The Miracle of 52 Doorknobs: Dan Diamond Tells Stories of COTN’s Early Years

11/09/16

Dan Diamond—COTN® partner, family doctor, public speaker, and first responder for a medical international disaster relief group—shares his stories about COTN’s early days, and gives his insight on what he believes is COTN’s current and future impact.


Dan Diamond
To hear the full interview, listen to COTN’s podcast, “The Miracle of 52 Doorknobs: Dan Diamond Tells First-Hand Stories of COTN’s Early Years.”


Before COTN Had a Name
The story begins more than 20 years ago, after Chris and Debbie Clark, COTN’s founders, returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. Chris sat in Dan Diamond’s living room, weeping as he told stories of what he saw—thousands of children orphaned after a decade-long civil war.

“I’m going to quit my job, and I’m going to go do something for these orphan kids,” Chris told Dan. “Are you in?”

“Heck yes, I’m in,” Dan said. Right there, in Dan’s living room, they began forming what is now COTN’s vision statement: raising children who transform nations. But they knew turning this idea into reality would take a big miracle.


52 Doorknobs
One of COTN’s first big projects was constructing a Children’s Home in Marjay Town, on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, back in the US, Chris had a list of supplies he needed to purchase for the project, including 52 doorknobs.

Walking through the University of Washington’s surplus store, Chris prayed over the list. He was able to find a lot of the items he needed, except doorknobs. It wasn’t until he was standing at the register checking out that he saw one last shrink-wrapped pallet.

“What’s on that pallet?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s just a bunch of doorknobs,” said the cashier. Chris wasted no time tearing through the shrink-wrap to get a better look. The doorknobs were a dollar a piece.

“How many doorknobs are on the pallet?” Chris asked.

“Fifty-two.”

Dan says he’ll never forget this story. It was a poignant confirmation that God was guiding COTN. Not only did Chris get the exact number of doorknobs he needed, he soon discovered these were state-of-the-art security doorknobs worth about $300 each. “God has such a passion to provide for these orphaned and destitute kids; the cheap doorknobs are not good enough!” Dan says.


Sierra Leone scene
                                 
                           Over twenty years ago, COTN began its ministry in Sierra Leone.


“It’s Not All about Us Coming in to Save the Day”
While COTN’s ministry has continued to expand, Dan says there’s a core element that sets COTN apart, and he believes it’s directly connected to Chris’ childhood experiences in Liberia—which led to COTN respecting people’s desire to care for their own children and working within a culture, not changing it.

“There were plenty of times where we came up with ideas and said, ‘Hey we ought to do this,’” Dan says. “Chris would say, ‘Nah, nah, this isn’t about us rescuing; this is about us equipping the nationals to be able to raise their kids to transform their nations.’”

As COTN worked hard to operate within this partnership philosophy, something amazing happened—local leaders in Sierra Leone, called paramount chiefs, came together to give 45 acres of land to COTN and name Chris an honorary paramount chief.

“They have a vision for their own orphaned and destitute children,” Dan says, “and we’re helping them with their vision. It’s not all about us coming in to save the day. I have huge respect for that.”

Where are You Leaning Your Ladder?
Over the last 20 years, Dan says his involvement with COTN has changed him and given him perspective on how he’s spending his time. During a Venture trip to Sierra Leone, teammate and longtime COTN partner Abe Young shared this with the group: “Today I had kind of an epiphany. I realized that I’ve been climbing the ladder of success my whole life, and today, as an old man, I discovered that my ladder was leaning against the wrong building.”

Dan was stunned by Abe’s confession. “I get that,” says Dan. “We work so hard trying to be successful in doing our work and get so caught up in our world and all the responsibilities that we have here that it’s easy to be unaware of what’s happening and the impact we could make when we get involved in an organization like Children of the Nations.”


Students in Sierra Leone
“I also see the power of what one person can do when God has put something on their heart. I really believe that we can impact these nations and I believe that there is hope.”


Dan says his experiences with COTN have made him more tender and hopeful. “I feel like I have my socks blessed off,” Dan says. “It’s been really fun to have a 20-year perspective on seeing this miracle happen. We’re at a really exciting point. We’re going to start seeing these nations now being transformed by these leaders that used to be skinny, malnourished, orphaned, and destitute kids.”

“I knew from the very beginning, when we knew about these 52 doorknobs, I knew that God was in this business with us.”

More of COTN’s Beyond the Village podcasts are available online at cotni.org/podcast, iTunes, Soundcloud, or your favorite podcast directory.