Ten large baskets full.
That's what she toted. Ten heavy baskets full of fresh, smelly, barely-stopped-steaming cow manure.
Ten times I opened the gate for Nirmala to bring the manure to our garden. I must say... She reeked! It was in her hair, on her face, on her hands and clothes.
We had just hired Nirmala to be our gardener since my gardening skills are barely above ridiculously infantile. I hated to see her working so hard while I had the strenuous task of... um... opening the gate door. I couldn't have broken a sweat if I wanted to!
I purposed in my heart to help her, to show her I cared AND that I wasn't a wimp. I decided I would help her spread the manure. I grabbed a claw-like hand tool. It was all I could find. Then I turned around to help her just in time to see her kneel down, and, with her bare hands, begin separating and slinging the piles of pure "gag-alicious" around.
I looked down at my tool and then back at Nirmala. I had a decision to make.
I am glad to say I made the right decision. I decided that I would show her I cared by spreading the manure, but I decided to PASS on proving I wasn't a wimp. I began spreading the manure with my pitiful tool. (What? You thought I was seriously going to stick my bare hands in that stuff?!)
She looked up at me and smiled. Apparently, she found my method humorous. I was just happy I didn't barf. It was only by God's grace, I must add. (My hat's off to all you who would have thrown the tool aside.) But a great foundation was laid in our relationship... Even with the tool.
I love the book of Nehemiah. It is the book God burdened our hearts with as our ministry focus during deputation.
This morning as I was reading it during devotions, a few verses really caught my eye. In chapter three, it lists which people worked in certain places on the wall around Jerusalem.
It is pretty exciting to see who plunged their hands into the labor, and who was too afraid to get their hands dirty.
Nehemiah 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it...
The high priest and priests built?! Whoa! Aren't they too "holy" to get their hands dirty? Nope.
How encouraging it is to me when I see a pastor/missionary/Pastor's wife/missionary wife who invests in their people's lives. They aren't afraid of the sights, smells, difficulties. They love their people. And they have the mind and heart of Christ. They go beyond Sunday school classes and ladies fellowships. They visit, bake, hug, share, serve, clean, paint. They aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty.
Nehemiah 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
With all the other people working around them, these yahoos refused to lift a single tool, carry a single block, or even hold the coats of those doing the work. To them, it wasn't their job. It wasn't their responsibility. They were too busy tending to their own tasks. Why should they dirty their hands?
There should never be a task that is too beneath us for us to do. If it brings God glory, if it invests in His purposes, if it helps others, let us be willing to scrub the toilets, clean floors, change diapers, visit the "slums," do the inconvenient and smelly and unwanted jobs. Our own Saviour knelt and washed people's feet. The lowest, most demeaning of jobs in the house! And let us never forget, doing ANY task for the Saviour is a high calling.
Nehemiah 3:12 And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.
I love this part! I think it is great that a ranking official got his hands dirty in the work. (There are a whole lot of politicians who could learn a thing or two from that!) But even more exciting to me is that his daughters helped!
I love learning about women in the Bible, and I think these ladies are greatly neglected in most women's studies! Maybe they toted blocks or helped mix the mortar. Maybe they brought water to keep everyone hydrated. Maybe they helped fix meals to feed everyone. One thing I do know, it says they "repaired." At some point they were involved in the physical labor of the wall.
The ministry we are called to isn't just studying and teaching. Sometimes it is hard, physical labor. Sometimes it is visiting neighbors. Sometimes it is spreading cow "presents." Sometimes it is cooking and cleaning and toting.
Another beautiful thing? I never read anywhere where these people whined about the nobles not helping. They didn't get their eyes off onto those who were not working. They had a job to do. And because they kept their eyes on their task, they by God's grace and power completed the job in an impossible 52 days!
Dig in bare handed... Or use a tool if you must, but do not shy away from the unpleasant tasks that minister to the people and bring God glory. Often, dirty hands speak louder than our words. And most times, dirty hands help soften hearts and open ears.