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Woodcutters Accept Divine Assignment

Online Exclusive: How God connected a group of Minnesotan woodcutters to a needful African hospital

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“Sounds like spam to me,” I said to my coworker Cherie at Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes, Minn. She had told me she received an e-mail about someone from Africa needing help. “Forward the e-mail to me, and I’ll take a look.”

The message said,

Cherie,

My name is Paul Davis, an Alliance missionary in Gabon, Africa, at Bongolo Hospital. I am in charge of the maintenance at the hospital. I just received my issue of Alliance Life. In it I read the article [“Oaks of Righteousness”] about the team of men that cut trees. What an outreach that is. . . .

I have a real need involving a tree that needs to come down. It is in a really bad spot, overhanging a house and power lines. . . . The tree is dying and will fall on the house and destroy it, hopefully when the family is not in it. . . .

I am wondering if it would be possible for a team to come out and cut this tree down. . . .

Thank you so much,

Paul Davis

Working at a church, we daily get requests for help. However, this felt different. I forwarded the e-mail to my dad, Dennis Pausch, who is the leader of the Progressive Woodcutting Group, which was featured in the July/August 2015 issue of Alliance Life.

I should have known that my faith-led father would not hesitate to respond. The sparkle in his eye gave me every confidence that he would plan a trip to Africa.

The second response from Paul did nothing to deter his faith:

Dennis,

Thanks for the interest. I have attached photos of two different trees that we need to have taken down. . . .

The way I am looking at this prospect is that I should not paint this as an easy tree-cutting project. And I should not sugarcoat it. This is not your average tree. It is on the side of a steep hill, and nothing about it is easy. I am not a tree cutter. I have cut my share of trees, but normally they are not going to fall on anything of value. I think the only way to stop this tree from falling on the house is to climb the tree and take it down piece by piece.

I look forward to continuing this conversation. I am sure you have many questions, or maybe I have scared you off with the photos already.

Thanks,

Paul

Leap of Faith

My dad shared his intention of going to Gabon, Africa, with the men in his woodcutting group and the church’s leaders. Most of their responses were a mix of intrigue and doubt: “Isn’t there anyone else who could cut down these trees? Perhaps someone on the same continent?”

From Tree to Shining Tree
Tom Seeley climbs more than 160 feet to cut down a tree. (Photos courtesy of Dennis Pausch)

My dad and Paul corresponded for a few months, but nothing about the trip was set in stone. Dad held a meeting to see what men in the church wanted to go to Africa to cut down a couple of trees. Surprisingly, several were interested; however, each man admitted that the details would need to fall precisely into place for him to go.

Although my dad seemed to have enough faith for them all, he didn’t know if he could go. Is it God’s plan to use me to encourage others to take this leap of faith? he wondered. Regardless, he continued to correspond with Paul and those interested in serving.

Then one day my dad received a phone call that an anonymous third party wanted to pay for his trip. He was blown away. What a loving Father to bless a man’s faith when he had no expectation!

The workers at Bongolo Hospital had certain dates available for our men to stay with them. Based on those dates, four guys were free to go. One of them, Tom Seeley, cut trees for a living. He was the most experienced and had professional equipment. Ross Kalberer worked with Tom and would be his right-hand man. Eric Norberg and Dennis Pausch would do whatever else was required.

The men began to tell others they were planning a trip and needed financial help. The church prayed about how it could best support them. In addition, passports needed to be renewed, visas applied for, vaccines scheduled, invitations obtained from the local African government, and so much more.

The number of details could have easily overwhelmed the team, but for our big God, they were trivial. Everything fell into place. Even the embassy in Washington seemed to approve the visa applications in record time.

Red Tape

The guys arrived at the airport in Fargo, North Dakota, on a busy Saturday morning. They quickly learned the professional saws they had emptied of fuel were not allowed; the machines needed to be completely free of fumes. So they ran to the local tool supplier and purchased three new saws.

As other passengers began to board the plane, the men frantically attempted to pack the new cargo; however, the plastic tubs retained the fumes from the first set of saws, and two of three were rejected again. Thankfully, they were able to get on before the plane departed—but with just one saw.

At home, I prayed with my family members who had gathered. In response, the Lord seemed to speak clearly to me. So after praying, I texted my dad, “It’s not about the trees. It’s not about the saws. God asked you to go, and you said yes. He will take care of any details outside of your control! Love you!” His last text from Fargo said he was headed for Paris with a window seat.

Faithful Men

Through the wonderment of technology, I downloaded an app that allowed us to message back and forth from opposite ends of the earth. One of my first messages to Africa was to ask how my dad felt about the tree and the tools they had to take it down.

From Tree to Shining Tree
L to R: Ross Kalberer, Eric Norberg, Dennis Pausch, and Tom Seeley

“They have thorns, are really tall with outcropping that may have to be cut off to get around, leaning the wrong way, may have snakes and ants, partly rotted at the stump, could not bring the right saws and some other equipment, but other than that it looks great,” he said.

For the first time, I wondered if his faith had wavered. Not being able to hear the inflection of his voice, I texted back the first thing that came to mind: “Reminds me of when God told Gideon he had too many men.”

He said, “Thanks. I think we all needed that.”

It was about an hour before I heard from him again, and my mind began to think about other times when God had asked people to do things that made no sense.

  • Abraham left his home to go to an unknown place because God had told him to go.
  • Abraham took Isaac to be a sacrifice, trusting that God would fulfill a promise of descendants.
  • Noah built an ark without an ocean in sight.
  • God invited my dad to go to Africa to cut down a tree.

The faith of these four men from my church inspired me. I was convinced, if the tree came down, it would be the hand of God blessing the people at Bongolo Hospital and allowing these faithful men to see the fruit of their labor.

Here I Am, Lord

The next day, my heart leaped into my throat as I received a photo of the guys around the largest stump I’d ever seen. “Got 2 done today, 2 left for tomorrow.” Along with photos of the thorns on the trees and bites on their arms were photos of death-defying tree climbing and cutting at heights above 160 feet in the air. The tallest and most difficult tree was on their to-do list for the following day.

Unfortunately, the first message the next day was not about the tree. It said an ant had crawled into Tom’s ear. They tried unsuccessfully to flush the ant out. However, whatever they used in the attempt killed the insect, and that allowed Tom to continue working. Sooner rather than later, though, the bug needed to be removed using anesthesia. I immediately sent the prayer request in all directions, and we lifted the situation to the Lord.

While we prayed for peace for Tom and the team and wisdom for the doctors, the largest tree came down perfectly. It was a beautiful reminder of the sovereignty of God.

The following afternoon doctors removed the ant. Tom had a little discomfort but was doing well. Praises to our Heavenly Father!

More problematic trees were taken down, and as I messaged back and forth with my dad, he indicated that his new calling may be to bring short-term missions groups to serve at Bongolo Hospital in a variety of ways.

No one knows what God has in store, but I know that my next task will be to get passports for my family.

I want nothing more than to take my husband and kids out of their comfort zones into a place where our eyes are not focused on ourselves but on our relationship with God. I want to be prepared for when the Lord says, “Go!” I’m praying now for each of us to answer with an enthusiastic, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

See the Woodcutters in Action

9 responses to Woodcutters Accept Divine Assignment

  1. Having spent 3 terms there I can so clearly hear in my mind the cries of amazement by the Gabonese standing near-by. If only we all had the eyes to see all the wonderful ways God orchestrates things in our lives, and the willingness to cry out in amazement and praise for all He does! It was so good to read this testimony of His working!

  2. This is awesome! I love how God uses every skill and every profession to bring Himself glory and expand His Kingdom.

  3. What an amazing story! I’m constantly being awed by what our God does and the ways in which He uses those that are willing to obey. So thankful to hear that every need was met and the protection given to these men.

  4. What an amazing story about our awesome God and people who followed His calling! Thank you for sharing!

  5. This is an amizing testimony about God’s faithfulness once someone is able to hear His voice and obey His will.
    Yes, God is able to do like He said He would do.
    Please Father, Go ahead and continue to use your people to be blessings for others independently of the place.

  6. This is Paul Davis in Bongolo, yep the guy that started the emails.
    I just want to say how blessed we are that these four guys, and the unseen team behind them, were able to come to Gabon and successfully cut down these trees. I drive by the stumps of the trees that they cut down everyday and still am thankful that God made it all happen.
    This was no small job, photos do not do it justice. This group of men, plus God made the impossible happen in Gabon.
    God is great and I am thankful that these men listened to His calling and came to Bongolo.

    What do you think God has for this team next? He stretches us for a reason. Keep listening for Gods voice team.

  7. This is an awesome story! Thank you so much for sharing. It is inspiring to hear how the Lord can use us in ways we would never imagine with skills we might not expect Him to use overseas.

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