Mission trip. These two simple words can invoke visions of traveling to a far off, poverty stricken land that you might see on TV. Places where one may never have the ability or resources to go. What we have come to find this week is that a mission trip can lead you to destinations not so far from home, where the need is great and where we as Christians can make a real difference. When you find yourself doing God’s work, it isn’t really work at all. I have never seen groups of people work so hard without so much as a complaint about the task at hand, as hard as it may be to accomplish.
This week began for me with a knock on a door. I could never have imagined that the woman answering my knock would feel as close to me as she does on this day. Thelma is 77 years old, and a recent breast cancer survivor. She has lost a Son in law and her husband to cancer over the last several years. Our task was to demolish the deck on the back of her house, and build a more solid and safe replacement. The demo was no sweat…minus a few bug bites, and was completed in an afternoon. By the end of the first day, a stack of pressure treated lumber was piled in Thelma’s yard, ready to be assembled into her new porch. Over the next few days, our mission became more and more clear…not just to build a new deck, but to build a new relationship. We worked thru sun and bugs and two days of solid rain, but no one cared about the weather, or the bugs. When you’re on a mission trip, you’re on a mission. As the week progressed, our task became as much about interacting with Thelma as it was about building the deck. In fact…the deck almost seemed to build itself. I joked that the projects I have done at home never seem to go off without a hitch. I can’t tell you how many times we needed a certain length of lumber, and that exact size just happened to be laying around. That never happens at home! I could see God working thru everything we did this week, in every person here, and in every activity. Every gift that God has bestowed on these people was utilized this week, whether it was documenting our experience, cooking, using artistic abilities, or praising God thru music. God had equipped each one of us with gifts perfectly suited for the tasks we had to complete… and few of them involved building or operating a saw.
Each evening our group would gather for a daily devotion, including a time of music and praise. It was during these times when I most felt God moving among us. One night in particular, in the sanctuary of the church we were painting, amid the piles of paint trays and ladders, we praised God thru song. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong that I was moved to tears. These are the moments that can’t be duplicated, and it seemed to me that I was feeling that presence more and more as the week moved forward. Each day brought a new experience, and with each experience, a deeper appreciation for just how much God was working thru all of us.
As we prepare to leave this place, and spend our last evening feasting at the home of one of the families we helped that week, I am reminded again just how blessed we all are. This has been a week of awakenings, a week of discovery, not only about each other, but about ourselves. Each one of us has heard God’s call at some point during the week. On Thursday night, Andrew Dougherty blessed us all by leading a devotion about the Joy of doing God’s work. He reminded us that the everyday happiness that we experience thru material things will wither and die, but the joy we receive from doing God’s holy work will last to eternity. May we remember as we leave this place to continue to seek new opportunities to do our Lord’s work in this world.
“Lord, thank you for showing yourself to us in so many ways this week. Thru laughter and tears…talents and gifts. We love you. Amen”