The weather was beautiful, in a way that only Floridians in June can understand: a cloudless sky, just a hint of breeze to keep the heat from becoming unbearable, and the promise of an afternoon shower that gives people incentive to get their yardwork done early. For one couple in North Tampa, however, taking care of their yard was just another item on the ‘to-do’ list that probably wouldn’t get done. Not because they were unconcerned about their lawn, but because they are physically unable to manage the duty. The lawn had been neglected, last on a list of priorities, and now seemed insurmountable.
Twenty years ago, while riding home on their motorcycle, the couple was blindsided by a drunk driver out of nowhere. She lost her leg, he died three times on the way to the hospital. Years of surgeries, therapies and attempts at corrective measures have left him disabled and in constant pain.
She speaks, matter-of-factly, about the day she realized she could no longer leave him home alone. She was at work; he had gone outside. While walking across the yard, he fell, landing in the grass. Neighbors were out working in their yard, oblivious to his need. People went by walking their dog, not noticing the man in distress trying to get up. When she got home and found him, his wife explains, she knew she had to give up her job to take care of him full-time.
Members of their church, Tampa Shores Community Church, found out about their need. A few calls were made and a plan was put into place. Bearing work gloves, sneakers, water bottles and lawn equipment, a team converged on the yard early Saturday morning. Weeds were pulled, bushes trimmed and the grass was cut into submission under the relentless determination of the crew.
When asked about the workday, Pastor Vergil, as dirty and tired as the rest of the work crew, explained that the church is called to serve. The gospel is a call to action – to go into all the world. It’s not a call for the world to come to the church; it’s a directive for the church to take the message of hope outside the hallowed halls of a sanctuary and into the messy, needy lives of the world. Sometimes, however, those lives in need are closer than you may expect. Sometimes they quietly attend church with you, smiling through their pain.
Following the example of Christ, who was often found in the middle of everyday people’s lives – getting His hands dirty as He waded into the reality of their need – can be messy, inconvenient work. It may cost you some money, but more likely it will cost you time and effort. It requires sacrifice and a heart full of love for your neighbors – wherever they may be. The reward, though, can be seen in the smiles of gratitude and in the knowledge that no act, no matter how small, goes unseen.
“…doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord…” Ephesians 6:6-8
Who can you serve today?