The rest of the story

The rest of the story

I have vague memories of a man named Paul Harvey, known I think for his voice on the radio, and the way he let the world in on what he always called "the rest of the story". I thought of him today. Because something really wonderful happened today -- yet another school opened, our nineteeth, this time in the Tanzanian village of Myunga, tucked away near the Zambian border. The people of the village know of the day that Francis arrived for the very first time in their village. They know of how he worked methodically with them month after month to make bricks and haul stones. They have images of this young man laying out the buildings for the new school. They won't forget how he labored with them through the rainy season, how they pushed the trucks out of the mud when they got stuck. Those people know how Francis lived among them, this boy who had come from far away, from a distant village hundreds of miles away near the Congo border. Today the first of their sons and daughters were in the classrooms that Francis had led them to build, and it was Francis who led them in the celebrations.

What the people of the village of Myunga don't know about, cannot possibly know about, is what happened on December 17, 2008 hundreds of miles away in the little village of Kazovu where Francis comes from. I wrote of that day in this email update that I sent out after traveling back across the lake from his village ...

Maybe it was because we were so close to Congo that I decided to tell the people of the fishing village of Kazovu more of my history than I've ever shared with people in any of the other villages we have visited. Maybe it was because there was so much time on that hour-long ride in the boat on Lake Tanganyika as we went past one fishing village after another until we finally reached Kazovu. Maybe it was because I spent most of that time staring out across the water, looking out over across the huge lake to the hills of Congo, my mind remembering so many things from my past. Maybe it was because the guys in the boat were telling Godfrey and Anyisile the stories of the war that had come to the towns and villages on the other side of the big lake. And while they were telling their animated stories of bombs they had heard and of a war that they happened far across the lake in a world they had never visited -- for me, it was a war I had lived through, a war that I had survived, a war that seemed like it was so long ago to them, and sometimes like it was only yesterday to me ...

... The bay in which Kazovu was located was nothing short of beautiful. I could imagine Jonathan swimming in the beautifully clean water. The beautiful white sandy beaches one day will probably be discovered by some tour company, but for now the place is a hidden gem. And unfortunately for the folks who'll be looking one day to put in a resort at this place, the village has chosen positively the most beautiful place on the whole bay to build the school. I could see from the boat the brick kilns of already burnt bricks. I could see the huge pile of stones for the foundations. And so I knew before we ever came ashore that the meeting we would have in this village would be a good one ...

... The town meeting was held in the shade of several huge mango trees -- mercifully -- because it was indeed hot. They clearly already understand the gist of our program for partnering with them. It had all obviously been explained to them by someone who knew the details and who had hidden nothing from them. They knew that there would be no silliness that we were going to come build a school for them. They would build it with their hard work, they would build it for their own children, they would work for months and months, hauling stones, making bricks, carrying sand and water, it would very definitely be a huge effort that would involve the entire community ...

... I spoke of my grandfather who eighty years ago had left America because he was not content to know the true and living God himself alone, to have good health himself alone, to have a good education himself alone, to have clean water himself alone -- he wanted to make sure that the people in villages in Congo also had those same blessings! I told them that my grandparents had lived their whole lives in a village, that my father was born in a village and grew up in a village, that I first met my wife in a village, that she taught school in a village, that we now lived in a village and that our sons were growing up in a village. I spoke of how it was thirty years ago that I came to see for myself that while it was wonderful that I knew the true God, that I was educated, that I had good health, that I had clean water and everything else that made life good, that it was not right for me to have all of those blessings and to not share them with those who did not yet have them. I told them that I believed with all my heart that it was wrong to be blessed and to not care if others are not blessed with those same blessings.

And then I paused. And even though there were probably more than a thousand people there it was dead silent. And I let us soak up the silence for a few important seconds.

And then I spoke of Francis.

Francis, the boy they all knew who had grown up in the village. The boy whose father had sent him hundreds of kilometers away to a school, who had traveled first by boat as I had traveled to day, then by bus, and finally on foot. The boy from the village who got to go to school. Who clearly also believed that it was wrong to be blessed and to not care if others were not blessed with those same blessings. That's why he returned to the village with the news that if you made bricks and carried stones that he would take a letter from the village elders to us to ask us to come so that one day there might be a school in this village.

And then in front of everyone I turned over and asked Francis how much it has cost his father simply for the boat fees and the bus fees for him to get to school. 37,000 shillings. The crowd gasped. Now I know that 37,000 shillings (about $35) is not a fortune to me, and probably not to you, but for those in the village it clearly was. Just for him to go far away to go to school. His father didn't know when he put him on the boat and gave him that money to travel far away, where he would sleep that year he would be away at school, or how he would eat, and paying for school fees was a burden, but still he had saved money and sent his son far away so he could get an education.

I looked out at the hundreds of kids in the village and asked the obvious question -- who would ever have the money to pay 37,000 shillings for each of these children to go hundreds of kilometers away to go to school. Francis could have simply taken his blessing and kept it for himself. He could have smiled at his good fortune, studied hard, made something of his life, and forgotten about everyone else left behind.

He certainly could have done that.

Instead he refused to be blessed alone.

And so he was the one who returned to the village, brought news of what we are trying to do in this country, spoke to the village leaders, encouraged people to make bricks and haul stones and for the village leaders to write to us and invite us to come.

As I got back in the boat with the sun setting I looked over across the lake to the hills of eastern Congo and I was glad that I had spoken to these people of my grandparents. I was glad I had told them about my wife and my kids. But I was so glad that I got to tell them about Francis. The boy who refused to be blessed alone. They'll forget the stories of my grandfather. They'll probably soon forget about me. But for all of the hundreds of students who will study at the school that will soon hopefully be built on a beach on Lake Tanganyika I hope that they will always remember about the boy named Francis, the boy from their village, the one who purposed in his heart not to be blessed alone.

A school did eventually get built on that beach; today nearly 150 young people from Francis' village and the other fishing villages up and down that coast are studying at that school. The blessing that Francis wanted for the people of his village is theirs today.

And as for Francis, he went on to graduate from the school his father had sent him far away to study at. But when he graduated, rather than going right away on to college, or getting a job somewhere, Francis came to Godrey and Emmanueli to say that he wanted to join Village Schools Tanzania, that he wanted to help build a school in a village somewhere, that they could send him anywhere in the whole country and that he was ready in his heart to go there. And so it was that Francis went to the village of Myunga, that Francis worked with the people month after month after month, and that today Francis presided over the opening of Mpanzi Secondary School, our 19th school, the school that he himself had organized the people of Myunga to build.

One day I will have to go to the village of Myunga and tell those people, and especially those students, the rest of the story …