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Changing Lives with Jesus

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ASP 2012 Reflection - Laura McManus

July 17, 2012

The other week, I had the privilege of serving the people of Carter County, TN along with the rest of the ASP team.  The night we got there my team, Dawn, Chris, Paul, and Rachel, got our assignment for the week.  We learned we were going to be working for a lady named Joan and we were going to be replacing her bedroom floor that had been damaged by water from her hot water heater going bad seven years ago.

So, the next day we were on our way to Joan's house and I would be lying if I didn't say I was confused about why this hadn't been repaired seven years ago.  But, I was there to work and not to judge people on their living conditions.  We arrived at Joan's house and introduced ourselves.  Joan was very open with us from the beginning.  She told us she had owned her trailer for about 25 years, but had been diagnosed with cancer and moved in with her mother.  She went through treatment and recovered.  While she was at her mother’s house, she fell on ice and broke her hip.  It never healed right, so she can't put all of her weight on her one leg.  Then, I understood why the work hadn't been done.

Joan and I bonded quickly over her animals.  She has a bird named Tweety Bird that she allows to fly around when it’s not in its cage because she doesn't think it is right to clip their wings.  She said, "God made ‘em so they can fly, they should fly."   I liked that.  She told me that she had never had any children but that her animals were her children.   I told her that my husband and I call our two dogs our "babies."

We started the work by removing the floor.  It’s a funny thing about replacing a floor; once you remove the old floor there's nothing left to stand on.  It is possible some of us may have fallen through the beams, but we were all fine.  As the week went by, we talked to Joan more and more, and every day she told us how grateful she was that we were there.  She doesn't get a lot from disability and she told us that she had prayed and prayed to God that He would help her, that there would be a way that she could get her house fixed.  She hasn't slept in her bedroom for two years.

One night, back at the school where we were staying, the ASP staff had us do an activity.  They called it agree or disagree.  The rules were simple:  one side of the gym was the "agree" side; the other was the "disagree" side.  They made all kinds of statements like "chocolate is better than vanilla." (I had to disagree on that one.)  But soon the statements became more hard-hitting.  "Poverty exists because people are lazy or do not work hard enough."  In some cases I know this to be true.  I know there are lots of people who just don't work because they just can’t be bothered with it.  However, it’s not such a black and white statement.  Joan told us that she used to work for an animal rescue.  In her case it wasn't laziness that led to her poverty, but more a set of circumstances with her health.  Seeing how Joan lived her life, seeing how she overcame her battle with cancer and her faith in God was inspiring.  I have quite a few people in my life who, for the most part, have a good life, who have had times of sadness and darkness that has led them to believe that God doesn't exist because, "He wouldn't have let this happen."  Joan didn't see the world this way.  She may have had very little, but she had God.  And, let me not leave out her wonderful boy-friend who lives down the road, for whom ASP was also working.  He made it clear that Joan was to be the priority.

All too soon, it was Friday and the last part of our project came together.  The floor looked great, so we went and grabbed Joan to have her take a look.  When she came into her bedroom she put her hands to her mouth, looked around the room and tears started to fall down her face.  The definition of “to weep” is 'to express grief, sadness, or any other overpowering emotion by shedding tears.'   So she wept, not from grief or sadness, but from joy, relief, and gratitude to God and to us, that after all that she had been through, now she had a floor.  And, Rachel and I wept with her, overcome with emotion from seeing her cry and knowing that all of us had been part of answering her prayers.

As much of a blessing as we may have been to Joan and the people of Carter County, we, the ASPers, were even more blessed for having been given the opportunity to be God's hands and feet and for getting to know the wonderful people we got to serve.

~ Laura McManus

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