Alyssa Shibata served on No Selfie Saturday and made connections that have nothing to do with her and everything to do with God. Do you have a story from No Selfie Saturday? Share it at TMUMC.ORG/mystory.
This past Saturday, three people from my small group served with Dallas Ramp Project. We traveled to South Dallas near Fair Park and built a wheelchair ramp at the home of an elderly woman. She didn't want us there.
We showed up with a trailer of tools, supplies, countless wooden planks, and three cars of volunteers. The recipient and home had been vetted in advance, specs had been drawn specifically to her home, and she knew that we were coming. The project leader knocked on her door to let her know we had arrived. She simply said she changed her mind and she didn't want the ramp. She refused to let us in.
The project leader turned to us with a smile on his face and said, "Well, let's help out somewhere else." I don't know if I would have had the same reaction after all that planning and vetting. Pure coincidence, another Dallas Ramp Project was taking place on the exact same street. Our team leader told us that had never happened before.
We walked up the street and began helping the other team unload.
We had been working for less than five minutes when our team leader walked back over and said, "Guess what. She's changed her mind." He had a coy smile on his face. I have a feeling he may have had a heart-to-heart with her after we left her home. Our project leader was a tall, soft-spoken man name Keith, and it was obvious he had a good heart and selfless attitude.
We walked back down the street and began unloading our own tools and supplies.
I never saw the face of the woman we built the ramp for. She never came out of her house, and Dallas Ramp Project has a rule that we can't go in the house except to plug in an extension cord for our power tools. We left without saying goodbye to her. Service projects for me have always been as much about building relationships as getting the job done, so I was a little disappointed.
Since I didn't get the chance to talk to the homeowner, I decided to get to know each of the people building the ramp alongside us. We were a team of seven people (including myself) and I only knew two others.
A young man named Matt was a college student who was trying to get community service hours as a prerequisite to apply for Physical Therapy school. He did the Dallas Ramp Project one weekend and loved it so much that he had come back every weekend since then to build.
A man named Yusuf was from the church of Islam and wore a shirt that said "Muslims for Humanity" in big letters. He was the hardest worker I've ever seen, but was always willing to stop and teach me how to do something. He was obviously a capable builder and the project leader kept asking Yusuf to use the table saw, circular saw, and power drill because he knew Yusuf would do the job right. Almost every time he would turn to me and say, "Hey Alyssa, why don't you come do this. I'll show you how." He really made me feel like part of the team.
Keith and Dale were the two leaders who actually work for the Dallas Ramp Project. The amount of patience these two men had for working with a bunch of know-nothing volunteers was astounding. Building a wheelchair ramp is to be taken seriously. There are city and safety codes that must be followed. I don't know if I'd trust this work to volunteers, but they were so grateful to us for taking a few hours on a Saturday to help them.
And then there was Regina. As the only two women on the build, she and I clicked right away. We were talking and laughing all day, and getting all of the men to talk and laugh, too. I don't know if you've noticed this...but men have a way of getting so absorbed in a building project that they do nothing but grunt at each other throughout the day.
Regina is a mother of six kids. Six! She came out on her own because she said she always tells her children how important it is to serve, and so she tries to practice what she preaches. She used to be a teacher, but soon found out that having six kids is a full-time job.
Somehow as we were getting to know each other, prison ministry came up. I told her that I mentor and build relationships with kids at Gainesville State School, a juvenile prison, and that they are always looking for tutors and mentors. Regina smiled at me and said, "It's no coincidence you and I met today."
We exchanged contact information, and I'm trying to get her started as a mentor.
I can't stop thinking about what Regina said. If our homeowner had wanted to spend time with us, I might have been so focused on her that I didn't make the effort to get to know the other builders. If I had decided to sleep in that morning (which crossed my mind when the alarm went off at 6 am on Saturday), I would have never met her. If we had stayed on the other house on the street, Regina and I may not have connected so quickly.
I noticed all of this because of Life Groups. If it hadn't been for my Life Group, I might have just moved on. But I've been challenging myself to seek God's presence on a daily basis so I actually have something to share each week with my Life Group.
There are so many ways that God is connecting us to each other. On the build we were different ages, religions, races, and skill levels all coming together to serve someone else. And guess what...the people you're serving might not always want to be served or even be grateful for what you do. That shouldn't be why we serve. We serve to show God's love with our actions.
I don't know if the Dallas Ramp Project is my new passion, but I know that I built a relationship that will carry on. I hope that you found a service project that sparked your passion on No Selfie Saturday. If you didn't, I hope you made relationships that will spark something else.
These relationships are not a coincidence.