The Gift of Helps

by Jeff Ritchie

Almost two months ago, Jacksonville was hit by hurricane Irma. The cleanup crew contracted by the city of Jacksonville arrived a couple of weeks ago to pick up the debris from the hurricane which had been waiting on the curb for over six weeks. We rejoiced and went out to help the workers clear away the detritus of the storm. As my wife and I talked with the men who were helping the citizens of our city in such a practical way, I thought of other helpers, the unseen and unsung people I see every day who make a difference in this world. The Apostle Paul spoke of the gift of helps in 1 Corinthians 12. Here are some of those helpers I have seen recently:

Interpreters, the invisible people who are heard but not seen: The Outreach Foundation recently hosted a visiting delegation from the Jiangsu Provincial Christian Council which spent a week in the United States. Among this delegation was a fluent English speaker, the Rev. Shi Li, or “David,” as he is called in English. The Rev. Shi has many gifts for ministry, but the gift of helps was the one he manifested for us who were not bilingual. Thank you, David, for interpreting continuously for eight days. There were other interpreters as well, but the trip was a huge success largely due to your gift of tongues.

“Gofers,” the drivers, meal arrangers, and clean-up people: In each of the places we visited – Washington, California, and North Carolina – there were behind-the-scenes helpers who ensured that our Chinese friends were properly cared for. They welcomed them with gifts, opened their homes for meals, accompanied them on unscheduled shopping excursions, met them at the airport, and kept track of the itinerary. Thank you, Lisa Woicik, hostess-in-charge in University Place Presbyterian Church, Washington. Thank you, Eric Ma, helper extraordinaire at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, California. Thank you, Walt and Janet Conser, dear hosts at the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, North Carolina. Each of you paid attention to the big picture – the purpose of the trip – while you simultaneously paid attention to the details, the things that kept you up at night before and during the visit. I hope you have some time to savor a job well done.

Housekeeping staff: How often do I pay attention, really notice, the housekeeping staff at a hotel? The Chinese delegation stayed at three hotels in three locations. Beds had clean sheets. Fresh towels awaited us. Breakfast was set out for us by 6:00 AM (4:30 AM the last day). Things we take for granted are gifts of help. Thank you, staff of the Hampton Inns and the Best Western!

Unsung others: There is one set of helpers I didn’t see the week of the Chinese visit, but without their work we would have had a difficult time hosting our friends from China. It is the support staff of The Outreach Foundation who did not travel with us. They facilitated the communications back and forth to China before the trip. They took care of the financial transactions before, during, and afterwards. They, along with Associate Director Juan Sarmiento, shared the progress of the visit on social media. Thank you, friends. If we did a good job of hosting, it was because of you.

The more I think about it, the more I am realizing that The Outreach Foundation is a mission organization composed of helpers. We do not normally describe our work as that of a “helper,” but that is what we are. To be sure, Outreach staff manifest many gifts – preaching, teaching, administration, generosity, mercy, and more. But we basically help connect friends in the United States with friends around the world, and these new friends accomplish more together in God’s mission than they could by themselves. 

Thank God for the gift of helps!

Jeff Ritchie
Mission Advocate

The Outreach Foundation