by the Rev. Bob Landry
Deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Last year, because of an injury I sustained in a car accident, I had time to sit and pray more often about things in my life and in my community. By community I mean my deep concern not only for my church community at St. Andrews but for the community across the Katahdin region. During these difficult economic times, I often find myself encouraging the members of St. Andrew’s that there is work for us to do to make a difference in the lives of the people of this region, despite our small size and the fact that we are an aging congregation.
One week last summer, when I was set to lead worship and preach, I thought carefully on what I was going to preach about. But, as I sat at my desk, I decided to first check to see if I had any messages on my Facebook. I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to it, but that day I did. On this occasion I saw a post from a neighbor in East Millinocket who I didn’t know well. He talked about some difficult things going on in his and his wife’s life. He was struggling to make ends meet. They had no insurance and his wife had had a stroke, resulting in a brain injury form an aneurism. The hospital was telling him he needed to arrange for his wife to return home. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills weighed upon him, and, even if he could get her home, he didn’t know how he was going to get his wife into the house without a handicapped ramp.
I asked what I could do or how I might be able to help him. I told him I would see what assistance I could find for him. My deacon’s discretionary fund is very limited and I knew I could not pay for something like a ramp, but I could help with some of the expense for materials.
So as I moved to the lessons to prepare my Sunday’s sermon, I began to read Luke 10:25-37 in which Jesus is asked what must I do to inherit eternal life. He says, what is written in the law? And he answered love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. And then the man asks how do I do this. Jesus tells of the man on the road to Jericho who was robbed and beaten and of the passerby who gave all that he had to help and who promised to return with whatever more was needed to get the man on his feet. You can imagine how this hit me after hearing of my neighbor’s plight. My sermon that Sunday was about how we are to go that extra mile to help someone, a neighbor or a stranger in need and that God will bless us for what we do in his name.
As I concluded the sermon, I asked the congregation to listen to this story about my neighbor and to consider how we as a community, as small as we are, might help. The service concluded, and I processed to the back of the church after sending them out to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia. As the people passed me, many stopped to ask to help and two men offered to do the carpentry work to build the ramp for this family. By the time I was ready to leave that morning, I had nearly $400 in hand to pay for the materials for the ramp project.
Because of the love and compassion of many in our little church, a family came to realize the love of God that was out there and that it had come near them. I called my neighbor the next Saturday to tell him we wanted to start to build and that we would have the materials delivered. There was silence on the phone and then I could hear the man weeping on the other end. He was so thankful that one little thing which was an obstacle to bringing his wife home was now going to be taken care of.
And the blessings didn’t end with this conversation. As we began to build the ramp at this man’s home, another neighbor who saw us working stopped by to ask what we were doing. I explained to him that members of St. Andrew’s wanted to help the family and that we were building this ramp so he could bring his wife home. As we talked about it, he was so moved that strangers would come and do such a thing that, before he left, he put his hand out to me to shake my hand and when his hand moved away there was another hundred dollars. It was just as people had done at church on Sunday morning, and, with that, there it was enough to pay for the project.
You may think your church is too small or the people are too old or you don’t have the resources, but remember it is God who provides. We only need to be aware of what is around us and look for God to bless us with what is needed to do the work. There is great need at every turn and if we just take the time to listen to the world around us, there something that each of us can do to make a difference in the world. I am so blessed by the generosity and sacrifice of others that showed the Gospel so clearly and so close to home: a simple act of kindness can change the lives of two people…and more. It changes our lives too.