Lives changed, times six

By Jessica Brodie

We’ve tried hard to raise our kids in the Lord, and when I signed our entire family up for Salkehatchie Summer Service this year, I expected the experience would awaken a heart for missions in some of them.

But I wasn’t expecting the personal, intimate awakening it had for them. That, well … that was something else entirely.

“My whole life, I’ve been praying to God, but now I’m praying to God,” one of them shared on the drive home as we reflected.

“Every devotion was like it was handpicked just for me—exactly what I’d been praying about,” another shared.

“These people were praying and praying someone would come along and help them. We got to be their answered prayer,” shared a third.

Their responses staggered me.

As editor of the Advocate, I’ve wanted to go to Salkehatchie since I learned about it 13 years ago, but the demands of young children always prevented it. My husband was blessed to grow up in South Carolina, and he was raised going to Salkehatchie since age 14, and I always said when our kids were old enough we’d sign up.

This year, that finally happened. Our youngest turned 14, and so the six of us—me, my husband, and our four teens aged 14, 15, 16 and 17—said “yes.”

Yes, in this heat. Yes, on a roof. Yes, despite shifting jobs and time off work and challenges on how to board our dog and who’d feed our cats all week. Yes to it all.

Two of our kids are decidedly not adventurous, frightened of spiders and leery of bugs in general. One was chastised for missing football training. One struggles with major mental health issues and migraines. And me? Well, let’s just say I’m not 16 anymore. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten on a roof.

Still, we persisted, and the six of us rolled up to the Santee Camp in Manning July 8 with enough hand tools to stock a small hardware shop.

What followed was a week that changed our lives forevermore, and one we pray we will be able to repeat year after year, eventually with our grandkids and great-grandkids.

The boys slept in one room, the girls in another, and the six of us divided among three different sites. Two did flooring and other interior work. Two reshingled a roof and built a handicap ramp for a homeowner who’d recently had a stroke. And two of us headed to “my” site, reroofing Mr. Charles’ home.

Challenges abounded all week. Unaccustomed to working in 90-degree weather on a rooftop, I was struck with a two-day migraine that had me worried I’d be of no use whatsoever. But by Thursday, I’d bounced back and learned to shingle, and on Friday, I celebrated completing a whole column of ridge caps with my new friend and co-volunteer Raeleigh—not to mention relearning how to use a nail gun. 

Even though she had to take frequent breaks, my daughter celebrated, too. Dizziness meant she couldn’t get on the roof, but she cut shingles all week and carted trash to the street. We all served as we could, and it all made a difference.

All of us enjoyed games and camaraderie and what it looks like to be a team in Christ. For that’s exactly what we were—not only a team of volunteers or a family team, but a team of Christians ready and willing to stand up and say “yes” to however God wanted to use us. Whether that meant serving as a cook or a runner, a trash-hauler or hammering shingles on a blisteringly hot roof, we said yes.

On Friday evening, the night we shared our symbols from the week, I was struck as I watched volunteers aged 14 to 70-plus stand before our group and reflect on how Christ was able to use them. I shared, my husband shared, our kids shared, and everyone else did too, laying our items one by one on the altar before we sat down.

One young woman held up a nail from her home site, and her words have remained with me all week, even as we go to press on this month’s edition.

“This nail looks small,” she said, “and alone, it’s not much.”

We can pry it up with a hammer, or a crowbar, or push it out with a shovel.

But put that one nail together with the others, and look what happens—it holds a roof together. It holds a house together.

United with all the other nails, it is strong and mighty and oh-so-capable.

Today, I reflect on what that signifies here in The United Methodist Church. Each of us reading this is one single person. On our own, we have purpose and worth, and perhaps we do some good things.

But put us together with others, all working together for one purpose, and look out, world! Look and see what we all can do together as God’s church in the mighty and powerful name of the Lord. With Christ, our impact is tremendous.

Salkehatchie is on our calendar for next year, and every one of my kids is excited about it.

So am I.

Thank you, Lord. However you need, send me.

(For more on Salkehatchie and how you can sign up or help, click here.)

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