Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Today I took part in a project that was sending teams of Christians out into Auckland to assist the community.

So after last night’s recruitment service at my old church Edge, this morning I was back at the Urban Vineyard (it’s been a while since I was last here), being paired up with a guy called Martyn to help tidy a lady’s garden.

Sounds simple right? I mean cutting back foliage is what I spent a significant amount of my day doing the previous occasion I’d taken part in this initiative.

However upon our arrival at the house, we passed a couple of smiling, suited young men who were just leaving. They appeared to be Mormons going door-to-door, which I felt placed a certain pressure upon us. Not because the lady might assume that we were from the same church, but because in comparison to their immaculate appearance, our version of faith in God was in danger of looking... well, a bit casual.

Basically, our beliefs were being communicated passively through our practical help. At any rate, there was definitely no backing out now, lest we make our faith look bad.

At least, we assumed that there would be no backing out...

We discovered that much of the work had already been done earlier in the week by the lady’s family, but not all of it. The pre-cleared rubbish had already filled up the skip there, so we decided to telephone round to find a company who would be willing to replace it with an empty one for us to fill. The only problems with this plan were that (a) the house didn’t have a phone, (b) Martyn had left his so-called mobile at home, and (c) my SIM card had died back in the UK.

So we drove back to the DIY store to scout out purchasing an enormous bag-skip. (a bag that's the same size as a skip - I don’t know what the technical term for this is) This in turn led to our borrowing the shop’s phone to call skip companies, directory enquiries, and ultimately the project’s organisers to approve the extra expenditure.

As it turned out, the bags cost quite a bit, no-one would collect a skip on a Saturday, and we couldn’t get hold of the project’s organisers anyway.

You can appreciate how that giving up and going home again option was beginning to look not just easy, but positively compelling.

As New Zealand’s now reliably hot sun heaved itself across the blue sky, we too began our return journey all the way back across West Auckland to the church to speak to someone in person. Then we had to pick up some gear from Martyn’s house. And eat something. And buy the new bag-skip. We were getting creamed by the afternoon sun, and we hadn’t even started yet.

The knock-on effect of all this was that, once we finally did get started, Martyn and I threw our heart and soul into the short window in which we could still get this thing happening. We chainsawed foliage, removed rubbish, and swept up leaves until finally even the sun was beating a retreat toward the horizon. We didn’t get it all cleared, but man we filled up our bag-skip.

After a big meal back at Edge, during which time I caught up with my old Bible-study leader Janine, it was time to help clear up the church afterwards, and then stroll home.

I’d like to think that the lady with the garden had felt some sense of peace at getting her space back again, but I have no idea. It hadn't been about getting a reaction. It had been about helping someone simply because it was right to.


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