Twenty-four years ago, I was fresh out of the Marine Corps when my sister came up to me and begged me to be a driver for this mission trip they were planning to attend the following week. The adult that was to go had to back out, and my sister was desperate, so I agreed to drive on the condition that it was to be a one shot deal.
Little did I know that this one shot deal would last over half my life, serving the Lord, and walking humbly in his footsteps. Each year at G.A.P. is a new beginning, I never know what I will be getting into sometimes, or who I will meet (I did meet my wife here and we have been happily married for nine years now). Working with the youth is always a fun and learning experience—how they react and interact with the “clients” and each other.
People always ask me about the program, and sometimes it’s hard to explain to a person who has never been to G.A.P. the finer things, like watching a lady’s eyes well up as she rolls down her new wheelchair ramp for the first time. Seeing a smile that could warm the sun lighten the room as kids sit down to talk or just listen to an elderly man who hasn’t seen his grandkids in years.
Years ago, one of my first clients was a sweet young thing about 92 years of age. Found her weeding the garden in the hot July sun. She had a plastic bag over her hand to keep the bugs off of the cut that had become infected. I took her inside, doctored her hand, and as I held her hand I felt a charge of what can only be described as electric. I know she felt it too, the look in her eyes, almost as if she was looking deep inside me made me want to move mountains for her.
I went outside to finish her garden as the girls in the group worked on the inside cleaning. After awhile I stepped into the barn to catch some shade. As I stood in the doorway, I looked and saw what you would expect to see, hay, some tools, leather straps, wagon parts, typical old barn, but a piece of rope hanging from the rafters caught my eye, and as I looked at it a cold chill went up my back. Time to get back into the sun, I thought. Later back in the house we sat and listened to the hard times Ruby had over the years (I remember her name ‘cause I kept singing to myself, “…The wants an needs of a women your age Ruby, I realize…” (old Kenny Rogers tune), how her son-in-law used to beat her, and her daughter did nothing to stop him, (I wanted to track him down). But the kicker was when she and her sister went and picked up her son from the mental hospital for a weekend at home. Leaving him by himself as she went to the store to get groceries and upon her return finding hanging from the barn rafters, that cold chill shot up my spine again. I wanted to do so much for this woman; it didn’t matter what-- I was going to do it.
When she finished talking, someone in the group mentioned it was getting late and we needed to be going. Ruby asked if we could cut down the plum trees that had grown up at the end of the drive, I jumped to my feet and said “No Problem” and took off outside. Armed only with a dull bladed lawn mower and a bush axe, I proceeded to clear what seemed like acres of plum trees. After awhile Danny, Lee and Ronnie showed up to see what was taking us so long, since supper was holding for us, Danny came up to me and said “Wendell, I’m sorry”, for what I said, “For you having to do all this work,” to which I replied “Danny, the work doesn’t bother me.”
As G.A.P. approaches it’s twenty-fifth year, it is no surprise to me that it has lasted this long and I know that with the love and compassion of Jesus that is shared with those who participate to each other and their clients it will last forever. I know of no other program around that instills the words of God as well as this one. Most others just tell you the word, and then you have to figure it out yourself. But G.A.P. teaches and gives hands-on experience, you learn so much, and I’m not just talking how to mow a yard or paint a house or build a ramp. It's walking humbly with the Lord. Giving of yourself without reward, serving others who need so much more and receiving only a hug or a soft tearful thank you. Serving the Lord--that’s what it's all about. It gives me a "charge" every year.
Walking with Him,
p.s. The work still doesn’t bother me.
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