For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
I Corinthians 12:14-18
“OK. On three. One. Two. Three. Lift it!”
Robi, our Romanian supervisor, guides the ten of us who are spread out along the back wall of the house we’re building in the outskirts of Oradea this week. The house–a row house with three studio apartments–will be the new home to three young adults in their early 20s, who have grown up as orphans in Romania. We’ve come with fifteen students from the two high schools in Kandern, hoping to build relationships with our neighbors as we work together building this house.
This morning, the first day of building, we began by hammering two-by-fours together in mysterious combinations. Seven of that size, four of another, our unpracticed hands tapped the hammers weakly, unevenly, against the long nails. By midmorning, we had stacks of pieces. When Robi came to lay them out, fitting everything together like Lego pieces, we watched as windows and doors appeared, and later helped to assemble the entire wall, following pencil marks and swinging our hammers sideways to secure the laying-down frame. Now we’re raising it, lifting together the first wall of four, the skeleton on which the house will be hung over the next four days. It’s a glorious moment.
The moments leading up to it–each stubborn nail that we drove through knotty, curved boards and each bland-looking piece of the puzzle–were less glorious, not so photogenic or full of victory. When we come together at the end of the day, most of us will share varying feelings towards the process of hammering the pieces together, but all will agree that it was only later that we understood what we’d been doing. From the beginning, it wasn’t clear. We were just obeying, just the small pieces in the bigger picture.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we all bring different things to the body of Christ. Perhaps there’s only one nose, only two eyes, but there are millions of blood cells, neurons, and other critical parts that bring it all together, with varying levels of visibility. All are important, even and especially the mysterious or invisible ones.
Later in the week, I’ll find myself sitting on the floor and listening to the children of the Caminul Felix choir sing worship song in Romanian. Caminul Felix, the organization for which Habitat For Humanity builds houses in Oradea, has been working for over twenty years to care for orphans and abandoned children in Romania. Children are placed in family homes, with a couple and up to fourteen children, and in large part remain there until adulthood, essentially adopted by their host parents, whom they call “Mama” and “Papa.” I’ll hear one of the couples, Caminul Felix parents since 1999, tell about both the joys and the challenges of raising 14 children. I’ll hear in their stories a passion and love that overwhelms and inspires me. What unbelievable love, to adopt a dozen children in addition to their own, to pour out their lives to raise them into godly, secure, independent adults.
For young people, the whisper of ambition is ever-present, asking us what we’re doing next, how we’ll move up or on, how we’ll get noticed, get published, get heard. I’m struck that these families and their children aren’t famous, aren’t living as “eyes” in the body of Christ as they joyfully pursue our shared calling to care for the most vulnerable people in our world. Watching them, I realize that it doesn’t matter who sees or notices. For these children, their parents’ commitment to stay put and keep investing has given them continuity and love that they’d never have known otherwise. And their obedience to this calling is more beautiful than anything that fame or ambition can buy.
It’s a privilege to raise the wall, to see some vertical growth on this project we’re working on together this week. But I leave Romania more impressed by the beauty of each individual nail, the myriad invisible obediences of the body of Christ, bringing glory to His name around the world.