Before a continuation of grants could be approved, I'd been assigned to visit educational institutions receiving grants for development purposes to report back to donors that all was well with funded projects. I was familiar with my next location. My first visit had been on similar assignments 10 years earlier. In those days, the primary mode of travel through the country was by river ferry or deshi boat. Now roads had been extended throughout the country and bridges were built. This trip proved a more comfortable experience than my first.
Most of the country is situated in a delta region, and as such, there's no stone to use in road building. Any rare stone has to be brought from hills to the north, so roads are constructed from bricks made in thousands of brick kilns scattered around the country.
My appointment was with a school approximately 30 kilometres from the capital. As we made the present journey, I remembered 10 years earlier in unsettled post-war times when dacoits had attempted to block our progress. We were fortunate to have a driver who skilfully negotiated through a mob at that time. He saved our belongings and possibly our lives--in those days of desperation, murders were common.
Soon we were on school grounds, probing the use of grants already received.
"And here is the threshing floor!" It certainly was. Spread from one end to the other was the new rice crop, lightly boiled to assist in the husking process. Heap upon heap was spread to bask in the sun before the winnowing process began. I'd already been on an inspection of the school plant to examine accounting records, carefully noting this had been a better year. A farm inspection was a sort of tradition in this school whenever a visitor happened along. Looking over the farm was the final activity of an inspection visit. One thing bothered me about this threshing floor. I'd spent many years in Asia and understood the farming process from beginning to end. It was an incredible amount of hard detailed work to prepare paddy fields, followed by the harvest with a small army of people involved. Separation of grain from the husks made the whole process meaningful. Most paddy fields in Asia are a family concern, and family plots are carefully tended and protected at every stage of development.
But this floor was covered with feasting birds. They were eating the grain rapidly, and there were enough of them to make a startling impact on the paddy. I glanced around in alarm. Students were watching the birds feast, farm workers were watching them in silent contemplation, and no-one seemed to care. I turned to my guide and voiced my concern.
"They don't eat much," he said and turned back toward the car for the next stage of the inspection--a meeting with administration.
I thought of the school's pleas for grant money and made a mental note of the unnecessarily-depleting harvest. When something belongs to an organisation rather than a family, it seems it makes a difference to how well it is cared for. I'd have to include my observations in the report.
But it set me thinking. It was easy for me to judge the casual attitude administration was taking toward grants made to improve their harvest yield, and it was my duty to share this with donor organisations. But there was something for me to learn in making my report.
What about the resources I was entrusted with personally? I was certainly not rich but had adequate for my needs. How was I using these resources? Were they being invested wisely for my children's future? Or, for that matter, for my retirement so I wouldn't be a burden on society myself?
And what about those resources not set aside for necessary longrange personal needs? Was I standing by casually and watching birds of selfishness and waste take them away? What provision was I making to advance the cause of the gospel or help those less fortunate? Sobering thoughts! Ian Grice spent many years as a missionary in Asia and now lives at Little Mountain, Queensland.