You might think we go to West Virginia to help other people, which is true. Some folks in Philippi need a hand; whether to build a room for their growing family, to brighten a church hall with fresh paint, to stain a wheelchair ramp to prevent it from rotting, or to start a garden to provide food and income. Jeff Sickler, our local contact in West Virginia, identifies people who have an idea and want to make a change in their lives, but don’t have the man (or woman) power or resources to get it done. We have an opportunity to then come alongside them as the hands in the body of Christ.
But these same people also just need someone to listen to them, encourage them, empower them, pray with them, respect them, laugh with them, care about them, and love them. Some of them are ostracized in the Philippi community because of where they live or what their last name is. Some are recovering from alcohol or drug addictions or having relationship problems. Jeff tells us it’s more important to build relationships than to build buildings. So if you’re not very handy (like me), I hope you’ll come to Philippi anyways. Because we are all called to love each other, and to be the hands of Christ.
And in serving others and in loving others we deepen our own relationship with God. Over the last two years, I have learned:
…to listen. To sermons by Pastor Geneva. To singing hymns, as we painted. To a father teach his daughter how to use a drill. To squeals of joy at holding kittens. To a mother mourn lost baby pictures in a destroyed mobile home. And, as I’ve been yearning to hear God’s voice, I learned I need to talk less and listen more.
…to be patient. It’s not easy for a Type A to let go, to sit, and to wait. But Philippi moves slower than DC. We waited for wood to arrive, for tools to be shared, for paint colors to be picked, for instructions on what to save and what to toss. Last year, some team members pestered me to put down my brush, to sit with them and talk and pray with folks from Philippi. And as much as I want to see what God holds next for me, I learned I need to be more patient.
…to be content. People of Philippi don’t have a lot, by North Arlington standards, although some have more than others, but they are generally content. Sure, Pastor Geneva wants to expand her flock, and there are complaints about aches and pains, and worry about their families. But where there are complaints and worry, there is also a trust in God. And I learned that despite my endless to-do list and my worries about my career and single-ness: God has blessed me and calls me to trust Him.
…to laugh! Oh, how we laughed. At playing catch phrase. At fireworks and sparklers. At card games and clothespins and potato sack races. At Timon being Timon….and so much more. I learned new things about laugher and joy. Despite being in several small groups, I still felt on the fringe at RAC before my first trip to West Virginia. Now, my closest friends at RAC are from my West Virginia trips – couples and singles, older and younger. When you travel a distance and serve together, you get to know people pretty well; and you learn to live and laugh together.
– Meredith Lloyd
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