Last week we made a visit to the Roma school where we will work as English tutors here in Kosice. About a month before, we had spent a week at this same school with a mission team from Missouri, cleaning and painting some classrooms in preparation for the new school year. One of our goals during the visit was to get some pictures of those classrooms now being used.
As we walked down the hallway, I remarked to myself that things seemed a bit brighter and cleaner than before - I assumed they had done basic cleaning before the school year started. But once we reached the classrooms and spoke with the school's headmistress and custodian, we realized that after the Missouri team left the school staff and some students worked to repaint all of the hallways and a few more classrooms!
During the week of work with the Missouri team I kept thinking of all the work still to be done - it would take years of teams like this to do the whole school, and by then the first rooms would need repainting again!
And here, unexpectedly, a lot of that work had already been done.
Then I remembered something that headmistress Anna Koptova said. As she thanked the team profusely for the work that had been done, she said that the team's work had given them a catalyst - she said the staff would finish using the paint that had been bought, and continue the work that had been started.
"You started something here that would not have been started otherwise," she said through a translator.
Reflecting on this with others, I realized this is a perfect statement of the kind of missions we are called to do. If we just came and did all the work, we would certainly feel better about ourselves... but we'd still leave these people powerless.
Rather, our hope and goal is to do work - no matter how insignificant it might seem - that empowers others to continue it. This is, after all, what Jesus did - he came and showed us how to do the job, then left it to us... and in the process, he gave us hope, along with authority and power to be his own presence in this world.
What are you doing today that can spread after you're gone? How are we empowering others with our words and actions? May God give us the grace to see beyond our own need to feel important, so we can give others value and hope!