1 Corinthians 13:13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (KJV)
1 Corinthians 13:13 – So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (RSV)
For the last several years our church has sent a mission team to Guatemala each summer to help build houses for widows and orphans of the civil war. It is an expensive proposition since there are no discount airfares from Richmond, Virginia, to the Guatemalan highlands. At first, the idea of sending a crew of middle-aged suburbanites to Central America to provide unskilled construction labour struck me as being the height of inefficiency, especially since they could not finish the houses in the time allotted and there was no guarantee that another crew would follow them to insure their completion. Would it not be far more effective to simply take the money that was spent on airfares, etc. and use it to buy additional materials and pay for the houses to be built?
However, in listening to the participants recount their experiences, it quickly became clear that the way of the Lord is not governed by strict cost-efficiency analyses. While the women and children truly appreciated the chance for decent housing, the greatest gift was not a house but the simple presence of a group of strangers who were moved by the Spirit of God's love to leave their comfortable homes and travel all the way to their land to help them. The gift of their presence gave these women and children a hope that they were not alone and forgotten, a hope that has grown each year as the team — no longer strangers, but now friends — has returned to work with them on other projects.
As the hymn says, "They will know we are Christians by our love."
- O God,
light of the minds that know you,
life of the souls that love you,
strength of the thoughts that seek you:
Help us to know you
that we my truly love you,
so to love you
that we may fully serve you,
whose service is perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- (Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preparation for Worship prayer #8)