Laboring with Love

Originally posted on November 17, 2011

Dust-covered and exhausted, but laughing, we piled into the back of a red Ford truck and headed home, leaving one hard day’s work and a freshly built house in our wake. Jen Wright and David Logue, missionaries who work closely with our ministry, received funding last week to build a house for a family in need. Since the rush of summer mission teams has stopped, they were in need of a good number of workers to help with the job – and we thought it would be a great opportunity for the teenagers from the building.

Getting a group together to work on any kind of manual labor project is usually a recipe for building unity and creating common ground between people. At least, that is what we were banking on as we placed hammers in the hands of eight of our homeless teenagers, some of whom have a history of not getting along, and hoped and for the best.

We arrived at the work site on Wednesday morning and saw the grand task that awaited us. It was a two-level structure (one level above ground and a basement) that used to include a house, but now just served as a rickety carpentry shop because the floor wasn’t sturdy enough to chance anyone living in it. The first step was to take out everything in the existing structure, including the heavy carpentry equipment. Then it was time to take down everything that was still standing. A few teens hopped on the roof to pull off the old tin, while the rest wailed away with hammers or pulled boards down by hand.  Because of the years of wood shavings and dirt piled on every surface the house, taking it down resulted in mushroom clouds of dust that exploded on all who were unfortunate enough to be within a 15-foot radius. Everyone traded skin color by the end of the day – those who arrived at the site looking white left looking Honduran, and those who arrived looking Honduran, left looking white because of the color of the dust.

Once the old was down, the new was ready to be built. With the help of Mark Connell, another friend and U.S. missionary living in Honduras, the teens measured, leveled, cut and nailed their way to a beautiful looking wood house. And what we had hoped would happen, did. The teens worked together with each other and with us, pairing up to pass boards, nailing tin in rhythmic unison, and laughing every once in a while at someone else’s unfortunate hammering ability (in good fun, of course).

At the end of the day, there was a product that they could look at, visible and complete, and say they had accomplished. Once the house was built, we went inside to pray with the family. A new teen at our building volunteered and led a beautiful prayer of blessing over the house and the family. But, the prayers weren’t over. The wife of the carpenter and woman of the house then stepped to the middle of the circle. Through genuine tears, she poured out her gratitude to God and to the teens for their work and prayed blessings right back to them. It was a special moment for the teens, who are often looked down upon and seen as delinquents, to be the recipients of praise and appreciation. It was an opportunity for them to see that even though they have little, there are still opportunities to bless richly, and they are more than capable of doing so.