Thursday, August 03, 2006

Establish Thou the Work of Our Hands

I have come to the conclusion that a major part of the value of mission trips is to reaquaint middle class church-goers with the reality of manual labor. In fact, as I reflect, most of the non-housework related manual labor I've ever done in my life has been related to the church: from raking leaves for youth group service projects to digging drainage ditches in Mexico to ripping out moldy drywall in the Katrina zone.

Our work group included a preacher, a teacher, a lab technician, a lawyer, a high school student, a retired police officer, and a retired teacher. The only person whose job involves any physical work on a regular basis was a guy who supervises road crews for LA county, but even he is far enough up the food chain that he actually climbs into the cab of a back-hoe or bulldozer only sporadically.

Most of the guys in the group had done manual labor type jobs in their young years, mostly to pay their way through college or grad school. The women in our group had accomplished the same goal by waiting tables or babysitting.

Surprisingly, the result of this "reaquaintance" was not primarily, "Thank God for desk jobs!", but thoughtful reflection on what is lost when our daily work is largely disembodied. A few quotes.

"When you rip drywall and insulation all morning you are really hungry for your noon meal: not hungry as in 'Do I feel like Thai or Mexican?' but hungry as in 'Where's the food?' And you come away from the meal recharged, not over-full and sleepy."

"Wow, did I sleep well!"

"Hmm. There really is a reason why these jobs usually get done by young men, not middle aged women."

"Antiperspirant is completely beside the point . . ."

"I've been drinking water like a fiend, but I still haven't peed in six hours."

"I'm actually less exhausted than I usually am after a day at the office."

"If Jesus was really a carpenter, he must have been incredibly tough!"


Songbird said...

I'm smiling about the antiperspirant, but mostly thankful you and your folks were able to go.

pPB said...

Nothing like a work trip to make it completely comfortable to discuss your peeing habits amongst congregants.

revabi said...

Ah yes the wonderful smells, bells and whistles of working in the Zone, the Katrina Zone. I am so glad you went also. Ready to go again?

St. Casserole said...

I'm grateful that you came with your group to help us.

You are all brave souls.

Anonymous said...

You are completely right. We are pretty soft and think we should smell like Chanel all the time.

Good job.

Ginger said...

I think I could use employment that makes me "less tired than I am after a day at the office." This is something to think about!

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

An intereesting perspective. My DH works "with his brain" all week long, but enjoys physical labor more than most people when he has the chance. He has gone on several Habitat-type builds in various parts of the world. I have some issues with the amount of money spent on air fare by the sort-of-rich Americans who go on these trips. Wouldn't this be better spent to hire local labor in these areas to do these jobs, she asks rhetorically?

My DH says that he thinks the most lasting outcome from these trips is a sensitivity to other cultures, a sensitivity to poverty, and a desire on the part of (some of) the participants to not go back into the materialistic culture of the US, but rather to give more than a tithe to help people. At least that is what he has done.