“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11
Our family was delivered a blow in September several years ago when my 40-year-old husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. Through several consultations with doctors, 27 radiation treatments, surgery, chemotherapy, and multiple hospitalizations, the cancer was defeated.
While we praised God for this, it was increasingly difficult to understand why it had happened in the first place. Why our family? Why at this point in our lives? Why was everything still so hard? Though my husband had come through treatments and surgeries well, the side effects had taken away his ability to do construction—a job he loved. We got behind in paying bills, and our aging home fell into disrepair.
But with the faithful support of family, friends, and our beloved church family, we never struggled for basic needs or felt abandoned. Blessings were easy to find when we chose to look for them. There were certainly many more people out there who had things much worse than we did! We never really felt “in need.”
So when our church council approached us about a service project to repair our roof, we were hesitant to accept. Were we worthy of such an act of love from those who had already given us so much? The request was framed as providing an opportunity to build unity among church members by allowing the congregation to unite in a local short-term service project. We accepted, unsure of what God was trying to accomplish.
What happened next was beyond imagining. The roofing job exploded into an all-out remodel of everything in disrepair. In just three days we watched over 100 volunteers ages 4 to 86 completely renovate our home and our lives. Young and old together primed and painted the house, tore off and replaced shingles, sided and painted and shingled a garage, landscaped, built a fire pit, dug out window wells, did electrical repairs, replaced a door, and removed a stump, among other improvements. Volunteers ate breakfast and lunch (with snacks in between) together in a tent set up for devotions and family-style meals. Bonds were formed and skills we never knew our church neighbors had were revealed. God took over in a very powerful way.
No sooner had the last touches been put on our home than the next project was being planned. As the deacons prepared to pay the bills connected with our home repair project, they found that unbelievable discounts had been granted by retailers and bills had been anonymously paid. The blessings were multiplied in ways only God can provide.
We sent out an email to family and friends sharing the blessings and the love that God had given us through this project. In a very short time we started getting phone calls and emails asking for details. What had begun as a simple, local roofing project spread to church families across the U.S. We received so many comments from church families who had “forgotten” how important it is to band together in service—not just in remote places but in their own backyards.
I will never say that my husband’s cancer was the best thing that could have happened to our family. But I will say that it has been more of a blessing than a burden in so many ways!
The unity of a church is tested so often with disagreements over music, worship style, budgeting, and other things. But the important question is “How is God being glorified through your service today?” I praise and thank God every day for the blessings he has granted my family, and for the body of believers we are so fortunate to be a part of.