The right place at the right time.
Have you ever looked at a six-panel door, really looked at it? The shape of the cross is in the top four panels. I have six-panel doors in my home, but had never noticed that before. While it cannot be proven, it is thought carpenters likened themselves to the great carpenter, Jesus, hence the cross in the door.
My job for the entire week was to restore an old six-panel door that had made it through New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina and the breaking of the levee. A door that had stood up to 4 feet of muddy flood waters for several weeks. The owners of the home, Alca (pronounced Alsay) and Bernice wanted the door to become part of their newly restored home. They were holding on to a piece of their old life.
The door had been removed from the hinges weeks before and was sitting on the floor in the corner of what was to be their new family room. No one wanted to touch it; the task was too overwhelming. Paint had been splattered on the already worn finish, dirt and dust gathered in the corners of the panels, there were holes and black marks that would never be erased. Lines of age and hard times.
It was an old door, and I didn’t hold out much hope that it could be saved. And to further add to my doubts, I had never done anything like this before in my life. But I began working on it, and as I stripped off layer after layer of old stain, varnish, and remnants of the flood, I saw new life begin to enter the door. I was filled with hope and joy that this door could be restored, and I made the project my mission.
When Bernice and Alca saw I was working on it they both smiled. Bernice took pictures, and kept saying, “look at my door. You need to sign it when you’re through.” Alca said, “this makes me so happy, thank you for doing this. Thank you, I could never have done this on my own, and I really wanted it to be part of our new house.”
Alca and I would spend much time talking about the strength of his wife Bernice, family, life in New Orleans, the flood, and prejudice over that old door. He would pick up the scraping knife and we’d work together as he talked about his life and I shared parts of mine. On the last day we talked about faith. He talked about God and how great He is, and said the 23rd Psalm is his favorite because the Lord says, “don’t worry, I got your back.” He said, “isn’t it amazing that God gave his son for us? Us? He loved us that much. I don’t think I could do that, could you?” I said, “no I couldn’t.” He said, “God does love us so much even through the tough times, even when we’re sure we don’t deserve it. God believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves.” We got quiet after that, nothing left to say.
I completed my task on the last day; the door was ready to be stained, finished with polyurethane and hung on new hinges. I showed Alca and Bernice the restored door, and as they smiled I said, “This old door is strong, it made it through the storm just like the two of you. And just like the two of you, its life has been restored.” We smiled, three people filled with joy and hope, filled with God’s love.
This first mission trip to New Orleans changed my life. By working on that old door my old life was stripped away and I found faith. By listening to these people, who came through the storm, came through this great loss talk that God saved them, that they didn’t need to worry because God had their back, I learned what it means to have undying faith. I know I should have been the one teaching them, but they taught me.
I was blessed to have been a part of such a wonderful, faith filled journey. God lead me to New Orleans and that old, flood damaged six-panel door with the cross in the upper four panels. And through the journey of restoration he came into my heart and I will never be the same.