Friday, May 15, 2015
Many of the team members were skilled carpenters or bricklayers. I was not counted amongst that group, serving as a “go-fer,” fetching supplies for the more skilled laborers on the team. The days were long and arduous, but the rewards were often uplifting. None more so than a particular afternoon in the fall of 1997...
We began that day shooing away the dozen or so area children that had gathered around as we unloaded our tools and supplies for the day’s labor. Their little eyes were drawn to our backpacks, knowing they often concealed sugary treats that their impoverishment would not afford. But the children's presence in the work site was unsafe, so we always promised them something at the end of the day in exchange for them staying out of the way. Diligently, they would stand watch a safe distance away for hours to receive that prized piece of candy.
On this day, our task was to make much needed improvements to a one-room, cinder block church. The rectangular, dirt-floored building had two window openings on each side, and a large opening for the doorway. But without a proper door or window enclosures, the church had no protection from the frequent tropical winds and rains, not to mention vandals who often pilfered anything of value.
Because only half of our team was sent to work on the little church, I was pressed into the service of more skilled labor, helping build frames for the window shutters and door openings. Each frame was then anchored to the cinder blocks of the church, a rather daunting task given the low quality of the material.
Working on anchoring the door frame, I grew more and more annoyed at my inabilities to properly secure it. Compounding my frustration was having to move out of the way of women from the village. For some odd reason, the women had decided this was the most advantageous time to gather in the front of the church, albeit through the very doorway in which I worked. I grumbled to myself at the passing of each barefooted-villager, but tried not to let my aggravation show.
As drops of sweat poured down upon the dirt floor, I plodded onward at the task that totally consumed me. The more I tried to get the doorframe adequately attached, the more transparent my lack of carpentry skills became. Pridefully, I resisted asking for assistance, not wanting to expose my incompetence. All the while, I continued to have to scooch and crawl out the way of the steady flow of the village women. At the height of my frustration, I was brought back to reality by a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"What is it?!?"
My head whirled around to see one of my co-workers standing over me, his eyes moist with tears. A peaceful calm had fallen over the church. Looking around, I saw all my coworkers standing and gazing toward front of the church.
Slowly raising myself up from my agitated state, I stood to see those ladies of the village, now kneeling in unison at their dirt altar. They prayed and they wept in thanksgiving for the laborers the Lord had sent to their simple, but cherished church. Bowing my head, my indignant frustration was now awash in quiet humility as tears intermingled with sweat.
Suddenly the task seemed less daunting, but the reward so magnified.
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
Romans 11:36 (NKJV)