It's been exactly a year since Andrew and I jumped on a plane with 10 strangers to go build houses in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
If you don't know me that doesn't sound that outrageous. Honestly, it doesn't sound like much of a leap for a Christian couple to make...right? After all, we're commissioned to go into all the world. We're called to help the widows and orphans. We're called to love our neighbour.
But if you DO know me, you know how very bizarre the whole thing sounds. I had heard the same great commission my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ had heard. From the same Holy Bible read by Mother Theresa and Leslie Chymist and Manfred Kohl. But I always thought the GOING part referred to other people. To missionaries and visionaries. So I did what people like me do. I memorized the verses; I liked and shared pictures of the widows and orphans on Facebook; I baked casseroles and cookies for my neighbours; I played the guitar and sang to the little ones in Sunday School. That was my GO. And it was good and comfortable and brightened the corner where I was.
I had left a career in banking to raise my four six-and-unders. And with that conscious decision to cut our income in half, in an effort to double the time we could invest in our children, we both had learned to live...frugally. I learned to make bread, play dough, mayonnaise, mittens. He didn't buy new tools. I didn't buy new shoes. The children didn't get dunkaroos. A vacation was taking our minivan, canoe strapped on top, children amused with library books and a dollar store game, to Kejimkuji to stay in a tent in the rain with our wet dog.
We didn't fly places.
People like me didn't fly to Ecuador to build houses. I certainly didn't own the required steel toed boots, goggles and work gloves.
But my husband? Well, if you know Andrew Beeler, you know he was born to build! He built our home in between shifts as a rookie police officer in the first few years of his twenties. No experience, no real house plans, no formal training, just pluck and courage and HEART. So when I read the one line promo in the church bulletin, I knew right away that he was supposed to go. I scribbled on the bulletin right away, "they need you, Andrew!" and thrust it over his way during the announcement time. He looked at it with mild curiosity because he knew we didn't have extra money for trips. We were budgeted down to last penny. Remember us?
He didn't buy tools;
I didn't buy shoes;
The kids didn't get no dunkaroos...
It may have been that very week or it may have been earlier that I heard Pastor Calder say "with God, there's always a meanwhile," and God was already at work, laying on my husband's heart the possibility that we could trust Him with this. Within a few weeks, the tug was so strong that every time we saw the word Ecuador we would look at each other with the spark of belief that Andrew could actually go to Ecuador and make a difference. When he filled out his application I promised I would help him fund raise and I thought all the big deciding was over.
Suddenly every time I saw anything connected with Ecuador or even any children or women in need ANYWHERE, I would cry like a baby. I know, I know... Not unusual for me if you've ever actually looked at me and noticed the runny dribbles of mascara beneath perpetually moist eyes during Sunday service. I'm always a little surprised our dear pastors can even look at me during their sermons and stay on track, my face is such a clear window into my heart...
But this seemed different somehow. There was a tug I'm just not used to feeling. It took me WEEKS, my dears, to finally admit to Andrew that I had this feeling I was supposed to go with him. What finally made me 'fess up was this cd I was enjoying on my way home one afternoon by Liz and Bob McEwan on marriage. Liz talked of a time when her children were all little and she'd still made the decision to go with Senator McEwan to China. She talked about the bond of those shared experiences and how they still value that decision decades later. So I cried one more time all the way to the back of the church to get my own application from Cindy.
Andrew and I prayed and God totally came through with all the funds needed for both of us to go... On the very last day, just so we'd know it was Him.
But don't think it didn't occur to me, again and again, that I didn't have anything to offer. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we undervalue the incredible work God has done to create us and equip us for His great plans? What about the resourcefulness and creativity it took to learn how to make bread, play dough, mayonnaise and mittens? What about the love and self-discipline it took to dedicate my career years to training up four children? What about the faithfulness and enthusiasm it took to lead children in worship?
We went. We learned to work together and support each other. We built houses. We dug in weedy, rocky garbage-strewn hills. We dug in muck and pig pens. We met women and their little ones, men and their grandchildren, pastors and youth workers in love with their Lord and their people. We hugged them and prayed with them, made balloon animals, played hopscotch, sorted nails, unloaded tippy trucks of their burdens of building supplies. We sweated, we sang, we laughed, we sobbed, we teased and tormented each other, listened to each others' stories, worked hard, walked and drove and laid in hammocks, shooed the cat off our breakfast table, avoided the smelly dog. We brought our gifts and personalities and uniqueness to the table and used them all with every bit of our selves and hearts and strength.
And we learned so much. You could ask any of us. We got more than we gave. We went to be with our brothers and sisters in another part of the world. And we were welcomed and celebrated and loved.
As we drove away from one of the two houses we put up one hot day, filthy and tired and deeply happy, we saw a little boy sweeping out his corner of the new home he would share with his three brothers and sisters, and we were quiet. This boy was like our boys. That father wanted the best for his family and worried about them and prayed for them. This mother cried over her sick baby, the spoiling food in the fridge that had no power; her family's well being. And although none of us could fix everything, that day we had been able to make a difference for that family. A home, food, clean new beds. Some privacy for mom and dad. Medicine for the baby for a few years until we can come back again. And a connection. We all prayed together, Ecuadorian and Canadian children of God, being together and loving each other.
I didn't think I was the kind of person who could ever do this kind of thing.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong~1 Corinthians 1:27