by Robert W. Lutjens
The seminary I attend requires students to move at least three times in as many years. In the summer of 2002, my wife and I were moving from St. Louis, Missouri, to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where I had received an internship.
Several couples from the St. Louis church where I’d been assigned (and my wife had worked) volunteered to help us pack. Some neighbors and their friends came to help as well. When moving day arrived, we picked up the rental truck and equipment and drove through a rainstorm to our apartment to load up.
I aggravated an old back injury so couldn’t keep loading. A big UPS worker took over shifting boxes into the truck. He and two teenagers worked five hours, loading everything that could fit. The truck filled quickly, but we had far more to pack… and the rental company didn’t have a larger truck available. We were stuck.
Then an elder of our church, Mike, said that while he had to take his sister to work tomorrow, we could load up his minivan, and he would drive with us to Oklahoma City the next day.
As an elder, Mike helps the pastor during services and looks out for members of the (Lutheran) congregation. He visits sick and shut-in members who cannot make it to church and brings them services and sometimes Holy Communion. He has a family, yet takes time for others.
But we never expected him to offer something like this. It’s a 10-hour trip one way so we were stunned — and asked if he was sure. When he said yes, we accepted.
After filling both vehicles, we had to leave behind several bulky items. Fellow seminary students offered to store them until we moved back. Night had fallen when the group was finished loading. After working in the rain for hours, they wouldn’t allow us to buy them dinner or even order pizza.
When we went inside, we discovered that two people had cleaned our apartment from top to bottom, so we wouldn’t have to clean on top of our day. We fell asleep grateful and exhausted.
When we set out the next day, Mike drove alone. We kept in touch using cell phones and reached Oklahoma City at about the same time. We met at my new supervisor’s house, and all spent the night there. The next day, my wife and I got the key to our new place, and Mike drove back to St. Louis.
The goal of my seminary study is to learn how to serve others. I can’t think of a better lesson than the one our friends, neighbors, and fellow church members taught through their actions. Our helpers gave their best without asking anything in return.
The greatest teacher, though, was Mike. Following the example he set, I will strive in my own life to help others in ways both big and small.