Thursday, January 26, 2006

Returning home

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, my first morning back from my one-week mission to Hackberry, La., after getting home at 1:30 a.m. I had to be in the office at 9 a.m. Back to the real world.

My toes are numb from standing all day on my tip-toes as I kneeled into the pitch of the roofs we worked on. My thighs hurt from the constant squatting. My hands hurt from pulling nails and holding an air-compressed gun. My shoulders and back hurt from tossing shingles. My body seems to hurt from head to toe.

Yet, all I can think about is when can I get back to Hackberry?

The pain in my toes, thighs, hands, back and shoulders will go away. The ache in my heart is overwhelming. No aspirin will remedy this pain. I find myself in tears throughout the day, thinking of what I experienced. All week long, people came to us thanking us for helping them. I kept telling them this was an equal blessing thing, but nobody bought it.

These people from the bajou touched my heart with their warmth and friendliness. I will never be the same. I hope I will never be afraid to reach out and help someone in need. I hope I will be able to step out in faith and trust that God will provide finances for me to go on trips like this when I can't afford it. I hope I will take the time to really answer someone in the supermarket when they stop and ask me how I'm doing. I hope I never give the requisite "fine" and move on.
I hope I will always answer "fine, fine. And you? How you doin'?" And really listen to their response.

That is what I take back from Hackberry. These people take the time every day of their lives to spend time with their neighbors. They not only know their next-door neighbors, they know their neighbors six miles away. When they ask how you're doing, they genuinely want to know how you're doing. And when they say they'll be prayin' for ya, you can believe they'll be prayin' for you that very day.

Every day, us Californians complain about how busy our lives are. Our lives can be summed up as we sit bumper to bumper every morning and evening in traffic as we agonize on getting home in time to watch worthless drivel on the television. Then we make fun of the slow, backwards lives of people like those who live in Hackberry. "

Hicks."Yet most in Hackberry would not trade their world with ours. Too fast. Too hectic. Heck, who would they talk to in the supermarket? "Hey, I asked ya how you were doin' and I meant it. Don't walk away. How's your son doin'?

They have so much less than we have, yet they are so much more thankful for what they have. What's wrong with that picture? Most of them have lost their homes. Many of them don't own computers. Most of them don't make the kind of money we in California call poverty level.

Shoot, you could own a mansion in Hackberry for the price of a matchbox condo in Livermore.

And they give so much more. There hearts are where they should be, where Jesus tells us they should be.Slow? They sure figured out fast what's important in life. It is us out in California that is lagging behind in the gettin' it process. It isn't about the cars and the houses and the jobs we possess. It's about being there for our neighbors and lovin' on them when they're hurtin'. It's about droppin' off a casserole when you know they don't have time to fix dinner because they've been at the hospital all day after Dad got hurt on the job.

Whatever happened to "love thy neighbor" out here in California?I think more of us from California need to travel back in time to Louisiana and find out what that commandment, which Jesus said was second only to "love God with all your heart and soul." We are going back to help them put roofs back on. While we're there, they're teaching us how to love our neighbors.

We were constantly thanked for the help we were providing putting on roofs in Hackberry. Help? I can't help thinking that what we're doing is not nearly enough. Not Cornerstone, per se, because I'm extremely proud of what my church is doing.

Already, there's plans in the works to start a disaster relief team to do this again -- and there will be more disasters. I'm talking about the Christian community in general. What we are doing in Hackberry should be happening in every little community in America when disaster strikes.

These are people devastated by an unexpected event. Many times, they don't have insurance. They wait month after month for the government to provide assistance. These are proud people and they are made to feel like they have to beg for government help. And hey, don't forget to vote Republican/Democratic next election, ya hear. Don't forget who helped you!

The church used to be the cornerstone (forgive the pun) of helping those in need. They relinquished their biblical mandate to help the widows and the orphans the the elderly and those who physically can't work to a government who made subsidies a ticket to re-election. The church is allowing the government to snatch its God-given commandment to help those who can't help themselves. It's time for churches to work with other denominations in striving to help others.

It's time we take it back. More churches should be looking at what Cornerstone is doing and find other churches to work with on projects it has a heart for. While in Hackberry last week, we worked for two days with a church from Mississippi. The pastor said his church has no more than 100 people on its rolls and maybe 50 worship on a given Sunday. But he was there with seven other men and one woman that helped shingle an entire church in a day and a half.

Truth be told, First Baptist Church of Hackberry had insurance that would have paid for the roof to be fixed. That church gave the money it saved by us putting on its roof to a neighbor church that didn't have insurance.

When our two churches got done, the contractor who led the Mississippi contingent asked if he could check out our trailer to see how he could better his set-up. They were good at what they do -- they do this sort of thing several times a year and get upwards of 60-70 people for their summer weeklong mission that includes women and children.In comparison, what these two little churches gives easily tops the money Cornerstone has given, some $220,000 and counting, for Hackberry.

As I sit here at my desk on my first day back on the job, I'm trying to figure out how I get back to Hackberry and minister again to the community. But more than anything, I want to learn more about "loving my neighbor," because I clearly don't know enough. Otherwise, God wouldn't have laid this on my heart.

So dream about going to Hackberry and go. Stop making excuses. Trust me, I could not afford to go to Hackberry when I decided to go. I did not have the $300 it took to go, but I was determined to go and sure enough, the money came in.

If you're reading this and thinking, "I live in Phoenix, Arizona," there's other Hackberrys. While we were in Hackberry, we worked with three different groups to put that roof atop First Baptist Church. We worked together, brothers and sisters in Christ. We may have had differences in our doctrine, but we didn't let that get in the way of the end product.

Over breakfast one day, the pastor asked me what I believed was my plan of salvation. I was proud to tell him that I share the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever I go. That I'm a sinner, in need of grace, that Jesus died for my sins and was resurrected three days later and will spend eternity in heaven with our Father. That's what we need to be sharing with the Hackberrys of the world. Without that, they are lost. We are there to help them find their way.

Putting down a roof gets these people's attention. Once we have their attention, it is up to us to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It's what pulls them out of the flood and onto dry land, where they can put their lives back together. Without Jesus, the storm continues for these people.


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