Last week, in response to the tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma, I sent an email to my congregation to let them know what our church would be doing in response.
I like it that I’m able to do this. And I wonder what I did in the days before email. I think I’ve written previously that I hate email, but every now and then I find myself grateful for it. Last week was one of those (rare) times.
I let the congregation know that on Sunday I would be leading them in prayer for all of the families affected by the storm, especially those who had lost family members. I also mentioned that gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance would be a good idea. The Presbyterian Church takes it on the chin for quite a lot these days, but PDA is one of those gems that – in good years and bad – we can be proud of. And finally I let the congregation know that I would be leading a team to help with the cleanup and rebuilding effort, and if any had an interest in going along, they should let me (or one of the pastors) know.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the response. I don’t know yet how much money was collected, but a couple of dozen people have indicated that they were ready to go, as soon as relief agencies had work for us to do.
And it’s not the number that amazed me. A couple of dozen people out of 1800 members isn’t all that amazing. Quite frankly, I dream of the day when this church is sending out mission teams all the time. I dream of the day when that’s routine.
No, what was amazing was the mix of people. Every time someone emailed or called to say “sign me up,” I wrote the name down in my little book of reminders. Today, as I glance through that list, I find myself imagining this group going anywhere together, let alone to Oklahoma.
Let’s see – there’s an engineer on the list (with actual homebuilding skills), there’s a retired university administrator, there’s a former Goldman Sachs director, there’s an unemployed truck driver, there’s a successful real estate developer, and there’s more, including yours truly.
I’ve been on so many mission trips in my life that I’ve lost count. The thing is, I have no special skills. I can write and preach and sit with people in the hospital when they’re sick. But I can’t do the simplest household repairs. I’m mostly useless on these trips, unless you think of me as the morale officer. I’m the motivator when spirits get low, I’m the one who hands out awards on the last night (“Best Work Clothes Ever” – that sort of thing), and I’m the one who will do devotions when no one else wants to.
On the other hand, when I think about it, that’s pretty much the way mission trips have always been – a mix of people who have needed skills and those who don’t, people who are used to living and working in rough conditions and those who aren’t, people who enjoy getting to know others and those who really don’t.
What you call a group like this is … well, the church. I’ve been working with people like this my whole life. And do you know something? It’s wonderful. Most days it is. Most days I marvel at the odd collection of people God brings together and then uses for ministry.
I hope we get to go soon, so that I can get a good look at these people in action. And I’ll think, “Golly, that’s the kingdom of God!”