In 2009 the Evangelical Free Church of Chico teamed with long-time missions partner Amor (amor.org) "to build Amor experimental homes in South Africa." It fell to church member Dan Irving to organize the trip, recounted in "Don't Expect Luggage To Arrive" ($15 in paperback from Memoir Books; also for Amazon Kindle). It's available locally at Lyon Books in Chico.
The story also reaches back into Irving's growing up years and the intertwining of the work of another missions organization through a friend of a friend who knew the British Queen Mother. Irving's story is one of God's working in mysterious ways, of seeming coincidences and even setbacks that strengthened his own faith.
"Amor Ministries," he writes, "was founded by Scott and Gayla Congdon who fell in love when they started building an orphanage in Mexico in 1980." Amor, based in San Diego, "has grown from building the orphanage into building homes for the poor, which helps keep families together in Mexico, South Africa, and on an Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona."
In 2005 he was in Mexico with his son, David, and a team of volunteers to build seven houses through Amor. "We had three-and-a-half days ... from start to finish. Three-and-a-half days with lots of helping young hands, many who have never held a hammer, pounded a nail, cut a piece of wood, mixed or poured concrete; helping hands who were willing and soon would be able." In the end, all seven houses were completed despite "sleet, rain, heat, and hurricane force winds!"
Amor houses go to the poorest of the poor. Instead of living in "shelters" ("constructed of discarded scrap metal, corrugated iron, shredded pieces of plywood, tires, rocks, broken pieces of cement, hubcaps, and cardboard"), children are united with their families.
In expanding the work of Amor to South Africa for the first time, Irving assembled a Chico group of 26, including EV Free pastor Lou Diaz, Irving's family, students, medical and fire personnel, and even "the chairman of the board of Lundberg Farms."
Flying Delta, the volunteers arrived in Johannesburg but their 52 pieces of luggage? They went missing. (So the first letters of the book's title spell "Delta.") What happened next, though, is part of the story of God's grace.
Dan Irving will be the interview guest on Nancy’s Bookshelf, with Nancy Wiegman, Friday, January 24, from 10:00 – 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio), 91.7 FM. There’s a link to interview archives on this blog.