I know the happiest people on earth. Let me introduce you. One of these happy people will call me from Pennsylvania or Florida or Oregon or North Carolina and schedule a work team to come for a weekend in February or a week in July. These folks pile into vans and drive for hours or await their flight to RDU, where they will rent vans and drive for hours. Tired and wired from the trip, the team will arrive at the volunteer lodging, make up bunks or inflate air mattresses or throw sleeping bags on the floor.
At the crack of dawn, the jolliest of them will rouse the rest to begin the day. There’s breakfast, then make your own sandwich for lunch, and load up the van to greet the day, be it gentle or fierce. Once at the job site, the team unloads tools, supplies, water coolers and sleepy volunteers. The tasks of the day are meted out and begun. Whether the job is under a house removing soggy insulation, on a scorching roof that melts the soles of shoes, or standing all day in a freezing warehouse on a concrete floor, the work goes on amid shrieking youth spraying one another with water from a hose and the careful measuring twice, cutting once of experienced adults, and the loving ear of a listener, who hears how the house was ripped apart in the tornado or flooded by the hurricane. Board by board, the home takes shape and lives are mended.
The work day ends, and a filthy and sweaty or a shivering crew heads back to the camp or church or fire house where they are staying. There are showers and a hot meal, then talk about the day and a prayer. Some check in with work and families, others visit with friends and others just want sleep. And this goes on day by day, until the team, exhausted and content, or incomplete and unnerved because they want to finish that last room of the house, must depart for home.
A couple of weeks later, I get a phone call to say, “thank you.” Thank you for letting me take my vacation; pay for the gas or plane ticket and for my food which I have to cook myself; get hot or cold, dirty and unbelievably tired; nurse sore aching feet; fight mosquitoes, gnats and biting flies; pound nails, itch from insulation, paint and sand and demolish and mud.
What God has taught me in this is that we Christians are never content in our faith until we are serving as Christ to his world and that service unlocks our joy.