Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Friday After Thanksgiving

I love the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is sort of the best of both worlds. It has all the benefits of a holiday (i.e. not having to go to work) and none of the busyness (i.e. not having to cook for 20 people – not that I personally have ever cooked for 20 people in my life). No, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a day when we lay around and moan about having eaten too much the day before. It’s a day when we vow to start exercising “now that the holidays are upon us” and then immediately proceed to fix ourselves a turkey sandwich roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Now, this Thanksgiving, I knew that things would be a little different as Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Zambia and therefore there would be no day off from language classes on Friday. But, I was anticipating at least the possibility of what one of our fellow language studiers refers to as “the long sleep” (by which they don’t mean dying, but sleeping in). But it was not to be so.

As Thanksgiving day was winding down, I began to sense that the Lord wanted me to go on Friday morning and help with putting in the footings for a tabernacle that is being built this week by a church team from America. It would mean getting up at 5 am to leave the house by 6, and be at the job site by 6:30. And, it would mean spending the morning doing concrete work. I tried to argue with the Lord, explaining to Him, that obviously he had gotten me confused with someone else as I know about as much about concrete as I do about knitting. But it was no use, and soon I was sure it was what the Lord wanted me to do.

So, Friday morning Dean Galyen, a missionary from Zimbabwe who is heading up this project ( a guy who has built 81 of these tabernacles all over southern Africa) and I were riding to the site when Dean asked me what I wanted to do.

“You mean in life?” I asked?
“No, at the job site.”
“Is taking a nap an option?”
“Whatever you need me to do I suppose.”

Dean assigned me to be in charge of mixing the concrete. “Its simple,” he explained. “I once had a guy on a team who was a baker, and I gave him that same job. If you can follow a recipe, you can mix concrete! Just remember 3, 2, 1. Three parts rock, two parts sand, one part cement. Simple.”

“No problem,” I said. “Three parts sand, two parts rock, one part cement. Or…was it three parts rock….”

And so, off to work we went, mixing our concrete and pouring the footings. A couple of young Zambians, who had probably done this many times, worked with me. As we were shoveling gravel into the wheelbarrow, I started to breathe heavy after about 15 minutes and one of the Zambians gave me a little smirk that seemed to say “You Americans work like girls.” I shot back a sheepish grin that said, “Yes I know. Is there a Crispy Crème around here?”

But, as we were shoveling that gravel something truly wonderful happened. There are times when God calls us to do something so that we can be a blessing, so that he can use our gifts and talents to accomplish His will in the lives of others. But there are other times when God calls us to do something just so he can speak to us in an unmistakable way. He sometimes calls us to be part of a situation so that that situation can become like the walls of a canyon off which God’s voice echoes. And so it was that there next to that pile of gravel, the voice of God began to resonate with a clarity that I had not heard for a long time.

It struck me, with an overwhelming sense of awe, with the kind of amazement that leaves one’s knees trembling and one’s heart pounding, what an amazing privilege it is to be building a church! I have done a lot of dumb things in my life and have brought a lot of pain to the lives of people I cared about. But that Friday morning, I found myself just bursting with delight at the privilege of being a part of what God was doing; not only building a church in terms of a physical building, but to see God build his church by using ordinary people like you and me.

And so, I filled my shovel again with a load of gravel, and I began to recall silently a verse from Matthew 16, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” And I looked around at the members of this church who had come to help put up this tabernacle, and I realized that the building was already standing. And that somehow, we, Dean, myself, you who read this, these wonderful Zambian brothers and sisters, are all a part of that indestructible edifice know as the family of God. “You also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).

It seems that somehow, on Thanksgiving Day, I had forgotten to be Thankful for the most wonderful gift of all – the gift of being a part of the family of God and the gift of being a part of His redemptive work in this world. I realized that sometimes my gratitude is too small! I am thankful sometimes for the stuff that hardly matters at all, for those temporal things that moth and rust will one day destroy, and I overlook the things that mean the most. I get discouraged and I get disheartened at times because I become too aware of my own weaknesses and frailties, and in the process, I lose sight of what an amazing thing it is to be serving Jesus! And so, off God sent me, to a construction site, not because I am an expert builder, but because He is. And because I needed a gentle reminder of the privilege we have in being called His own!

I really do love the Friday after Thanksgiving!


Anonymous said...

I thought of you both on this past Thanksgiving day; said a prayer that the Lord would bless you and that your hearts would continue to delight in doing the will of God. Your shining examples of being Jesus-followers minister not only to the precious Zambians around you, but to your friends halfway around the world as well. You two minister to MY heart daily. I love you guys!

Be blessed,
Joy (and Forrister)

Jason Ament said...

I ate turkey.

Brett said...

I went to the beach the Friday after Thanksgiving. I miss you guys (you too, Jason).