Is it wrong to build buildings when we go? Some think so, but I don’t. I think there’s a place for it, but we must temper such projects with our understanding about the true needs and what we truly have to offer. We do have something to offer, but let’s discover what that is through dialogue with the majority world church. A group from my church just returned from a couple weeks in Rwanda. Within their first hour in Rwanda, the local team said, “Ninety percent of your job is done. You’re here. Your presence speaks volumes.” One of the team members told me she thought, “Well, I don’t think so. That’s gracious of you, but we’re here to work hard.” The longer she was there, however, the more she began to see that the tasks they came to do were not what was needed most. The presence and chance for relationship together seemed to be the most pressing need for the Rwandan church beyond any menial tasks that were planned. Do the menial tasks; they teach us about serving, and we get to serve alongside our brothers and sisters. Be sure to remember, however, that painting a room for our brothers and sisters or putting in windows isn’t really what it’s about. It’s about meeting a deeper need that’s in us and in them.

This article was adapted from Serving with Eyes Wide Open by David A. Livermore. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright 2006. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

David A. Livermore is executive director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and is cofounder of Intersect, a ministry that provides leadership training and consulting to emerging leaders in ministries around the world.