A few weeks ago I was in the garden with Adrian working the compost pile. Adrian is one of our graduating seniors this year. He lives in the nearby community of Yata and has attended our school since he was an eighth-grader. He has never been one for many words, but he has a soft heart for the things of God. According to his mom, when he was still very small, he received a blow to his head when his father came home drunk on the motorcycle.

Accordingly, he has a lazy eye and slightly slow speech that belie a quick mind and hard-working hands. As we worked at chopping up the kitchen scraps and piled new layers of fresh cut grass, partially decomposed sawdust, and other organic materials, I asked Adrian what he did over vacation.

“I worked” he answered me in his characteristically terse style.

“With your dad?”

“Yeah.”

“What did you do?” I hoped he didn’t find my persistent interrogation annoying, but past experience told me not to give up too soon. One thing I love about getting out to work with the students, in addition to the exercise, is the opportunity it gives me to get to know them better. As we work together, a bond of confidence forms between us that seems to be lacking in the classroom. Many times our work-time conversations provide me with opportunities to advise and encourage as we speak of things close to the heart. Other times I am the one who is advised and encouraged.

“We made chive. [I] my father is a farmer.”

“Do you use your own yucca to make it?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you help your dad in the chaco [ii]?”

Adrian smiled. “My dad would never take me to the chaco. He didn’t think I could do it. This year I asked him to take me at least one day, and I cut more brush than he did!”

“I bet he didn’t want to let you stay home after that!”

“Yeah. He asked me where I learned to use the machete like that.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“Here at the school!”

“You didn’t go to the sabra [iii] this year?”

“Yes, we went with my dad and my uncle. I put in practice what I learned in class” he smiled.

“Really? That’s great! What did you practice?” I prodded.

“That first-aid stuff from Teacher Susie’s class. My uncle had an accident, he shot himself in the neck with a .22.” Adrian said it with a calmness that astounded me. I had heard about the accident several weeks before we returned to Bolivia, but no one had told me that Adrian had administered the first aid!

“So you were there when it happened, or did they call you?”

“Yeah, we were in the boat with my dad and they were all drunk. My uncle saw the other guy’s gun and asked him if it was loaded. He said ‘no’ so my uncle started pointing it around and then him pointing it at himself and fired. There was blood everywhere. Nobody knew what to do. I was so scared, but I put pressure on the wound like we learned in class. Dad was trying to start the boat, but it didn’t want to start. I just prayed, and the boat started and we got him back to town.”

“Wow, thank God you were there and you remembered what to do! Do you realize that you probably saved your uncle’s life?”

“Nah, I don’t think so.” Adrian dismissed the idea with a chuckle.

“Well, of course God saved him,” I revised my statement. “But He used you to do it! What do you think would have happened if you weren’t there! Your uncle would have bled to death!”

Later I found out that there was even more to the story. When Adrian’s uncle shot himself, all the men in the boat despaired. When they saw the blood they didn’t know what to do. The uncle wanted to shoot himself again, because he said he would rather die quickly than slowly bleed to death. But Adrian took charge of the situation, made them put the gun away, and told his dad to start the boat and head for town. He applied direct pressure to the wound, and he prayed. When Adrian told me that he had prayed, I imagined him praying silently in his head. But I heard later that according to the uncle, Adrian prayed out loud for nearly the entire trip down the river! I think it is safe to say that that has impacted him even more than the bullet did!

“Adriancito prayed for me! He prayed that God would save me. That’s why I am alive!” So far, the uncle hasn’t had another drop of alcohol, praise the Lord! Sometimes it is tempting to feel like we are wasting our time at this little school out here in the sticks. But God has the best ways of humbling my selfish and self-important pride! He shows His transforming power, and his faithful hand, mighty to save! He is doing a work here, in spite of our blunders, and I feel so privileged to be a little part of it.

[i] Chive is a made from shredded cassava that is soaked, cured, and dried. Toasted with onions and other flavorings it makes a very tasty and popular topping for rice and beans.

[ii] The chaco is the land that is cleared by slash and burn and then planted in crops like rice, yucca, or plantain.

[iii] The safra is the Brazil nut harvest

Kody & Lyli Kostenko