It's sunny here in Middle Tennessee today, for which I am thankful. It's been so wet all across the south this autumn season and when we see the sun these days it almost brings tears to our eyes.
I just returned from my annual mission weekend to the Cumberland Mountains, just about 100 miles south of Nashville, but light years away from a cultural standpoint. This is the southern tip of Appalachia and is a beautiful area, especially this time of year. There is a year-round ministry there that I have been working with since 2002. Their purpose is to meet the physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs of the people who live there. It is an area of high unemployment and infant mortality. The drug culture has, unfortunately, flourished there and stolen away the lives of many young people.
This ministry (called Mountain TOP which you can read about here: http://www.mountain-top.org/), like so many non-profits, operates on a shoestring with a skeletal staff who live there year-round. What they provide for people such as myself is an opportunity to go and serve.
I took six people from my church. We left Thursday afternoon and went for a long weekend where we did home repair and construction. Anyone who knows me well and is reading this is probably holding back laughter but remember, God has a sense of humor. Sometimes that's why I think He called me into this in the first place. But I am of reasonable intelligence and I can follow instructions. I am always under enough supervision so that I don't destroy anything or screw something up beyond repair. So there.
Maybe I will elaborate another time about all the benefits I have gleaned from my various times on the mountain. I always come away feeling as if I received much more than I gave.
I worked on a house on Saturday that, along with the family of five, included as its residents a python (he was "tame"), a chinchilla, a tarantula, a dog cross-bred with a wolf, a tabby cross-bred with a wildcat, and assorted dogs and cats. The father of the family was a tattoo artist and would have gladly given me one.
Was God smiling? I don't know, but the more I reminded Him that this was way outside of my comfort zone, the more He reminded me that these people were made in His image.
The more I thought how painting their walls barely put a dent in the repairs they needed and wondered how on earth any effort I made would even begin to meet the aforementioned physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs, the more He helped me remember that He has been transforming lives and making beauty from ashes for centuries.
And He sure doesn't need me to accomplish that but, oh my, what a privilege to be a small part of it. Once again, I have come away changed.