We filed out of the Suburban loaded with youth as a man came out of the house and introduced himself. “Hello, Troy,” I said and started a round of introductions during which we told him the names and hometowns of our team. “It is going to be really hot this week, and it is supposed to rain at some point,” he responded, “so you really don’t need to start working on the house if you don’t want to. There is probably another project you would rather work on.”
As he said these words, I could see the questions beginning in the minds of my team. Would he turn us away? What would we do? The words spoken next would frame the rest of our time together. “Don’t worry about the heat or rain, we will take it day by day,” I said. “We are here all week, assigned to help you, and there isn’t any other place we would rather be.” I was close enough to see his eyes tear up as he said, “Okay,” and stepped away. As the youth began unloading the tools we would need to begin, he walked back and said to me, “This is really hard. No one has ever helped me like this before.”
After we left that day, I sensed God telling me, “This week, I will show you how to be my hands and feet.” This created an awareness for me to watch and listen, not only to the prompting of my heavenly Father, but to the stories – the cares and concerns – of Troy and my team, with whom I would be spending a lot of time.
Over the course of the week, I learned that Troy was married to Cheryl, who had recently passed away from colon cancer. To care for her, he quit his job. As her caretaker, he had been deeply touched by her painful end of life. Shortly following her death, Troy had lost three other close family members. The loss of his family had made him very angry with God, and He described himself as not being very religious. He also acknowledged Cheryl had been one for whom faith had come very easily.
In very small ways, as I listened, I was prompted to share good news with Troy. We were there serving him this week because he was sought after, loved, and cared for by his Father in heaven. We were crazy enough to take time off work, leave our families and homes, sleep on the floor of a school, and even pay to come on a trip during which we would work on his home in the heat and rain, because he matters.
As amazing as those things sounded to Troy, I was moved by what I began to see. I watched a man who, at the beginning of the week, tried to turn us away ask if he could help us paint his house. I saw a man who, even though I could tell it made him nervous, would paint the tallest points of his home so that my young team would be safe. He took delight in giving us Popsicles as respite from the heat. On the last day, in thanksgiving, he gifted me a beautiful paperweight that had been Cheryl’s, and then it was my turn to tear up. When God calls his people to serve, He does it with deep love for everyone involved. When we are willing to be His hands and feet, He moves us to a new understanding of who He is and who we are in Him. How are you being called to serve those around you?