written October 19, 2012
“These rooms will not build themselves!” His footsteps thudded loudly, covering his words a little. “Let’s go, gang. We have work to do!” His tenor voice played tag against the bare cement walls, jarring the rest of us into action.
Three days later, the once spacious room boasted tornado damage. Well, not literally, but the wooden boards, power tools, tangled wires, and broken drywall pieces looked like they had been dropped out of the sky and had landed in one big, disorganized heap. I picked my way gingerly through the lobby area. My fingers brushed against the rough wood of the new desk as I walked, and I smiled. I loved construction sites. They held such promise, like anything was possible. This construction site held even more hope than normal. This was our future church, we were building all the Sunday School rooms from scratch, and with every wall that was erected and every nail that was driven, it seemed like God smiled down and gave His blessing on our efforts to spread the gospel in this foreign country.
I had rounded the corner and stood at the very edge of the hallway, or what would eventually become the hallway. The dust from all the drywall boards broken and cut into pieces floated thick in the air. The first little room opened up right next to where I was standing. My dad was in the doorway on a short, rickety ladder. I glanced up at him. He grinned at me and said between hammer pounds, “Tissues and masks are on the floor somewhere in the lobby. Otherwise, grab some putty and a knife. I am almost finished hanging drywall in this room and Christopher will be coming in tomorrow to start painting.”
I nodded, sneezed again, and went in search of a mask. I spotted them right by the door, but to get to them I had to hop over six opened packages of screws dangerously spilling sharp points all over the floor, side-step a forgotten heap of ruined drywall that wafted up more dust with every draft, and tip-toe around four half-empty soda cans and one empty can. I knew it was empty because I didn’t tip-toe carefully enough and accidently kicked it into a nearby pile of winding wires. The high-pitched bounces didn’t echo any further than my ears, there was so much debris in the lobby. At last I made it to the door. I stuck my head outside for a second and grabbed a deep breath of stuffy August air. One of the employees from next door’s motorcycle shop was outside on a smoke break, and he waved at me. I waved back and wondered if he would come to our services when we finished the construction. He went back inside, and so did I. Then on went the mask, and my treacherous journey back to the hallway began.
“How many more nails are there?” John’s whiny voice intensified my headache. After six hours of grinding, banging, sawing, and drilling, all my brain wanted was a little peace and quiet. Instead, I had to basically babysit my nine year old friend as he followed me around trying to “help”. He was in the way and slowing me down, but he was my only friend here today who was my age, so I let him tag after me.
“Just a couple more,” I promised. Over the pounding hammer from the room beside us, I heard my dad’s familiar bellow echo from down the hall. I looked down at John and grimaced, er, smiled. “One more hour and then the pizza will be here.” He sighed and held up the can of putty. I made him carry it because no matter how careful I was, a little bit of putty always managed to sneak onto the outside of the carton, and I did not like the sticky grey mess getting between my fingers.
I plunged the small knife straight into the middle of the putty can and jumped down from the step stool I used to reach the nails by the ceiling. “Let’s check the baby nursery room,” I said as I stepped across the plastic tarp stretched across the floor. It made a funny rustling sound every time I picked up my tennis shoes. John just stood where he was. He wiped his hand across the drywall.
“I think you missed a nail in here,” he said absently. “Ow.” Then he shook his hand, like it was dripping wet and there were no paper towels.
I walked back across the dirty tarp, squish-eak, squish-eak, squish-eak, and looked at him. “What is wrong with you? Let me see.”
“The wall has tinier bumps than you can see. My fingerprints are numb.”
I rolled my eyes and wondered aloud where the skipped nails were. My eyes darted around the room, and even though the light from the hall didn’t quite brighten up this room like it did the others, I was sure I had gotten every nail. I turned back to John.
“Gross, John, get your fingers out of your mouth. That is so disgusting. Do you know how dirty your hands are right now?” I gagged just imagining all the germs that boy had just ingested.
He pulled his index finger out of his mouth and licked his shirt. “Ew, that didn’t help. Now I have gritty and fuzzy on my tongue.”
I sighed and told him to follow me. “I needed a water break, anyway.” My nose had noticed when Mrs. Z arrived with popcorn and cookies, and for the past five minutes I had been craving some chocolate chips. Now was as good a time as any to sneak in a few before we stopped for supper.
Only by the miracle of God, ten days after we first stood at the doorway and stared at a vast, open floor plan, we once again assembled at the doorway and surveyed the room. The downstairs of our new church was not one big room anymore. A lobby, complete with a dark walnut secretary’s desk and three plush waiting room chairs, welcomed any visitors. A little window was cut into the wall of the first room down the hall, drawing outside light in farther than the sun had ever hoped to enter before. As we marched down the hall, our steps did not echo as before. Each of the three rooms on the left and four rooms on the right seemed to swallow up a little piece of the noise as it traveled. When we finally got to the end of the hallway, the room expanded before us. Six-foot tables were set up the length of the room, and along two walls were rows of cherry-stained fold-up desks. Against another wall rested ten metal folding chairs. My sister and I grabbed each others’ hands and squealed in delight. No more school at home!
My mom smiled a great big smile at my dad. “Well, honey, we did it,” she told him.
He pointed up. “We did it, you mean.” He turned to us kids and continued, “Let’s kneel down and thank God for letting us serve Him here. He kept us safe and helped us finish quickly. Now let us pray that He fills His house with lots of people.”
As my dad prayed, I snuck a glance around the new schoolroom-slash-church fellowship hall one more time. This adventure with my family and close friends was definitely one of the best ten days I had had in a long time, and I prayed in my heart that many more fun memories would be made here.