One of the things that we continue to learn here on the mission field is that defining mission work is a little like nailing jello to a wall. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you find out that…well…that definition just won’t stick either. In other words, mission work takes on many forms and rarely looks the same 2 days in a row. For the past several weeks it has looked a lot like mixing and laying cement.
Along with our friends, the Fishers, we’ve had the opportunity to begin serving in a mountain community called Palo Alto, which is just a few miles north of (and over 3k ft above) Santiago. When we first visited this community, one of the projects that we were made aware of was a washed out driveway. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but made it nearly impossible to access their home and camp that sits on the property. This property sits at the top of a mountain and the access was a steep rocky mess that required 4-wheel drive and a lot of prayer to traverse. I will admit that I was not immediately thrilled with nor saw the huge importance of assisting in this project. However, we began taking a few bags of cement at a time and assisting with preparing the site, mixing, and pouring concrete. One…bag…at…a…time. Several weeks later and we are nearly half way there. Now you might be thinking that this seems horribly inefficient and taking much longer than it should, and you’d be right, IF, the end goal was to get a driveway covered with cement.
Many times our North American mindset is to get it together and get it done. We set a goal, make a plan, and trudge forward with the job trying to, above all else, get done on time or even ahead of schedule. Getting “the thing” done and meeting “the schedule” is many times our focus. Sometimes this is necessary, but sometimes “the thing” and “the schedule” shouldn’t be the chief concern. God has changed my attitude over the last few weeks regarding this cement project. Sure, we could have suggested they form up the driveway, bring up a concrete truck, and knock it out within a couple of days. In the end, we would have had a driveway and a tangible accomplishment to hang our hat on, however, this would have been a failure. You see, completing the driveway is NOT the chief concern nor is forcing our way of doing things on the people we are serving.
With each bag of cement that we mix and pour we get closer to completing the driveway, but more importantly we get closer to the people we are working with. For weeks now we’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with men from Palo Alto. We’ve laughed, made fun of each other, encouraged each other, shared meals (and heavenly Dominican coffee) and invested hours of time that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. The chief concern here is the relationships; cementing the relationships IS the project. Ultimately the relationships are why we are here. There is only one currency that will gain us (or you) quality relationships, that currency is time. So in a few weeks we hope to be done with our first project in Palo Alto. We will have invested many hours working on cementing relationships with the people that God has brought into our path. Oh, they will also have a new driveway.