My seminary professors let me down.
They never taught me how to arrange for porta-potties at a church event.
Every year, a family in our congregation invites everyone and their friends out to their farm for a wiener roast and pony rides. Konnie and Harry have been doing this for years and years. It’s a great outreach; at least a third of those who come aren’t church members. But this year, two weeks before the Wiener Roast, Konnie had major surgery. Being the very dedicated people they are, they were pressing ahead with their plans.
Our church’s fellowship committee stepped in and offered to help. As I sat in the meeting, I had a brainstorm and raised my hand. Then I lowered it. I was getting too personal. As everyone talked about fixing drinks, setting up tables and finding enough chairs, would they see the need as I saw it? How could I talk about such things publically? Besides, I had no idea how to carry out my crazy idea. How much would such a thing cost? My mind flitted back to Konnie recovering from surgery, compassion washed over me, and my hand went back up.
“The event is held outside, yet if anyone needs to use the bathroom, they have to go inside the house,” I said. “We need to let Konnie rest and not have to worry about cleaning up her house. Could we rent a porta-potty for the evening?”
People immediately agreed, adding that this would control Konnie’s exposure to germs as well. Cost wasn’t an issue, the group agreed. “Let’s do it.” Then they went on to other matters.
I sat, still unsatisfied. Who was going to make the arrangements? The committee had agreed in principle but hadn’t taken the action necessary to make it happen. I swallowed my timidity and raised my hand again. “Should we assign someone the task of arranging for the porta-potty?”
The room fell silent. Heat crept into my face and my head lowered. “I guess if I made the suggestion, I should be willing to volunteer to make it happen, huh?”
And so, the next morning, at the top of my to-do list, was finding out how to order a porta-potty. More than once, I caught myself saying, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Even more ironic, I found myself praying, “Lord will you help me find a porta-potty for Konnie and Harry’s wiener roast?” I thought about singing the hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord,” but somebody might think I’m being too cutesy or sacrilegious. Talk about being out of my comfort zone. I had no clue of how to go about this. My compassion for Konnie and my zeal for this wonderful outreach program compelled me to step out in faith and do what I had never done.
I’m not bragging about what a compassionate, insightful person I am into other’s most personal needs. I only thought of it because I was where Konnie is three months ago. The week after my fall in a hotel parking lot, I was tanked on our couch with a sprained ankle and a two-inch gash in my head. So often that week, a needed household chore would stare me in the face and I was helpless to do anything about it. The thought of visitors sent me into a panic. “My house, it’s so messy,” I would say with shame.
I’ve always taken the passage about comforting others with the comfort God has given us in 2 Corinthians 1 to mean speaking words of encouragement to those who now face the same predicament. I can speak the words, “You’ll get through this” because I have experienced God’s grace in that same specific way.
God is a God of action. How did God comfort me? He sent people to help me get through that tough time. A comforter wraps its softness around us, enveloping us in its warmth. It doesn’t remove the cold; it keeps us warm while we endure the cold. God is that way and He wants us to do that for others. He wants us to act in ways that will cushion the pilgrimage of pain. He wants our comfort to be seen as well as heard. The better we are able to target people’s core needs, the more impact we’ll have in making others aware of the grace, compassion, and comfort our God has to offer.
Did I find my porta-potty? Yes I did! And no, “Googling it” didn’t help. A porta-potty stood on a construction site in our small town. The name and phone number of the business was on the side. I called the number and the lady was very helpful. “We can do that. We’ll deliver it this Thursday and we’ll be back to pick it up early next week. Total bill is . . .” and she named the price. The deed was done in less than five minutes. What was I worried about?
My seminary professors didn’t need to teach me how to order porta-potties. I probably wouldn’t have listened to them or believed that this would be part of the ministry job description. But when I was ready to listen, the Lord showed me through my own life experience how to reflect His compassion that would make a difference.
Even through porta-potties.