Friday, August 2, 2013

Picking Staples, Scrubbing Mud

Underneath my fingernails is Smurf-blue mud.

It is our first day at Mount Zion Christian Church in Villa Verde, Honduras...a church with adobe walls, a tile roof, and a resident lawn-mowing calf in the church yard.

From the buildings on the upper level, you can see forever down over Gracias, Lempira--and forever stretching up to the top of Celaque, the highest mountain in Honduras, on whose incline the church sits.
It is like we have entered another world, teleported back 100 years through some portal on the dry-river bed road that winds up from the quiet town of Gracias.

In this world, the inhabitants stand about a foot shorter than your average American.

In this world, the only noises are the lowing of cattle, the slow squeaking of a rusty see-saw, and the off-key voice of a missionary singing "I'm only happy when it raaaiiiinnnsss...."

It is a world I have dreamed about--the world inhabited by my dear sponsored child, Luz Maria. As I stand on a chair in the adobe church, I try to imagine her growing up here, doing life here. It is our job to repair and repaint the mud walls of the church, inside and out. Our first goal is to prep the walls for painting...removing posters and tape and staples. My job was pulling that had been painted over and encrusted into the mud walls...each staple evidence of a celebration in the life of God's church in Villa Verde. Sometimes, I see graffiti that some bored-church going child has inscribed for posterity. I shiver.

Pulling staples is not a glamorous job. It is not a job that gets noticed or a job that deserves a "Way to go!" It is slow and tedious. Time after time, I climb up and down, stretch high and low. My eyes never quite adjust to the blue of the walls. I develop a system of launching the staples from the wall with a trowel.

I finish just in time to head outside into the Honduran mid-morning sun, rewarded with my first look at a few Honduran girls whose mothers had come to work at the Compassion Project. All the time, I wonder if she will be coming up the road...

Job two for the day is slightly less glamorous. I begin washing the mud splatters from the outside walls of the church. I must say, there is a shocking lack of water hoses and pressure washers. This job involves schlepping buckets of water up and down the stairs from the shower and using a wet dish rag and elbow grease to scrub the stubborn red splotches from the wall. It isn't easy. Some of the splotches are high up on the wall. They come off more easily when a sopping rag is squeezed on top of them. I discover that when this is done, I can scrub the spot off and leave less dishrag on the wall. Unfortunately, when the rag is squeezed, a muddy waterfall runs down my arm all the way to the armpit.


And a slender form comes around the corner.

I do a double take, and before I can even think, a girl...MY girl, has launched herself into my arms, wet armpits, blue fingernails and all. And all the world is joy.

When we let go, it becomes Jonathan's turn...Luz is dragged around the church and my husband practically jumps from the top of a 12-foot ladder and receives his very own launching hug.

By the way...I hate to tell you this, but you have never been hugged properly unless you have been hugged by Luz Maria.

For the rest of the afternoon, we scrub mud splotches together. We eat lunch and laugh. We take time for a few heart to hearts...and for a little while, I am a part of her world, part of her every day life. What a gift!

You know, sponsorship is kind of like pulling staples out of the wall or scrubbing mud splotches. In the grand scheme of things, our sponsoring Luz is like scrubbing one mud splotch of poverty and sadness off of the world's wall. We pull out one staple while 1,000 more are being hammered in. It can seem insignificant. It can seem long and you will never see results...

Until you are holding your little piece of the world in your arms. Until you are seeing that your "staple" is a life--so vital, so precious, so warm, and loving, and alive--a great resource in the hands of God Almighty.

God uses staple pullers, paint cutters, floor moppers, and wall plasterers. He uses people like us to do our part to see the finished work come together. The work is long and slow and tiring and the finished results are questionable. But God USES us to change things in this world, maybe not fast or in a grandiose fashion--but to change lives one person at a time. We are called to live like Christ Himself lived--Christ, who humbled Himself and lived to serve the poor, the sick, the burdened, and the lost. He considered no job too tedious, and no life without purpose.

Are you pulling your staple? Are you scrubbing out your splotches? Are you holding a life like Luz Maria's in the same light as the Father does? Of infinite value? Worth every back-breaking chore, every possible prayer or sacrifice of time or resources?

Pull your staple. Scrub your splotch. Paint your corner of this world with the love, the sacrifice, the passion of Christ...and discover a life worth living, a life in which the greatest moments are spent elbow deep in buckets of muddy water next to someone who makes your heart explode for joy.


  1. Beautiful!Can't wait to hear more!

  2. Another beautiful post! This one brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for encouraging us to keep pulling our staples :)

  3. Beautiful and so true! Thanks for the great reminder, and looking forward to more!