what vs how

I went to Haiti last week to build desks for a school with a small team from my church.

When I got down there they had carpenters to help us. There were more than we needed and some of them seemed super capable. They totally could have made the desks without us.

And as we started to figure out a game plan, find tools, and try to communicate this to the carpenters, not knowing their language, I realized how incredibly hard this was going to be.

And then when the kids got out of school at noon they saw us Americans and tried to help. Imagine a bunch of over-eager kids grabbing drills from us and stepping on the boards that we had carefully laid down to be drilled into place.

I got real grumpy, real fast. Ready to snap at the kids and blame our failure on the entire system. I thought, they brought us down here to build these 50 desks but how were we supposed to finish it like this? This is why short term missions don’t work and don’t make sense. Now we’re not going to finish the project and the desks we do finish are gonna be all leaning and cockeyed because the kids think we’re playing. These carpenters could have finished the job way better and cheaper by themselves.

But then I remembered what our pastor Brad had said before we left. The gist of it was, we want to bless them with desks, but most of all we want to just show them we support them. Be flexible. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.

And I realized he is right. In fact maybe this lesson is why God has me down here. I have a tendency to get grumpy when people get in the way of me being productive.

What if it’s not about if I finish these books or not. But instead how I treat people along the way of doing it.

So there in Haiti I drew a deep breath, gathered my patience, and started teaching the kids how to drill and screw, being careful to deliver it with fatherly kindness.

Well, it turns out we finished 50 well-made desks a day and a half early so we decided to design and build a different desk for the wife of the pastor who had asked us to come. . . AND we started design and construction of 10 kindergarten tables so that the carpenters could finish them off after we left.

AND we had a great time, figured out a system with the other carpenters, taught the kids to be little carpenters (some of which have serious potential to do it when they grow up), and we bonded with each other through the process.

This is how I learned it is not always what we make that is important, but how we act as we make it.

2 Responses to what vs how

  1. Amen! A lesson I often struggled to learn this summer in Ghana too.