Another Birthday and Still Growing…

 Brighten A Corner Ministry spent its 8th birthday doing what it does best—serving.

At the beginning of November in 2002 I invited a small group of women to my home for breakfast and unveiled for them the idea of Brighten A Corner Ministry. It was originally envisioned as a group of women who would complete service projects for people who found themselves in overwhelming situations. We thought we’d do a project a month.

In the early days the biggest obstacle we had to over come was finding someone who would let us serve them! People did not want to admit they could use some help; or did not trust strangers to come into their homes and do work; or couldn’t imagine how it would work. This was before Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Deserving Design or any of the other such shows on television, so explaining what we wanted to do when we had not actually done anything yet was difficult. 

After a few short months we realized that I may have slightly underestimated the amount of work that goes into properly planning a project. Okay…I GREATLY underestimated the work. Truth be told, I lacked grace for any implication that the goal of one a month was unreasonable. I may have actually said the words, “How much is too much to give to the Lord?” (I quinge when I think of it.) This was when the projects were smaller.

Much smaller. 

In fact, the total value of the work done on two of the last three projects is about 250 times greater than what we spent on the first two projects combined. Amazing. In the first several projects there were a group of women and one friend’s retired father in law to help. Now there are contractors, architects and professionals of many kinds who partner together with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of volunteers to do whatever needs to be done.

We have served because of illness, death, depression, divorce, single-parenthood, handicaps and a variety of other circumstances that lead to overwhelmed-ness. But the single constant focus of the ministry has always been one thing: What does God want to do in the lives of the volunteers through Brighten A Corner Ministry?

The ministry was designed with the volunteers in mind. God moves and grows people through service. Serving builds the server as much—maybe more—than those being served. In every project there is a lesson for those doing the work. Even, sometimes, lessons for me. This last project was no exception. It was a much smaller project than the two before it, and I went in certain that my lesson was to learn how to stay on budget. However, as it turns out, the lesson was the same lesson I had to learn at the beginning of the ministry 8 years earlier…the lesson of grace. 

This project was wonderful. We always look forward with great anticipation to working with our old friends in the ministry, and meeting the new friends who are serving for the first time. The painting, flooring, building, organizing and decorating were all a huge success. Loyal team members anchored the needed spots and many, many other fabulous people showed up with a servant’s heart willing to do anything. The anchor leg of our BAC relay powered through with amazing speed and finished up only 3 hours late. (Shocking, considering that at what was supposed to be quitting time it felt like there was a good 10 hours of work left.) However, there was a glaring weak spot throughout the project…the neighbors.

We have become quite spoiled. We are accustomed to neighbors coming over to help, bringing flowers for the families we serve, bringing food for volunteers or groceries to stock newly created kitchens; at the very least we get “oohs” and “ahhhs” over the beauty created. This time, however, we did not get such a warm welcome. Some neighbors were extremely gracious, while others were very far from that.

The complaints about parking were numerous; the unhappy glances as people walked by were obvious; there were threats to tow vehicles and complaints launched to the condo board. Day after day we explained that we were working as fast as we could, and day after day we could not soften the hard edges we came across. 

The lesson for me was that—again–I completely lacked grace for the situation. Over the years I have handled many difficult people to a happy ending, and in this case I can say that I used diplomacy when necessary. However, Christ does not call me to be diplomatic; HE calls me to be loving. Never at any point did I require myself to be loving to those who were inconvenient to me. It never occurred to me that the best witness for Him I could be would be to serve the family we chose AND to seek the best interest of the neighbors while we did so. Until now. 

And so we will go back to the drawing board and examine how we can avoid that same mistake in the future. It truly is our heart’s desire to be as much of a blessing to everyone we come in contact with as possible. It’s just a little harder to remember that sometimes. 

Eight years and still growing in Him. See you all soon… 

Robin Lee

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