For the rest of my life, the name Avon will conjure up a certain image.
I’m not thinking of nail polish or foot scrub. As much as a literary geek as I can sometimes be, I’m not even thinking about Shakespeare. I’m thinking about roof shingles.
I’m thinking how God used a leaky roof to shout His love to the town of Avon, Illinois from the rooftops. Literally.
When we think of people with financial needs, images of homeless people or folks on welfare often come to mind. Yet, right among us, live people who, in spite of their best efforts, are losing ground. Such was the case for a family in the small town of Avon. They all worked, worked hard, but it was barely enough to pay the bills with nothing left over for the unexpected including house repairs.
The roof of their 75-year-old home leaked like the proverbial sieve. With each rainstorm, they had to scatter buckets around the house. One closet sat empty because rain would otherwise drench the contents. Yet they didn’t have the money to replace the roof.
So their church decided to do something about it. The church benevolence fund paid for the roof shingles and the elders organized a team to do an old-fashioned roof-raising for the family. As chance would have it, the week that worked out for everyone was the hottest week of the summer season. Or was it chance? All week long the men started work at six in the morning, worked until they were drenched with sweat and sapped by the heat, then enjoyed lunch provided by the family and other church ladies before they went home to rest up for the next day’s work.
If anyone wanted to do this act of kindness anonymously, they would have to throw that idea out the window. The thing about replacing a roof is that everyone who passes by will notice. And the entire town of Avon did. “We became the talk of the town,” the wife told me. “People would stop me at the store and comment on how amazed they were that a church group would do something like that, especially in the heat.” The neighbors particularly noticed how well the crew worked together.
You know what touches me most about this story? This became much more than just replacing a roof. The roof was a bridge to a bigger purpose. It became an opportunity for ten men to have some great fellowship and discipleship time together. It became a testimony of grace to a watching community. Jesus was right. The world will know we are his disciples when we love one another (John 13:35).
Yet it is so hard for many of us to ask for or even accept help. We have this mistaken idea that we have to work harder, that we can only ask for help when we have reached the end of our own resources and can’t do any more. Only then will we deserve help. That so flies in the face of the whole concept of grace!
When we refuse help, we deny God the opportunity to work within and among the lives of those who come beside us. We prevent His glory from shining brightly so others can see and praise Him (Matthew 5:16). To frame it with a cliché, we deny others a blessing.
When that little family accepted the offer of a new roof, they didn’t realize that God planned to do a lot more for the Kingdom then merely give them a new roof. They couldn’t predict the relationships that would occur or the faith that would be strengthened. They didn’t know that the entire town of Avon would be watching this intential act of kindness. They don’t know what might happen next, who from the little town of Avon might seek to know more about the God who motivated ten men to raise a roof in the summer’s scorching heat. But I can guarantee you one thing. That family will be watching. And when the questions come, they’ll be ready.
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