Life-Changing Lessons Learned From Helping Others

In an effort to consolidate my blogs and because of its timeliness as I prepare to go on my third mission trip to Jamaica, I thought I would re-post a note I wrote before my second trip two years ago:

Courtyard at the Manchester Infrimary

Courtyard at the Manchester Infrimary

Two years ago I went to Jamaica on this same mission project with Son Servants and while there, as we always do, we went to the local infirmary. Jamaica is broken down into provinces like our states and each province has a state-run infirmary. From what I understand, the infirmary in Manchester (where we work) ranks low in quality compared to others. Now just so you understand, the infirmaries are not a place people go to heal – they are where people wind up who cannot take care of themselves and have no family or friends to care for them. Many are mentally handicapped – some very much so – and others suffer from physical disabilities that make living alone impossible. A few are very rarely even out of their bed. But for all of them, this is most probably their last stop before returning to their Creator. Son Servants visits the infirmary every year, partly to do minor work projects, but mainly to visit with the residents – many of whom never have visitors.

So two years ago, I was helping to organize a bunch of teenagers to paint a couple of buildings, since that is my profession anyway, and was working mainly in two areas about 150 feet apart. I had a fanny pack on me that carried my camera, my wallet, and all our traveler’s checks (my two younger sons were with me) and I took it off to move a bunch of stuff. I asked the kids in that building to keep an eye on it for me (a bad idea at best). A few minutes later, I realized the kids I left with my pack were now with me and they didn’t have my pack! As I rushed back to look for it, panic started to set in: All our money for the trip was in there, and my ID, and my credit cards, all the photos of the trip in my camera…

Then a voice in my head (the cynic will say it was just me talking to myself – the romantic in me says it was the Holy Spirit) said, “Larry, you came here to work with these people, to show the love of Jesus Christ to those in need, to build relationships. Now you can focus on your stuff and ruin your day, and possibly your trip, or you can get back to the work you came here to do.” And an odd sense of peace fell over me. I went back to work until I saw someone in charge, then told them what had happened and accepted I would have to deal with the consequences of my stupidity when I got back to the States. While I continued to work, those in charge did all the right things – they called the police, searched the area, had me speak to the police, etc., and I continued to work. Thirty minutes later, I was shocked to get my pack with my wallet (and all its contents, including my traveler’s cheques receipt) back. I spent much of the next day at the local bank replacing my traveler’s cheques and pondering the lesson I was privileged to receive:

So much of our lives in the U.S. are wrapped up in the acquiring of stuff. The ads on TV tell us we need more stuff, better stuff, newer stuff. We measure our success by the amount and quality of our stuff. we build houses to hold all our stuff and build fences to protect our stuff and lock it away so no one can steal our stuff. By the time we are in our prime, we have so much stuff that we spend our time worrying about our stuff and not focusing on what’s important – people, and the grace of God that he rains down on us every day. There are people in our families, living on our streets, going to our churches that are much more important than any of our stuff, and we ignore them because our focus is on stuff – the stuff we have and the stuff we want. The visual I have in my head is of the person walking out of a store with so many packages they can’t hardly hold all of them, piled so high they can’t see where they are walking. In essence, that is each of us, and we hold all our stuff close so we don’t loose it or have it taken from us. Our hands are so full we couldn’t possibly hold one more thing.

Here’s the problem: with our hands so full, we can’t possibly reach out for the grace of God. We can’t grasp the peace He wants each of to own in our lives. We can’t hold those around us who need our love. In order to truly enjoy the abundance of the One who created us, we must be willing to let go of all that stuff and trust Him to give us what we need. We need to re-prioritize what is really important and know that everything else is just… stuff.

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