Advent devotion: Power tools & donuts

News | November 30, 2015

When I was preparing for my first mission trip two years ago, I was experiencing some serious doubt. I wanted to serve, and I was willing to work hard. What I doubted was whether I had enough skills to make a credible contribution. Prior to leaving, we were asked to rank our aptitude in various areas of home repair; and since I missed that meeting, my husband assessed my skills. It was at our first crew meeting in Chavies, Kentucky, that I realized Jack had inflated my scores. My crew leader remarked, “I see that you are a drywall expert, Myrna.” The crisis of confidence continued!

It did not last long. I found there is so very much we can do to make homes warmer, safer, and drier. If you can’t do drywall, you can tear off flooring, staple in insulation, carry lumber, hold a board that is being cut — so many jobs. You might even learn to handle the power tools. There is such a sense of…well, power, when you are using those tools! (I have found myself roaming the aisles of Lowe’s with a new interest.) 

But the real power in the experience was not the drill driver or the sawzall. It was the construction of incredible new relationships. We connected with our families in ordinary ways: we lunched with them, we heard their stories, and we played with their children. I will never forget the touching scene of one of our guys coloring with a little boy as we all ate lunch. Or the homeowner who wiped away tears as we bid him farewell.

All of us who made the journey to Chavies also connected with each other in ordinary ways: we ate together, shared stories, played cards, worshiped, and, of course, used power tools. We came home with some new skills and the most incredible new friendships.

How do you return to everyday life? I didn’t want to. The warm feeling of serenity/happiness/community (I still can’t find the one right word) did not last. I was contemplating what my new mission here at home could be. That was when I recalled the Donut Lady.

Years back, I used to stop at Hy-Vee on my way to work for their 25-cent cup of coffee. Occasionally, I would opt for a donut. When I headed to the bakery, I would often see one particular employee who always seemed to be cranky. I would steel myself to get through the transaction. Then one day I changed tactics. I put on my biggest smile and asked, “How are you today?”  She smiled back!  It occurred to me that she had also been dreading her encounter with the crabby lady — me!

You don’t need power tools to work magic. Jesus told us to love one another, and for that mission there are a million opportunities every day.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Myrna Miller is a retired fifth grade teacher; she and husband Jack have three children and six grandchildren. 

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