Today my big accomplishment was getting sunburned. Serious, farmer-tan sunburn. I thought the hard hat that we have to wear was supposed to protect us, but apparently it didn’t protect me from the sun.
We sifted sand, moved rubble, lifted sand up three and four stories, mixed cement, and did a number of menial, grunt types of work. By the end of the day we were all hot, tired, and ready for a time of rest.
The last two days after supper I have been leading a reflection of the whole group. It is in part so the medical team can hear what the construction team was doing, and so the construction team could hear what the medical team was doing. We talk about our experiences, where we saw God, and some of the amazing things that happened. It is in part to share and in part so that the group as a whole can reflect on what is happening this week, and where God is moving among us.
Today the construction folks did not have much to share. The hook goes up, the hook goes down, sand, gravel, cement, etc. The medical team, on the other hand, had a powerful story about reaching out to a man that was sick, in his home, and was all but abandoned by everyone. It was a powerful story of people taking risks, reaching out, and really making a difference in this man’s life. It was a wonderful story.
Irony. Yesterday I wrote about mission groups that brag and brag about the construction they do. Today I find myself wishing I were with the medical team. They were not bragging about their work, but certainly excited about what they were doing. It was when I heard so many powerful and wonderful things from the medical team and then the simple and almost pointless things from the construction team that I began to wish I was with the other team. I wanted to look into the eyes of the starving child and offer a bit of compassion and love. I wanted to offer a touch of compassion. I wanted to see how I made someone’s life better. Instead I got to see how all of my efforts led to pouring cement. Yea.
A large part of my desire to be with the medical team is egoism. I want to have instant gratification for my work. That is the desire that pushes many construction mission trips – egoism and instant gratification. I am told again and again that my effort with the hospital is good and important, but tonight I’m not feeling those good and powerful vibes. I ask people where they see God, and I don’t know if I have seen God in the time of construction.
I need to take a breath, to bring things into perspective, and to trust that the work I am doing will help people in need.
Maybe tomorrow, while I am shoveling more dirt or cement or rubble, someone will run up to me and say, “quick, we need someone to save this child’s life, and you are the one to do it.” Maybe, but I’m not going to hold my breath.