Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 13, 2015
A Valuable Lesson Learned in Haiti
I learned a valuable lesson in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It was a simple lesson: Building a roof on a chapel is not as important as loving the people who will worship under that roof.
Our team went to Haiti to put a roof on a chapel. We were a dozen men and women from Demopolis, Alabama. We sent money ahead so the roofing materials would be on hand when we arrived. We arrived ready to work but our supplies were not available.
Impatiently we complained to our hosts, a missionary family that had worked in that poverty-stricken land for 30 years. Gently, graciously, our hosts encouraged us to relax, put our watches away, and get to know the people.
We began to do that despite our frustration. Our ignorance of the culture and the people was quite apparent. And it was embarrassing to admit that “loving the Haitians” had not been on our agenda.
Two days later our supplies arrived and we began our work – with a different attitude. We had begun to be friends with some wonderful people whose joy in the midst of poverty amazed us.
The building we were to roof was near the beach and part of a youth camp. Two other mission work teams had begun construction of the building. The first team laid a good, solid foundation. The second team erected the walls. Our job was to construct the roof. First we had to frame it, then cover it with ply board on which we nailed galvanized tin sheets.
A division of labor was necessary. Some of the younger guys worked on the roof. My job was to hand up the sheets of ply-board and tin after cutting them the right size. The toughest task was to cut sheets of tin to the correct size with tin snips. I learned how quickly your hands can cramp painfully from cutting tin roofing.
Our team worked hard and completed the roof. We were exhausted but satisfied. We began where others had left off and finished roofing a large chapel. There was more work to be done by others inside the building. Other work teams were coming to finish the job. What we did was only one part of the building process.
I must confess that our work was not without friction. Tension developed as we struggled about the “right” way to roof the chapel. A dispute between two of our men almost got out of hand. But we resolved our differences. Satan failed to rupture our fellowship. Our team was stronger at the end because we remembered we were there as servants of God.
The Bible reminds us of our identity. In the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “We are God’s servants, working together.” And in serving God we stand on the shoulders of the servants who went before us. We benefit from the labor of those who served faithfully before we ever picked up the first tool.
Few things offer more joy than working together as God’s servants to accomplish a task that benefits the poor. But Satan can rob us of our joy if he can persuade us to think that we are superior to some of our fellow servants. This attitude can disrupt fellowship and create confusion and hurt feelings.
Paul had it right. He insisted that he and Apollos were only servants of God. Paul could plant the seeds. Apollos could water the seeds. But only God could make the seeds come alive and grow. So what matters most is God and what he can do, not his servants and what they can do. Paul understood well the teaching of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I cringe when someone speaks about how we Christians are building God’s kingdom. Pride slips so easily into that concept. If we use the analogy of building we must do so with the attitude Paul had about planting and watering – what we do is nothing unless and until God adds to it what he alone can do. God is the Architect and the Builder; we are workers he can use if our hearts are right.
We can avoid the snare of pride by affirming that it is God who builds his kingdom. To borrow a phrase from Jesus, our part is to receive the kingdom, to let it “come” so that his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We may allow the kingdom to come, to be built, by humbly working together, in love, as servants of Christ. When the kingdom has finally become a reality, its builder and maker will have been God. Thankfully he has invited us to have a small role in the construction. + + +