2nd Opinion: Sawdust and musings from the wood shop

Orphans at Diakanos International Family Home, which We Care Haiti helps by providing food. (Photo: Diakanos International)

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It is a long distance between good enough and excellent. It is in little things—little things that take time and effort and skill to accomplish. I like being in the time and place between good enough and excellent, especially in the wood shop.

ernie rice130Ernie RiceScripture tells us to do things “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), and I do. Or at least I try to. I view excellence as the step and the measure of doing it unto the Lord. But it is more than that. For me, it is more personal. Let me give an example.

We are working on a Beds for Orphans project at We Care Haiti. Most orphanages we help and support have crude steel-framed beds with cement reinforcing bar in a grid to support the mattress. They are uncomfortable—like little torture racks—and unsightly but very sturdy and durable. Almost all the orphanages do not have enough of these beds and are thrilled when they can get more of them.

We have started Beds for Orphans because we can produce out of wood a fine and comfortable bed using lumber we can buy in Haiti. The project uses a local craftsman to work—and to draw a wage—as a teacher and overseer in the wood shop as the beds are built.

haiti orphans300Orphans aided by We Care Haiti. (Photo: We Care Haiti)Students, either local people wanting to learn or people attending a trade school that want hands-on experience to back up classroom theory, work as interns under the teacher’s direction. So the project not only produces high quality beds for orphans, but also provides a wage for a Haitian craftsman/teacher and helps to teach another generation woodcraft skills.

It is in that setting I was asked the question: “Why spend so much time on the details? You have made a very comfortable bed with a sturdy design and comfortable support for the mattress. And the wood is so much more appealing and warm. Why spend time on softening the corners or sanding it so smooth or the dozens of other little things that you do? The children may never notice it. Why do you do so much when you don’t have to do it?”

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “When you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” So, in my mind, it is more than doing “as unto the Lord.” It is doing to the Lord. The little voice in my mind presents me with the question: “How do you build a bed for Jesus?” This is a thrilling prospect! Whatever kind of bed I make when I build for these orphans, it is built for Jesus. 

So in that space and time between good enough and excellent lives the opportunity for me to give to Jesus. What kind of bed should I build for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the greatest carpenter in all of the world and the craftsman who is building me a home in heaven?

Well, you know the answer.

Ernie Rice is construction coordinator for We Care Haiti.

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