This morning, we were up by 6 and out by 7. We were served breakfast by the good people of Bellewood Baptist Church. It was interesting to watch the dynamics – them thanking us for being here, us thanking them for their gracious reception and kindness, them insisting, “No, we are the ones who should be thanking you!” It was a bit like watching the old Chip and Dale cartoon. But it was also a sweet moment that reminded me of something a bit more serious than cartoon chipmonks. I could not help but think of 2 Cor. 9:12-15: “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.” I can’t help but love the unique way in which God uses us to build one another up, resulting in mutual growth and mutual thanksgiving.
When we got to the job site, a flooring system had already been prepared and we were ready to start erecting walls. I joked on the trip down that I would really be out of my element, since my normal function as a pastor is to tear down walls. It felt great to swing a hammer. It was cathartic. It was therapuetic. And it gave me some ideas for a new technique in pastoral counseling! It was great to step back a time or two and just watch the hive of activity – workers busy everywhere, children being instructed, Ian (pastor Matt’s son) delivering Gatorade. It was a thing of beauty.
Twice during the day, I was interrupted to give brief interviews for local television coverage. The Syracuse community is quite aware of the sad circumstances that destroyed Bellewood’s building, and I suppose it makes a great human interest story for a church to travel 900 miles to help out. I suspect that I will be edited out entirely. One reason is that I’m not photogenic, and others on the scene are. The other reason is that both times I was asked about our motivation and answered that we were simply trying to imitate God who sent His Son a great distance to rebuild our lives that had been ravaged. I was also able to say that this is a tragedy from which God is giving “beauty for ashes” as only He can do, and that the best example of that is how He took the crucifixion of Jesus and turned that awful tragedy into the salvation of the world. Both times the interviewer nodded politely, but I know when I’m being humored. Oh, well, I never was meant for TV ministry anyway!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Caramia and her young daughter Isabella. They live about 45 minutes away and drove down to join us. Caramia wants to involve her children in missions projects and learned about our trip while searching for “Syracuse missions” on the internet. I do love the way our Father weaves things together.
I also got to visit with some of the church neighbors. Walt lives three doors down and offered the use of his water if we need it. Priscilla is simply interested in local history. She was able to tell me a lot about the previous building, which had been a fieldstone home built in 1858. Some of the stone facing has been saved, as has a peakstone inscribed with the original builder and date, to be preserved for posterity. Priscilla was also able to show me footage of the fire and that destroyed the building and its subsequent demolition. She is Episcopalian, but said she might just visit the Baptists. I was reminded after traveling 900 miles of the importance of walking across the street.