And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, ‘What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish –- stones that are burned?'” (Nehemiah 4:2, NKJV).
There has been a lot of construction at Khulna Bible College and on church buildings throughout Bangladesh over the years that I have been traveling there. I have enjoyed watching the workers as they built various structures and items. Many of the methods of building are far different from those practiced today in the U.S. Most furniture making and carpentry is done solely with hand tools. Rough-cut lumber is planed, fitted, joined, and finished all by hand, resulting in beautiful completed pieces. Concrete is mixed by hand (shovel) on all but the largest jobs, and carried usually in “pans” on the heads of the workers. Welders work rough steel pieces with a hammer, straightening and bending to angle by eye.
Granted, these are methods once known here, before power tools and mass manufacture, combined with the high cost of labor, made them obsolete. But where those things are not readily available, the old methods still work very well.
One sometimes is tempted to laugh at those still using the “obsolete” practices. How will they ever get anything done? Do they think they can really get it done right? Yet as the work continues, there is abundant proof that indeed they can. Just as the Israelites after the return from Babylonian captivity were able to turn rubble into a city (see opening text above), so hard working people today can accomplish much even with older methods and tools. Those who mock and scorn are often proven wrong.
It is not just physical work that sometimes draws a condescending smile. Our labors for the Gospel are also often mocked. Advocates of the latest marketing or church growth fad laugh at the old methods practiced by others. “No one attends Gospel meetings any more. No one listens to preaching anymore. We will never grow if we depend on those old methods.” While those exact words may not always be used, the attitude is common.
This is not to defend older methods over the new. Nor is it to condemn the new. Rather, I would suggest that the success of the work depends more on the skill, willingness, and effort of the worker than it does on the tools or methods used. The furniture or house made by hand in Bangladesh is just as functional, and often as beautiful, as the latest product of modern manufacture. That does not make the old way better. It does, however, prove its validity. Let us not quarrel over method, or belittle those of others. Let us instead do all we can, by whatever Biblical means, to do the work of the Lord.
by Michael E. Brooks