Isaiah 40:31 – But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint. (KJV)
This last Sunday, I noticed one of the first signs of summer: an announcement in our church bulletin to sign up for this year's Appalachian Service Project. Each summer our church, along with churches throughout the country, sends a group of high-schoolers and adults to spent a week in Appalachia helping fix up the homes of the poor. It is a week of hard labour: shingling roofs, installing insulation (a very itchy business), painting, etc. In addition, the kids (and adults) do without the creature comforts that we have come to regard as necessities: no TV, computer games or Nintendo; and no privacy, since their living quarters are typically the gym of the local high school. There are no bright lights or malls to help pass the evenings — a 20-mile excursion down mountain roads to the local Hardees is the equivalent of a trip to the big city. Given these conditions, one would expect that recruiting for the Appalachian Service Project has become an increasingly hard sell as the kids come back with their stories of hard work and grim conditions. Yet just opposite is the case. Over the last four years, the number of participants has grown from just four to the maximum allowed of twenty.
Even more amazing is the reaction of the participants. Far from complaining about their experiences, they positively glow as they recount their stories of new friends made, a sense of having accomplished something worthwhile, and a greater appreciation of just how well off they are. Above all, they come back having grown in faith. They have seen what faith made whole by actions can accomplish, not just in repairing houses, but in repairing lives by showing others that they are not alone or forgotten.
It is hard to believe that these children we see smiling and laughing as they tote bundles of shingles or crawl under houses to install insulation on a hot July day are the same children we see moping about the malls and complaining they are bored and having nothing to do. What a difference doing the Lord's work can make. Truly, when we wait upon the Lord, we do find a new strength and joy, and a satisfaction that comes from serving others that is missing in our lives when we concentrate only upon ourselves.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, fill our hearts with your Spirit and let him guide us in your service, so that by serving you we may grow in faith. Amen.