Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One Brick at a Time

I just returned from an amazing trip to Uganda, Africa with a team of 32 people. Words can't describe all that we experienced, but I will try to relay one experience that has been very powerful for me.

During our visit to Africa, one of our activities was to help to build a new brick home where four families would live. These are family members of teachers and staff in the Watoto Village. I had no idea that by building they really meant "building."

We spent the next two days working with a team of builders. They showed us how to lay brick and how to place the mortar or "majunga" as they called it. I don't think I was physically ready for the two days of building in the heat. I was wondering if I had taken on more than I could handle.

The bricks lay in a huge pile beside the foundation where the home was to be built. In Uganda, they have very few tools and they do most things with their hands or whatever resources they find around them. We formed a human line from the pile of bricks to the foundation and started passing the bricks one at a time. Then we stacked the bricks in different areas around the foundation so they would be handy as we placed them in the mortar. Sometimes the stacks ended up in the wrong place and we had to move the bricks and re-stack them in a new place.

Then, if you weren't one of people doing the mortaring, you handed the bricks up to the worker. When the "majunga" ran low someone would call out for more, handing you a metal dish to refill. Eventually we ran out of bricks and some of the team climbed aboard a truck and headed out down the road to load more bricks onto the truck. When they returned, we off loaded the brick by forming another human line, passing one brick at a time.

I began to form a hatred of bricks. I had never thought much about bricks before, but at that time I was overwhelmed with bricks. I was passing bricks, stacking bricks,  mortaring bricks, pounding bricks into the mortar, and toting more bricks to workers.

I told God that I never wanted to see another brick again. On day two we did the same thing. Passed bricks, toted bricks, pounded bricks, stacked bricks and ducked away from flying bricks being tossed by team members. I grumbled to myself, "God I'm not a builder. I really am not good at this. I don't want to be a bricklayer. Please rescue me from these awful bricks." But the building continued until we had used up the last of the bricks and the mortar and the walls had grown to 9 feet tall.

As we cleaned up the area I found myself glad to be leaving the building phase of this trip. "Goodbye bricks," I whispered. But then they asked that we all gather inside the building with the team and workers. A pastor from Watoto joined us and he asked us to lay hands on the bricks and pray for them.

"You've got to be kidding," I said to myself. "I hate these bricks. Now I have to pray for them too?" But I closed my eyes and placed my hands on the brick wall next to me.

The pastor began to pray for the building, but not just for the structure. He prayed for the interior of the structure. That it would be a home filled with joy and grace. That whoever entered there would feel the presence of God and know how much He loves them. He prayed for the families who would live in the house and for their futures and for the families after them.

I began to weep. I couldn't stop. I prayed like I had never prayed before. There were tears and more tears. I could see the families living there. It all began to make sense now. Suddenly I loved the bricks. I realized they were more than bricks and mortar. Together they formed a new home and a new future. They represented changed lives and new hope for whoever lived there. They represented new leaders being raised up from the children that would grow up there.

As the prayer ended we shook hands with the workers who had guided our hands and had been so patient with our lack of skills. I hugged each one with tears in my eyes. They looked so proud. We learned that our coming to build there offered employment for many of the workers who would otherwise had been unemployed. They seemed very happy to be working and they were hard workers at that.

As I stepped back and looked at the structure that had started only as a foundation, God spoke something into my heart. During the passing, the toting, the pounding and the mortaring it all felt so hard and even confusing at times. But God said, "because you were obedient and were willing to do something as simple as pass a brick up to a worker, even when you couldn't see the result, you have left something permanent that will reflect my love for these people."

Sometimes in our walk we want only to do the grand things. The supernatural things. But often God asks us to just pick up a brick and pass it to someone else. And by doing that simple task, perhaps over and over again, something miraculous happens. From the foundation of Christ in our life, we lay brick upon brick, one at a time. Measuring as we go, stopping to take stock of our work and then continuing on until God breathes on it and causes something supernatural to happen out of our ordinary efforts.

Ephesians 2:19b-22 says, “God is building a home. He’s using us all-irrespective of how we got here-in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day-a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.” 

Be obedient to God's call in your life. He may have called you to huge things, but He may also call you to just pick up a brick, pass a brick, pound a brick and then pray over your efforts. I walked away from those two days feeling proud, but also amazed at the God we serve. When people work in unity they can accomplish so much, shoulder to shoulder, brick to brick. Don't let the world overwhelm you. Tackle it one brick at a time. God will do the rest.

1 comment:

  1. I shared this with our team our last night in Africa as we sat around a roaring bon fire. I felt led to write it down once I got home.