Monday, September 15, 2008

Paint, Paint and More Paint! A Testimony of God's Provision

For months I have been working, when the opportunity is given, on the appearance of our church. This is somewhat at odds with my original feelings upon becoming part of the congregation there...I was glad in a way that the church was old and shabby, because it sifted out those who care more about those things than about hearing the truth, about hearing good preaching, about the things that matter more. Still, it was sad to think that we've attended churches where the pastors had a wrong focus, a more external one, and their buildings were beautiful or at least sturdy and adequate and their ministries were financially profitable. Then we find a pastor whose every word and action shows that he cares about the internal, eternal things...and his church building is dismally in need of care. It didn't seem right to me, though often, from what I've seen, the way God's kingdom manifests itself on earth seems ironic in human terms.

So I've been painting, and loving every bit of it. I'm kind of glad it was so shabby, because every stroke of the brush or roller changed things so much, so it was very gratifying work. Paint, a very external and temporal application, has a place in God's kingdom. If one person comes to the church because it is prettier than it was, and they hear the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ as a result, there is no better reward I could want. I should be a fisher of men, and if paint is my bait, so be it!

Much of the inside has been painted. The outside, the initial approach of the casual viewer, was still in need of care. And it was more than I could ever do on my own, so I sought the help of the congregation. I sent out some e-mails. It is amazing what a little e-mailing can do. I type 15 minutes or so and a very powerful response comes! Armando has a sprayer and was willing to spray the building. We had just enough of the congregation volunteer to help.
God has been involved in this. He has provided paint free from a paint-recycling place in Everett, and whenever I was down there I would pore through the paint and pick up whatever I needed, both for the inside and outside. For the outside, I'd found about 22 gallons of cream color and 15 gallons of a taupe-tan color. God also provided all the people with all the right tools. One even had the scaffolding that made part of the job so much easier; one provided all the plastic to cover the windows, and he'd gotten that for free.
The night before the job, I thought I would add a bucket of the taupe-tan to the cream and combine them, straining them to remove anything that would clog the sprayer. After a couple of hours, much spilling, much washing my slippery hands, and some very worn muscles from all the lifting of the huge buckets, I was done. I put the mixed paint in the center of the floor, cleaned up the mess, and went home that night excited for the job that would happen the next day.

Saturday morning, three of us pulled the paint from the downstairs where I'd left it. I failed to make sure that they only brought up the mixed and strained paint. Without my realizing it, the first paint to be sprayed on the back outside wall of the church was the darker, unmixed, unstrained paint. I should have seen that it was darker than I'd intended, that it was the wrong paint, but I guess I was tired and had seen so much paint that it didn't register. Also, I was busy with covering windows with plastic and trimming back shrubbery, so I wasn't as observant as I should have been. One whole wall got covered before Armando said that the buckets didn't match. I suddenly realized what had happened.
We only had two buckets of the darker color left. We needed much more to cover the building. I had picked that paint up the Wednesday before, and there seemed very little likelihood that any exact or even close match would be available. I didn't know the name of the place, only the location--and since it's a government operation, I didn't know if it would be open on Saturday. I tried calling the friend who had told us of the place, but his wife Cheryl would have to run him down at work--he didn't have any phone handy where he was. She wasn't far and was willing to do it, but she wouldn't be able to get me an answer for a while. Our pastor looked up the place on the internet and finally found it. It was open.
I went off to Everett, praying that there would be some paint that would work. Otherwise we would have to buy some, at about $100 per bucket. While God's blessing had been on this job up to this point, I wondered that He might have withdrawn His favor from it. Cheryl called to tell me the place was open, and I asked her to pray that they'd have the right color. I knew she would. When I got there, there were two buckets that I knew would be at least a very close match, and three more that looked similar. I took them all, about $500 worth of paint, all for free, and loaded them in my van and took off to return to the church. It was much faster than if I had bought it.

While Armando started up using the new buckets of paint, we got the lunch ready. We ate together in Pastor's beautiful back yard, and got back to work. After a few hours, the work was done. Armando had sprayed the whole building in a matter of hours, standing in some very precarious places to reach the more difficult spots. It looked so much better! We had the main part done, and now we just have some touching up and some trim work to do, and the place will be transformed. It already looks so much better.
One couple had come that morning with a 5-gallon bucket of some Valspar paint for the trim; they'd gotten it as a markdown for $10. They had thought that we were going to paint the church a creamy yellow (which I had noted hadn't been their preference), but the yellow hadn't turned out to be very good paint, so the taupe-tan was what we used instead. While their trim wouldn't have complemented the yellow but would have clashed, it went perfectly with the paint that ended up being used. This was remarkable, because they had no advance knowledge of the switch of plans regarding the color.
I am so thankful for God's grace, for His abundant provision of people, materials, direction, and color matches. I had planned one color, but God made it clear that the other was His preference. It seemed like a chancy situation, but God provided all that we needed. The cream paint that remains will go to use as well. One man has been waiting to paint his house but couldn't afford the paint. If his wife doesn't like that paint, they at least know where they can get some other choices. One has rentals, too, and could use it. I'm sure the paint won't go to waste. It's also pretty neat that this was paint that someone else had bought and didn't need, that almost all of it was paint that would have been disposed of in some way but was recycled instead.
The verse that has continually come to me in regard to how all of this transpired was Proverbs 16:9: The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

2 comments:

Shani said...

Hi, Connie! How was your summer? I sure miss you and your family. When I think about ways I can help my mom with everyday setbacks, I think of the camaraderie among you and your children:).

Have you had the privilege of reading And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers? I think she makes her main female characters a little too good sometimes in an effort to show a Christlike example, but I just love her style and godly focus. The book has the same premise you do in this post: the balance between not leaving the church looking shabby, and focusing on ITS glory rather than Christ's.:)

halgrakin said...

Connie!

We serve an amazing God. Incredible. He knows the beginning from the end.

I love this story - thanks for sharing the encouraging testimony.

- Haley