Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Gift of Feeling Useless

NOTE: This is the first post in a series about our trip to the Dominican Republic.

After two days in the country, we went to be with the ministry that we were helping for the week. They were staying at a camp way out in the middle of nowhere (45 minutes down a dirt road from the main road), and we only knew a few of the team members. We were working with King’s Kids, which is a two-week summer camp for Christian youth ages 8-18. The camp lasts two weeks, with the first week consisting of Bible teaching and preparing skits and dances. The second week the kids were to perform the skits they had prepared as an outreach at various parks in the city.

So we had a few things going against us. First, we were coming in to a community that had been together for a week already, establishing relationships. Second, most of us spoke little to no Spanish and most of them spoke little to no English. Third, most of their prep work for the outreaches had been done, so there was not any formal thing for us to teach them. Fourth, they are mostly teenagers, an awkard stage in any culture.

We got out of the bus and unloaded our stuff, and there was very little greeting or fanfare, and mostly the kid just looked at us and kept on with what they were doing. We were shown to our living quarters, which were very Spartan, and then we all wandered back to the main meeting area.

And we sat.

And we tried to say, “Hola.”

And we smiled.

And we began to wonder why in the world we were even there.

What were we to DO? What was our PURPOSE? What could we give?

And God showed us in that moment, and over the next two awkward days (the days before relationships formed despite language and cultural lines), that we were not there to give anything but to receive a gift from Him. The gift of feeling useless.

I am a leader. An elder in my church. A supervisor of IV staff. I have training and gifts and tools to help Christians grow. And none of that mattered. My resume was useless. They didn’t know what IV was. They didn’t really care about my “pedigree.” And so I sat with my team and wrestled with the need to produce.

What a rare feeling for me. I am usually in charge, in control, in the know. And at that point I didn’t have a clue and I didn’t even know how to ASK for a clue. And even trying to help with simple tasks, like making supper or cleaning up, made me feel like I was more of a burden than a help, because our hosts had to stop and try to figure out how to communicate to me that they wanted me to move the plates from one counter to another.

Which forced me to remember – I am a son. I am accepted. And there is nothing required of me except abiding in Christ as my life. If and when He wants me to produce something, He will show me, and He will produce through me.

This gift of feeling useless humbled us and led us to do the only work available to us, the work of prayer. I am so glad that we didn’t come in with plans and programs, because we would have been tempted to operate in competence instead of humility, and in the DR, with spiritual warfare rampant, the work of prayer is not to be taken lightly or forgotten.

In some ways it’s nice to be back in the US where I am “needed” and “able”, but in other ways, the gift of feeling useless is something that I miss. Who knows – the Lord may give it to me again soon.


Dave Prevette said...

Marshall, Wow, what a good story!
Sounds like my first week at Camp Hanover. You are a blessing brother.
Dave Prevette

kristen said...

couldnt have said it better myself!

Marshall said...

Man, the first week at Camp Hanover was more "the gift of feeling clueless!"