Coming in, Going Out

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Written by Tim Raufer, OHM Construction Coordinator
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This month’s workdays have been underwritten by the generous support of Rupp Fiore, who have been providing insurance to the Pittsburgh area for over 30 years. We are grateful for the partnership of our corporate sponsors and could not continue our work without them.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forever. – Psalm 121:8

When it comes to hosting volunteers, both in groups and as individuals, we’ve had a banner summer at Open Hand Ministries.

We kicked off June with a group of 50 high school students from Columbus, OH (yup, 50 teenagers—you read that right). They came to Pittsburgh as part of a Service-Learning opportunity orchestrated by Repair the World, Pittsburgh. Each week thereafter brought new faces to the jobsite: a group of volunteers from a church in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, a pair of Interns from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS), fresh faces from our old friends at the Bruderhof Community. We worked into the dark on a Tuesday evening with a throng of volunteers from our Circles Community. A university professor joined our weekly rhythms. Churches ranging from Fox Chapel all the way to Towanda, PA reached out, asking to bring folks to join in our work.

When July rolled around, the flow of volunteers did not let up. I write this from the comfort of a chair after spending a week ripping down plaster with a group from Boise, ID, brought to us via the PTS Summer Youth Institute.

But it’s not just volunteers that populate our worksites. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t nail down a siding contractor (but not for lack of effort!) and yet, the siders God presented in early June became familiar fixtures on the site for several weeks. A month gone, the site still seems empty without them. The electrician, plumber, and HVAC contractor have become regulars as we wrap up the rough-ins. They have in-turn employed a small subset of their own subcontractors—laborers, excavators, and a sewer-jetting crew.

For an organization whose life-blood is volunteers, we spend a lot of effort to make sure that people show up. Endless emails, phone calls, pastoral appeals, and plain old-fashioned networking help ensure that volunteers and supporters are “coming in.” We work hard to be flexible and efficient at scheduling, to be welcoming and transparent with fresh supporters. We keep a tab open at the best local Pizza joint, BFG Cafe on Penn.

But this summer has reminded us of another reality, and a deep truth in the life of the Church: that while there is “coming in” there is also “going out”.

The interns mentioned above, Karen and Amanda, by the time of this posting, will be back to their homes or campuses. The fresh faces from the Bruderhof Community are part of a rotation that has yielded several poignant farewells and so longs, to Jeremy, Peter, and, for an interval, Jonathan. The coming end of summer will bring with it the end of a season in which a math teacher spent his Sabbatical with us. By the time I began really learning the names of the students, it was time for a group picture to close out the week before their journey home. And just a few days ago, we said farewell to a part-time employee, Justin Showalter. He and his wife Elya are moving to Western Arizona, where Elya has found work as a Midwife. Justin has been a fixture of OHM jobsites for 3 years. He brings the skills of a career carpenter and the temperament of a monk to our jobs. He has been generous with his tools, his truck, his knowledge, and his patience. He has worked alone, and he has led large groups. Often, I have entrusted him with critical work requiring a large degree of focus, skill, and coordination. His response is unflappable. He is a hard worker, a fast and eager learner, and a reliable friend. We will miss him, and look forward to our re-uniting.

An Open Hand does not close around things or people to selfishly clutch them close, but releases and entrusts them to the leading of God’s spirit. Tempting though it may be to mourn the departure of interns, volunteers, employees, or contractors, it is not our calling.

The work of Open Hand Ministries is not confined to our neighborhood, and it is certainly not confined to our jobsites. On the surface, the work of Open Hand Ministries plays out in East Liberty and Garfield, but in truth it is in the hearts and minds and souls and hands of our staff, our families, our volunteers, our neighbors, and even our subcontractors—wherever they are, from wherever they are summoned, and to wherever they are sent.

*BFG Cafe 5335 Penn Ave 412 661 2345 !

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