As a missionary, Sherrill Johnston learned that building relationships is often more important than the work being done:
During my ten years of mission work in the remote far reaches of South America, I never ceased to be totally infatuated with the women's remarkable talent of weaving and creating tapestries of brilliant colors and design. They were master artisans! Not only did I have a deep admiration for their handiwork but the tapestry itself provided JUST the right door to open conversation with a stranger. As the women wove I would take my place on the ground nearby, ask a few questions, and within moments learned their name and, more importantly, a bit about their life story. We CONNECTED in the same way the threads were being connected on their weaving loom – and, to me, something equally as beautiful was created – a relationship!
I would convince the women to sell me their unfinished tapestries. They could never understand why I could possibly want to purchase their unfinished work! I would explain to them how I believed the unfinished tapestry fully demonstrated the unfinished story of our lives. Each colorful thread woven into the tapestry represented the many brothers & sisters I had met who had added beautiful splashes of color to my life. The "unfinished" portion of the tapestry represented the possibility of even more colorful threads of relationships yet to be woven into the tapestry of my life. I don't know if they ever fully understood this analogy but they did sell me their tapestries – and whether they knew it or not each one of them had added yet another colorful thread to my unfinished tapestry of life.
Relationships. I would host mission teams in the South American villages who were recruited to assist with numerous projects - the building of hospitals, boarding homes, church, greenhouses, water wells, and more. Dreams became realities as the mission team members worked side by side with the villagers to complete these projects. When the teams departed for the US, quite often the villagers would tell me: "Sister, those Americans worked SO hard on the projects they didn't even have time to visit with us! We wish we had gotten to know them better! We can finish the projects, sister, but we might never get to see them again." Too often we fail to realize the real treasure of servant ministry is the building of relationships rather than the completion of the project – and the opportunity to add a colorful thread to our tapestry is overlooked.
AMIGOS DAYS is coming up April 21-22 & April 28-29! This is the perfect opportunity to build relationships with our South Dallas neighbors.
The project focus of AMIGOS DAYS is to refurbish or paint the outside of a home for a client identified by the Dallas Department of Housing/Community Services. I have participated with AMIGOS DAYS for two years now for two different "clients." Under Jeff Traylor's capable leadership, the volunteers from TMUMC have painted and given a new colorful facelift to the assigned homes. Most importantly it has given me the privilege of adding yet another colorful thread to my tapestry as I intentionally put down my paint brush to welcome conversation with the "client" but also the neighbors and persons passing by on the street! If just a simple "hello." Yes, it drives Jeff crazy! However, it is in these moments the true treasure of our servant ministry is realized – the treasure of relationship! It's funny I rarely remember the many projects completed but I do remember the faces of those I met while working on the projects.
There is a name for this – it is called "Ministry of Presence." Ministry of presence involves letting go of our preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to another. It means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those around us – especially our suffering neighbor.
And what a beautiful, colorful, rich and glorious tapestry God will weave into our lives!
To join up on this project in the last two weekends of April, email Jeff Traylor at email@example.com. We always need more helping hands.