We got back from our mission trip to West Virginia last Saturday night. If you were in church, you heard some of our stories and saw the thousands of photos taken by people who went. If you missed it, here’s a taste.
Six of us went from here to join 25 other people from northern New Jersey to work at a Habitat for Humanity site in Pendleton County, West Virginia. Like most of West Virginia, this area is short of resources. They don’t have easy access to travel routes, they don’t have industry, and the mountainous terrain makes farming hard. Mostly we saw beef cattle and a little corn. Incomes are low, but pride is strong. Every house and yard was neat and cared for. It’s a beautiful place, but a hard place too.
We stayed at “Almost Heaven” Habitat volunteer center. We worked at several sites. Houses had been framed, and we were continuing on a process that others had begun. At some we put up siding. At others they were ready for painting, floorboards, cabinets. We put up railings and staircases. At the end of the week, we left our work in the hands of strangers – the next group who will come, who are already there now, noticing what we did wrong and making mistakes in their turn. After the last group has left, families will move into these homes and live with what we did or failed to do.
This is true for all our lives. Paul uses the image of building when he writes the church in Corinth about other teachers coming through (1 Cor. 3:10-15). They are not in competition, but share in building up the body of Christ. Each must look to the foundation they’ve laid, and be careful to build properly, for the results will inevitably appear eventually. Even the nicest façade will crack if the foundation cannot support it.
The foundation is Jesus Christ. The example Jesus gives us of service, and the love we find in our hearts, send us out to serve in peace. Several people remarked on the generosity and positive nature of everyone on the trip. Even when tempers got thin, people were polite and looked for the good in one another. That is a testimony to the foundation they’ve been laying in their lives.
I hope to return to West Virginia next year. More important, I pray that I learned something this past week about service and teamwork and faithful living. I pray for the families that will live in “our” houses, and for everyone who works to build the kingdom of God. And I pray for you. God be with you.