When Jesus Smiles:
Working Together for a Shared Purpose
By Steve Meachum
One of the most gratifying moments of raising our two children was the first time we let them go Christmas shopping together without us.
We took them to a small shopping center where they would be safe and sent them on their mission. Off they ran; hand-in-hand, excited in their shared purpose, to do something nice for other people. Two children who often engaged in heated sibling squabbles, who often asked for things for their own gratification, who could be quick to blame or complain about each other. But that winter night they demonstrated true happiness, joy, affection and love for each other as well as for those they were shopping for. That evening they were everything we hoped they could be, children who loved each other and found joy in doing for others.
I think we children of God, with our various religions beliefs often act like quarreling children. We dwell on our theological differences and conceive religious practices to set us apart. We see the perceived shortcomings in others we are blind to in ourselves. We debate who is the most right and worry about who God loves more. We ask God to share with us what we are often not willing to share with others. I ponder how much sorrow this must cause Jesus when we carry on our small rivalries in his name. There are times however when we put aside our differences, come together in common purpose and work together to do the things he told us are the most important things to do.
A few years ago, Early Response (Volunteer In Mission) Teams from The Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Church Conferences went to Minot, N.D. to help with flood relief after the Souris River flooded much of this city. One of the most memorable times from that effort to assist these people was how various denominations worked together with a shared purpose. Our Methodist Team worked on houses in one residential cul-de-sac. As the city had only placed sani-cans in every other cul-de-sac we soon felt a need to make pilgrimages to the surrounding cul-de-sacs. This gave us the opportunity to meet the folks working the next block over. To our north was a team from Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham’s organization. To our south was a team from the Latter Day Saints. Driving around the neighborhood delivering drinking water and snacks was a crew from Salvation Army. We came from different areas of the Country and different schools of theology but we were united in a common mission. We were instant comrades in Christ doing together what Jesus tells us we should do.
Early this year, United Methodist Early Response Team members from The Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conference came together again to assist flood survivors. This time in Grays Harbor County, our own back yard. This was truly an ecumenical experience. Our first challenge was finding a place to stay. That turned out to be First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, who were kind enough to let us sleep in some classrooms and use their kitchen and restroom facilities. Our first work assignment was to clean out the flooded basement of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Aberdeen. The basement however, was occupied by a youth shelter operated by Catholic Community Services. During our stay at First Presbyterian we were treated to a special breakfast prepared for us by a Society of Friends Meeting group in Sherwood, Ore. We joined in a community dinner hosted by Hoquiam United Methodist Church. Our ecumenical support team enabled us to work on four houses in addition to the youth shelter.
On a subsequent trip to Grays Harbor, our team followed up on assistance requests, on behalf of the local authorities coordinating the relief effort. One of the cases involved a non-English speaking family. As none of us was fluent in Spanish, we were advised that we would need to wait for an interpreter. Fortunately, we observed a young couple calling on various apartments in the building and realized they were conversing in Spanish. The young couple, Jehovah’s Witnesses making their rounds, happily agreed to serve as interpreters. With their assistance we were able to complete our follow-up assignment with the non-English speaking family.
Later on another UMC team from Oregon was hosted by Aberdeen First Presbyterian and worked on three more homes.
Yes, sometimes I ponder the sorrow we must cause Jesus with our squabbles. Sometimes though, I think he must be smiling upon as all and saying; “now that is what I was talking about.” Amen?
and serves as a leader and trainer for PNW Early Response Teams.