More Than Paint
But our program involves much more than providing paint, plaster, electrical wire, and lumber. It opens doors to change the Jewish people’s attitudes towards Christians. Our home repair teams are unique in Bridges for Peace in that they have the privilege of working for days at a time inside the homes of Jewish people. This gives the people we serve opportunity to observe who we really are.
Bob, one of our long-term home repair volunteers from South Africa, tells of an encounter they had with a little old Jewish woman. Although her home was in desperate need of repair, having strangers––all men––come into her home was a frightening experience. Then to find out that these strangers were Christians! Oy vey! She was very cautious, locking herself in her bedroom the whole first day. On the second day, she cracked the door just enough to watch them. By the third and final day, she ventured out of her room, sure that she was among good, kind people who cared.
James Loubser, the manager of Repairers of the Breach, recently shared another story:
Several months ago, we received a request from Esther to plaster and repaint her apartment. However, her husband, Moshe, did not want anyone disturbing their things and making a balligan (mess) of everything, so he refused to let us come. It was a surprise, then, when Esther contacted us again and said she really wanted us to do this job. She didn’t care what her husband said; she would take care of Moshe if he caused any trouble!
Three team members arrived at their place one morning with ladders, paint box, buckets of paint, drop cloths, plaster materials, and other tools. Esther welcomed us into their home and made sure Moshe was kind to us.
First we removed pictures and other things from the walls; then we pulled the furniture into the center of the room. We covered everything with drop cloths and carefully painted the molding, door frames, and window edges. Esther had to go to work, so we were left with Moshe looking over our shoulders, as we first plastered the ceiling and did the detail painting. Slowly we made progress. The new white paint covered the old yellow walls and transformed the room.
Smiles and Compliments
Now Moshe was smiling and complimented us on our work. He commented on how carefully we worked, with care and preciseness, something he said he hadn’t seen for a long time. We learned that the reason he hadn’t wanted workers to come in the first place was because of the shoddy work and messiness that is characteristic of most construction jobs. He offered us beverages to drink and wanted to continue talking with us, but only one member of the home repair team was somewhat fluent in Hebrew!
The next day, as we continued our work in the second bedroom, bathroom, and hallways, Moshe was completely relaxed and cheerful with us, even laughing as we tried to communicate back and forth. Esther prepared a delicious lunch for us, complete with linen tablecloth, and dessert and coffee after we ate. When we prayed for the meal, Moshe watched us carefully. We knew he prayed too, because we saw and heard him throughout the day, so we had this in common with him.
At one point on the second day, we heard him talking to a friend on the phone, bragging about how wonderful his home was looking. He also commented on how the home repair team treated each other, with respect and civility, always supportive and helpful of each other, not crude and harsh and rough toward one another. This really impressed him. We endeared ourselves to them even more when Esther made some changes in the rooms and showed us that the kitchen table needed repairing. We responded willingly, following her requests and “going the extra mile” by fixing the table too.
On the last day of work, we also installed steel handrails in the stairways, so Moshe could move up and down the stairs more easily. Esther insisted that we eat lunch with them again before we left (Pizza Hut this time—but still served on linen!), and we accepted, knowing it was important for them to show their appreciation to us in some way. After we removed all of our equipment from the apartment, swept the floor, and put the remaining furniture back in its place, we were sent on our way with shaloms (peace/goodbyes), toda rabas (thank yous), metsuyans (excellent), and “beeyooteefuls,” coming from the smiling faces of Moshe and Esther. It was just another regular work day for the home repair team—but with the wonderful knowledge that once again we had made a tremendous difference in the lives of Jewish people. We demonstrated the love of God with our actions and attitudes, as well as our speech and our manners.
Won’t You Help?
If you want to be a part of this wonderful transformation process––repairing and restoringhomes and hearts––you might consider using your skills as a carpenter, plumber, painter, or electrician to volunteer for our home repair team. If not, why not send in a donation, so we can continue to minister God’s love to the poor and elderly in their homes. Isaiah reminds us that those who help the weak, the afflicted, will be “like a watered garden and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isa. 58:11). Repair a home, heal a heart, and watch your garden grow!
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