In early May, I and six other church members spent a week at the UMCOR Sager-Brown Depot in Baldwin Louisiana. I was accompanied by Joyce White, Kathy Helmer, Dawn Rice, Lisa Henson, Susanne Osborne, and Butch Chapman. This was the 12th year that JFUMC has sent a mission team and it was the 8th time I had made the trek south.
At Sager Brown, there are many ways to be of service. You can work in the warehouse, packing relief supplies. You can assist with facility projects such as painting, gardening, and mowing. Or, you can go out into the Baldwin community and assist residents.
One morning, Susanne and I went to a housing facility for low-income seniors. We were assigned to clean the apartment of an elderly gentleman. He watched with interest as we arrived with our mops and bucket. As we got to work, he said (in a wonderful Louisiana accent), “You know… Mission work is really about conversation.”
While he appreciated the help with chores, what he craved was for us to sit down and talk with him. He was 92 years old and had joined the Army when he was 17. After basic training, he parachuted, in the middle of the night, into Europe to join the battles of World War II. Today, he is the last of a generation, having lost his wife, his friends, and much of his family.
We obliged and had a wonderful hour, hearing his stories and providing brief companionship. We were richly blessed.
I think it is easy to fall into the trap of “doing” mission work and focusing on the tasks. We cook, we serve, we sew. I often judge my own worth in terms of the items on my “To Do” list that can be crossed off. It is in my nature to focus on the tangible outputs of my labor and to think of time spent in simple conversation as being “non-productive.”
In truth, life is about relationships and conversations.While the hungry need to be fed and the poor need to be housed and clothed, most people also need an acknowledgement of their worth. When we take the time to have a conversation, we are giving and receiving a blessing. We are letting the other person know that they matter. It affirms that they are a beloved child of God, regardless of their situation. It is through relationships that we can be disciples of Christ in a deep and powerful way. When we share our own stories,our experiences, and our challenges, we meet others where they are. From a common place, we can bear witness to God’s power in our own life and share how he has helped us through the rough spots.
In His Love,
Cindy Kyser Buck, Lay Servant