Our year-long, every-member mission trip took us to Essex Village apartments yesterday, where about 30 of us from First Baptist Church got off the bus to see how we could help bring heaven to earth.
Do you know how that is? When you just show up and offer to help, not sure of where you might be most helpful? I felt that way myself. Steve Blanchard had done most of the organizing. I knew we were going to have a “Christmas Store” for the parents (kind of an indoor yard sale where everything cost a quarter). I knew that One Accord—our “show choir”—was going to sing. I was pretty sure there were going to be sweets and treats for the children, but beyond that I didn’t know much of anything.
I just showed up and tried to be helpful.
I parked at Building 117, which is a kind of community center, although I later learned it wasn’t used for nearly three years. Now that Essex Village has a full-time social worker in Sonya Lee Zezza it’s getting a lot more use. Steve Blanchard and his crew of helpers were already inside setting up the Christmas Store.
Outside Jerry Pope seemed to be refereeing a pick-up football game. I stood with him for a while, watching some of our kids and some of the Essex Village kids mix it up in a game that had lots of action but not much direction. It didn’t seem to matter. These boys were having fun just running back and forth on a grassy field on a beautiful December afternoon. The football was almost an afterthought.
When the Christmas Store was ready Steve asked me if I could help round up some customers, so I went from door to door, knocking and asking kids if they’d like to come to a party and parents if they’d like to come to the store. I was surprised by how many people were home on a Sunday afternoon, and how many opened their doors, politely, to talk to a complete stranger.
It occurred to me as I was doing it that this was something I was good at—talking to strangers—and it made me think that maybe this was why I had come. As I did, I could see how everybody on our team was finding a place where their gifts could be used. Jerry Pope was good at refereeing chaos. Matthew Brown was good at playing football. Lillian DuVal was good at talking with little children. One Accord was good at singing Christmas carols. Karen Grizzard was good at helping parents find gifts. Christy Somerville was good at helping children find books. Steve Blanchard was good at making it all happen in the first place.
But here’s what I noticed, and it seems to be a rule: that when people are doing the things God has gifted them for, it gives them joy. I came home yesterday deeply satisfied by what happened at Essex Village, but also satisfied that I helped to make it happen, that I was able to use my gifts for the good of the Kingdom.
That’s why I say sometimes that “as children of the Heavenly Father, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are called to labor alongside the Lord Jesus in the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth.”
It is joyful work, and yesterday, at Essex Village,
I felt the joy.