This is an article from the January-March 1985 issue: Student Missions Urbana ‘84

A Little Girl Fell Down A Well Shaft

A Little Girl Fell Down A Well Shaft

A little girl fell down a well shaft some years ago right here in Southern California. (If you are 60 years old as I am, or older you may recall it being in the papers).

She slipped about 25 feet down an 18 inch shaft. When her parents missed her, all they could hear were faint cries for help.

Had she died "then and there" no one would have heard more about it. But she was still alive!

Word spread. Here was a concrete, guiltless need. (By contrast, needy street people in the inner city are presumed to have done something wrong to get there). But Cathy Fiscus accidentally fell, and now could not help herself.

"..dozens of little girls die unnoticed, unheralded.."

Hours passed. Ropes letdown were of no avail, except to tell how far down she was. She was not strong enough to hold on! Loops she could not figure out. She was out of her mind with fear. Darkness. spiders, dust in her face.

Suddenly a construction company got into the act with equipment that could drive down a new 36 inch shaft a few feel away. Instant frantic activity ensued as newspapers as far away as Hong Kong carried the story pictures of the 24 hour flood lights and desperate night time efforts.

Digging the new shaft was not entirely mechanical. A human being had to move down the new shaft as each additional "collar" extended the lengthening metal tube. Two men took turns working a single unending stretch in this effort.

As the hours went by (perhaps an additional 12 hours once they got started on the new shaft) Cathy's cries for help got weaker and weaker. Finally, about 36 hours from the time she fell down the hole, the new shaft reached her level and they immediately began the delicate operation of digging horizontally over the two feet to the well shaft. From up above Cathy's voice could no longer be heard. Was she asleep? Had dehydration put her into a coma?

"...There is no reason apart from sin   for any one on the face of the earth to starve..."

Finally they reached her and sent her little inert body up the new shaft. Waiting doctors verified that the efforts did not get to her in time.

What dismay swept the 800 or so people who had swarmed to the site! What tears were shed as grown men sobbed inconsolably. The news sent out the tragic news to Hong Kong, Berlin, Calcutta . . to "the ends of the earth." Then, gradually the forgetting process began.

At the time I was in my early twenties, but I still recall several afterthoughts about the event. How strange that the loss of ONE life would make the front page in Calcutta, where in any 24-hour period dozens of little girls die unnoticed, unheralded.

It also stuck in my mind that the two men who did most of the frantic hand labor, were not regular members of the staff of the construction company. Curiously, they were something like derelicts who just happened to be standing by and offered to help.

Those two men were hospital cases when it was all over. The emotional aftermath across the country brought in something like $20,000 to these two heroes (in those days like $100,000).

(From this I learned that some people are splendid for short spurts, where they can clearly see the benefits of their labors. They do not even notice the sacrifice! Others turned their energies against the city officials who had not diligently plugged all such well holes. They were inclined to solve the problem at the root, on a longer term basis. Both types are needed.)

BUT FOR US at the USCWM right now, a significant insight is what we see in this event of the nature of public awareness, its power, its transitory character. Here in northeast Pasadena we have a crucial, major effort going, already affecting, indirectly, thousands upon thousands of little girls at the very ends of the earth.

You don't normally hear much about it, but whole lands and peoples are being invaded by the Gospel of Christ and at an unprecidented rate. Fathers and mothers across this planet are coming under the sway of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. One result will be a new concern for children ("turn the hearts of the fathers to the children", Luke 1:17). Violence will wane, trickery and treachery, torture and ruthless ambition will be undermined by love and goodness and mercy and awed worship of the Living God.

There is no reason . apart from sin, for anyone on the face of the earth to starve, to be abandoned, to he put down, to be unloved, to be held in fear and darkness . to run front a rainbow (as did Mayan Indians where we lived in Guatemala). No reason, if hearts can be changed (and they can) and attention aroused.

IN OUR CASE, I actually wonder if the former owners of these properties had gone ahead to foreclose, the attention aroused, the avalanche of public response would have done whatever was necessary to carry us to safety, even to pay off the entire campus. Perhaps we ourselves flinched, and the former owner sensed that we no longer really believed that we would be OK? Perhaps they drew back from the public reaction that might have blamed them (unfairly of course). We will never know. Difficult though it may be, we must be grateful that they have given us another two years.

One thing we know without a shadow of doubt: there are plenty of people all across this country whose hearts have been touched regarding the need and urgency of a major cooperative inter¬mission center, which is waving the flag for the Unreached Peoples. You may be one of them. These people now know us well and believe in us ,and stand ready to help us   help US, not just embrace the vision for the unreached peoples. But what will he the 'dramatic event' to galvanize their action?

Well, would it really be wiser of God to allow SOME BIZARRE TRAGEDY to call attention to our plight, and WHOOSH, all the needed funds came in? That would be nice. It would make it easier for us  But not necessarily better. FOR THE CAUSE. (Do we want things easy?)

Wiry, better for the cause. We certainly do need to get back to business, locating and strategizing for the reaching of the unreached (although many of our people on campus the vast majority  are already doing that, full time).

God must be right. No doubt we do in fact need painstakingly to continue a while longer, concentrating on the renewal of the homefront, on the renewal of Biblical world perspective at the congregational level, the development of a vast and ESSENTIAL renewal movement in this country! That's what MISSION 2000 is all about.

The most crucial factor for us in May of 1985 is actually what we ourselves believe. Do we ourselves rejoice in the "Good Word" of Cod's mighty power around the world? Is the vision strongest here in Pasadena or in our consituency? Alas, how can we make the winning of the world as impelling as the Superbuwl? How can people hear what God is up to?

Here in Pasadena we have a stream of key people going through from the very ends of the earth. Yet I feel cheated when I have to read in the L.A. Times that at Houston (at the Lausanne Congress on the Evangelization of Ethnic America), my friend Peter Wagner said that one of hundreds of Korean churches in Los Angeles has now built a church membership which is overflowing a leased Jr. High School campus and is planning for 4,000 members.

My, how our society normally just brushes pastor even "covers up" the mighty works of God!

Just think, our staff has carefully written and sent our over 1,000 pages of the Global Prayer Digest, creating something like 20 million moments of inspiration and prayer, and we are never going to run out of material! Why? Because God is not going to stop working!

But, Oh God, do not stop working in our hearts either. If we must continue one more year, or even two more years, pay huge interest payments before we can beat the principal down to zero, OK. But in the meantime, even to do that, may the heat and light and power of your Presence not wane HERE!

(Cont.) The Parable of the Little Girl

An interpretation (Are we down a well? Will the world rally too late?)

What can we gather from this Parable in Real Life?

  1. Massive aid arrived when enough people were aroused.
  2. Plenty of good will existed. It just got there too late. Real, muscular help arrived definitely too late.
  3. It was "irregulars" that did the toughest work, not busy, well dressed people, with other responsibilities.
  4. It would not have done any good to call down to Cathy, "We'll give you two more hours." Time was not in her favor.
  5. What she had in her favor we do not have is the obvious URGENCY of the situation. And she was a helpless little girl.
  6. Would it help if we made known that our staff are all on a missionary salary (all but a few maintenance workers), from the General Director on down, and that even so we are actually getting less than that by an average of 30% below our missionary support level?
  7. Would it help if we could somehow make clear that our work definitely does make an impact on the plight of many, many little girls around the world?

The Future of the USCWM

The mass of us in this picture above (a recent retreat) are wondering, "Is there a future?" Now is a good time to stop and pray about it.

We have been running an exhausting marathon race now for eight years, trying unaggressively to pay for this property simultaneously we have somehow been keeping 17 balls in the air, with now almost 300 people (not counting students) working here every day, in 60 different organizations and departments.Yet across these eight years practically no one here has been occupied with getting money in. We have never sent a letter to anyone who did not write to us first. We have never had any development office until now, and now only recently the University does  one pan time person.

We have discovered that "word of mouth" can bring in millions!

But not quite enough. Being only a few pennies short, comparatively speaking, has brought us into catastrophe, (or near catastrophe, which is about as unsettling.)

Meanwhile, we crashed through our Sept'83 deadline into a higher interest rate on the campus, and now the same on the second half of the campus, and the monthly total by now is killing  slightly over half of every penny that comes in goes to interest (which is like "rent" on what we owe).

If we use the additional two years granted to us so graciously by Pt. Loma College (the former owners) we will have to pay well over $2 million in interest!

Paying 12.5% interest is not exhorbitant these days, but we, and you I'm sure, would like to see this place paid off so the interest would go down to zero! Why not?

How? We see three Three Ways Forward (next two pages). Read and ponder. We need $180,000 by July 1st just to earn the chance to go forward. We welcome your help in any or all of the THREE WAYS FORWARD.

WHERE WE STAND: Down below you can read the details of our new situation. Up above you can see where we now stand. On the right in Figure B you can see our exhausting interest payments. On the left you can see where they come from  the black bars of continuing indebtedness. In faith we have shown a bar half as tall for the lowered debt in 1986, (we hope that will come true). Do you see it? Will you pray for that. Our very founding purposes am being retarded and smothered by this killing debt The THREE WAYS FORWARD on the next two pages are commended to you for prayerful, urgent consideration.


The New Situation

The Details

After months of confusion and uncertainty and ambiguity, the essential news from the former owners of these properties is relatively simple:

  1. We have been released from $500,000 of delinquincy which avoids FORECLOSURE! (the outstanding interest has been added to the remaining debt.)
  2. In return, we must face a 6 month earlier increase in the raw of interest on the second hallf of the campus (from 81/2% to 12 t12%). The interest rate on the 1st half of the campus already went up from 8% to 12.5% in September of 1983.)
  3. This means we are now paying at a rate of $85,000 PER MONTH (See Figure B above.) just on interest! How do we arrive at this figure? Isis $31,000 monthly on the housing portion of the campus + $54,000 on the campus proper. (Three times this latter amount, $162,000, is paid out as the interest portion of our regular $300,000 quarterly payment The other $136,000 making up the $300,000 payment goes to drive down the debt, and with it the interest  That is in our favor, of course.
  4. Finally, the $8.3 million "balloon" payment (to pay all remaining debt) that was to be due in September tat this year ($5.3 million of it pushed off from Sept '83) will now come due two years later, on Oct. 1st, 1987. (However, if all we pay against the debt are the small payments on principal as required in our quarterly payments, the balloon payment in '87 will still be $7.2 million, and we will have paid out $2.3 million in interest.


There are no comments for this entry yet.

Leave A Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.