Working in a church ministry is often a thankless job, especially when your contributions are executed behind the scenes or to a group of people who might not verbally thank you.
Such was the case when I hosted a children's church for a kindergarten-aged class one Sunday. While hundreds of people nestled in the pews, listening - and occasionally dozing - to the dulcet tones of the pastor's sermon, I led a class of rambunctious children to their classroom. It was midway down the preschool department hall when young Ryan turned to me, giving a look that ensured me he was going to be physically ill. In less than three seconds, he made good on that promise.
It's hard to feel appreciated after something like that. They are the dirty jobs of church life, but we need those people who do them.
My mother was a summer missionary to families involved in a migrant camp in Boiling Springs when she was a teenager. She mainly cared for the young children of parents who would work the peach orchards in the area. When the children were dropped off early in the morning, she would bathe, feed and clothe these children who had next to nothing. As a child, I heard my mom tell these stories over and over. Little Bianca had been fed nothing but peaches by her destitute family. Infant Bobby showed evidence of cigarette burns on his feet.
It was hard, dirty work and emotionally taxing, and I imagine it was a largely thankless job. It was just one summer out of her life. No one handed her a plaque or a certificate of participation. She simply returned home after the summer.
She didn't expect that summer's investment would ripple through the decades. She didn't expect that I would tell her that, by random chance, I met a young girl - now a woman in her 40s - who she cared for during that summer. She didn't expect that this woman would remember the bags of soap the ministry gave out to those in need. She didn't expect that those acts of kindness would help pave a path of certainty for this woman.
But it did, and as I listened to my mother get choked up at this news, I couldn't help but wonder if the thankless jobs - the small jobs, the insignificant jobs, the messy jobs I'm currently involved in - might have a lasting or even an eternal impact on those uninclined or unable to say thank you.
I think it's appropriate to say that Mom's thank you arrived many years later but with incredible potency because it came from our Heavenly Father.
"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me.'" (Matt. 25:37-40, NIV).
Email Jamie H. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.