Friday, August 16, 2013

You Never Know

As I begin this reflection, I am sitting at McDonald's covered in plaster dust and other funk from the middle of the last century--everywhere except my hands, which took about five minutes of scrubbing to get off the sticky black goo that came off the wires of the light fixture I removed before I left the Visible Music College campus a few minutes ago. I am typing on my iPhone now, but will finish this blog from my computer, later. As I sit here, my thoughts have turned to how God calls on us to do the work that needs to be done, regardless of what we expect. People never know what will need to be done nor what events of the past will prepare them to do it.

I moved to the Eastern edge of Chicagoland on May 15, 2013 to head up Visible Music College's launch of a new campus. In the three months since coming here, a lot of things have happened. I have set up a new home, a very satisfactory apartment in northwest Indiana, just over the state line. I have made a special friend who brings great happiness to me. I have learned my way around between the few places I frequent on a regular basis.

However, attending to the demands of Visible's new venture has taken up most of my time and energy. (Just ask my WoW friends--they'll tell you!) Central to my work has been taking part in the renovation of the building that will become Visible-Chicago in the Village of Lansing. Arriving in May, little could be done regarding recruiting for enrollment, so focusing on the facilities naturally took center stage.

Actual renovation began the first week of July, about a month and a half after I moved up. Starting work was delayed... July saw uncounted volunteer hours poured into the Lansing facility as demolition and renovation raced along.

In the weeks that followed, I have turned to, not my seminary or graduate school studies, but to my half-century of life to take part in the rehabilitation of the campus--parts of which were built in at the end of the nineteenth century! Having owned a house in Memphis built in 1907 and another later, I have done my share of handyman projects, and almost everyone one of those projects has informed my efforts to be part of the remodel.

As I looked forward to moving to the Chicago area to take this position, I never would have guessed that my carpentry skills, refined by the building of my boys' play-fort, would be required in order to aline the building's readiness for drywall with the availability of the drywall installers. I never would have guessed rewiring that old house would develop skills that I would use in removing old (disconnected) wiring and to assist the electrician in running new circuits. How could I have known my gardening attempts would be useful?

In the course of the weeks, I have tore out walls, built walls, tore out ceilings, patched ceilings, and moved masses of debris. My Black and Decker saw bought in 1986 died, as did my Dremel that had barely been used. I have been covered in plaster dust and who knows what else. I have found chucks of not-sure-what in my eye and ruined two sets of contacts. I have relied on my iPhone for emails and Internet correspondences.  I have averaged ten hours a day for the last ten days participating in remodeling the building, sometimes working alone, sometimes with the amazing volunteers, and at times, alongside of the paid contractors. I am bruised, cut, and scrapped, and I smashed the edge of my finger with a hammer.

Yet, through it all, progress is made. People are enthusiastic and see the vision--the vision that drives me to press on and "get 'er done" starting most days at 7 a.m. and staying, some days, until the last volunteer leaves fourteen or fifteen hours later. The vision of Visible-Chicago is clear: an extension of the curriculum from the Memphis campus partnered with the Lansing community in a way that is dynamic, unique, and exciting. Visible-Chicago will be a bright spot among the revived Lansing business district.

Projects of this scope require great commitment and great people--people who are willing to take on challenges never knowing what all will be required of them. There are many. Too many to name in full, but a few that stand out. The contractor who has set aside his uncounted hours to organize and plan the work... The pastor who rallies the volunteers... The electrician who comes around after work in the evenings... The homemaker who spends hours and hours on site doing tedious detail work... The teens who take on the thankless task of sweeping up debris and carrying it to the trash.

These people never knew what would be required of them, nor how their life experiences would be used to build the Kingdom of God.

That's just the point. I never knew. They never knew. The people who are available are the ones who have to do what needs to be done. They may never know what experiences of the past will be called upon to meet the demands of a current situation.

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