When I made the decision to come work with Amor, I was confident that there were traits with which I had been endowed that would make me pretty good at what I would be doing. My sense of adventure, desire to serve, appreciation of people and desire to follow God's will are all assets in helping people to build homes in Mexico. What I did not expect was just how well I would fit into Amor's ministry and the development I would undergo in my already brief time here. Already, I have seen traits that I did not previously consider strengths of mine manifest themselves in my work. In the past, I have shaded toward being A-type and expected much of the people around me in working on projects. In my work with Amor, I have become more patient and accomodating, traits that are very valuable in helping laypeople quickly build a home. In addition, I have started to find great joy in teaching, witnessing and imparting what knowledge I have to those around me. In my position, this helps me not only build homes with people, but build relationships and provide encouragement as well.
While I knew that there was more to what I would be doing here than just building houses, I really believed that at the heart of things that is what I would be doing. In recent weeks, though, I have taken to saying that I am not here to build homes but rather relationships. I have grown to accept that this is at the heart of what I am here to do with Amor. In truth, the homes we build are just a physical manifestation of the love that we want to show to both those receiving homes and the participants on our trips. As a corollary, I have made it my goal to first love people and build relationships, then be concerned with the actual construction of the homes I help build. There are so many relationships that are built on the trips I take down to Mexico. Participants that come down together get to know each other better. A cultural gap is at least partially closed as participants and recipients of homes grow to love each other. Most importantly, there is an opportunity for everyone involved to see God at work, learn more about him and grow or start a relationship with him. I am in the unique position to witness and facilitate these relationships. This is a much bigger responsibility than making sure cuts are straight and walls are square. My job is to love people the best I can and allow my personality and abilities to be no more than a lens through which the people around me can see Christ. The greatest gift I have received is slowly learning what it takes to do this.
Certainly one of the reasons that I aspired to work with Amor was that I felt the experiences I would have would make me a better man. As time goes on, I am finding that my goal should not be to improve as a man, but to become less of a man. I believe that the more I let go of my ambitions, where I believe I am gifted, and my concerns, the more God is able to use me as an empty vessel to show his love. Dichotomously, this is a wholly terrifying and comforting realization. I am bouncing back and forth between feeling comfort in the swell and the fear of completely losing control of the plans I had ahead of me. In both places, though, I am in a completely foreign place, as it does not come easily for humans to let go of control and trust a higher power to guide them where they should be.
A short time ago, I was sharing the skepticism I have felt about letting go and the decisions I am making with my roommate, Drew. At 27, hitting a life reset button and starting from scratch seems very unsettling. My roommate shared a story with me that he had heard from a friend. His friend had a dream in which he was sitting at a kitchen table with God. God laid a timeline of this man's life in front of him and pointed to a particular place on it. God told him that despite the man's doubts, concerns and ambitions, he was currently exactly where he was supposed to be on his timeline. God assured him that he was neither behind or ahead on his timeline, but exactly where he needed to be. If you believe in a higher power and following his desires for you, I think this is a very strong image and encouraging message.
Drew is not the only person that has offered support and encouragement to me in the time since I decided to come work with Amor. I am so thankful for so many people that have been an encouraging presence in my life. Some have already been in my life for years, and some I have only met in recent months, but a lot of my friends and family have found ways to support the journey I am on. Whether it be helpful notes, letters, facebook messages, telephone calls, comments on my blog or monetary support, not a thing each one of you have done has gone unnoticed. In recent weeks, it has become a particularly poignant gift as I find out that more and more people are reading this blog and following along with what I am doing. I love writing and sharing, so to know that there are people out there who read this and take something out of it is overwhelming. I also love the fact that although my writings often take a decidely Christ-centered tone, there are people who don't share my beliefs but are still reading. To those people, I offer a huge thank you. Whether you all realize it or not, you have shown me Christ's love and helped me through some very challenging times with your emotional and financial support. The exciting development and joy that I feel through my work and life are very much thanks to all you have given me. When I have been down, you all have picked me up and brushed me off, and if you are feeling down now, know that you have been incredibly valuable to me and I owe much of my sanity to your support. Thanks for all you do and know that you are a part of every story I share with you here. I am certainly not doing this on my own. You guys rock!
(Thanks everyone! And yes, I currently look like a pirate)