By the time my missionary girlfriend finished saying, “Come to the Dominican Republic and encourage our women,” I’d already purchased my plane ticket. A gathering of sisters and seekers, ready to hear more about Jesus? I was so in.
“They dress up for church,” Ali cautioned me. “Skirts, pantyhose, and heels.”
Wasn’t it hot there? Yes it was, even in November. Highs near 90, and humid as well. Determined not to whine, I packed my favorite cotton outfits and headed for the airport.
One hour after I landed in the Dominican Republic, I was in love. The people were warm, gracious, kind. Their houses were painted like flowers. Their hearts were wide open.
A small group of women from the U.S. had flown down for the weekend to help with the conference. We filled the church van on Friday morning and headed for town, eager to see the ministry’s new sanctuary.
I pictured a freshly painted building, still smelling faintly of sawdust. What we pulled up to was an old brewery, still smelling faintly of…well…lots of things.
The plan was to decorate the sanctuary for Saturday’s event. As we climbed out of the van, I imagined putting out tablecloths and fresh flowers. Pitchers for iced tea. Plates for cookies.
When they opened the door, I did my best to hide my dismay. It looked more industrial than spiritual. And the concrete floor was (sorry) filthy.
Still, the space had character. Fabulous windows with huge, rustic shutters. A low platform with a vintage rug and piano. But something had to be done about that floor before we filled the place with women in their Sunday-best shoes.
“Let’s tackle the floor first!” one volunteer said brightly. I smiled, thinking what a grand idea that was.
Then they handed everyone a broom. Including me.
Here comes the ugly, embarrassing, I-hate-to-tell-you-this part of the story. I have been invited to speak at hundreds of churches, but I’ve never been asked to clean one before I spoke. So, while I was smiling on the outside (or at least trying), on the inside I was thinking, Seriously? You want me to wash the floor?
I could hardly do otherwise, with my American sisters joyfully diving in. One woman threw soapy water across the concrete, while we came behind her with our brooms, pushing the dirty water toward the door.
This might have been more effective if the floor was level. Instead, I’d sweep the water forward, only to have it come swooshing back, soaking my white sandals and splashing on my white eyelet skirt. My brand new, bought-it-for-the-trip skirt.
Everybody else was having a blast, singing praise songs as they worked. Me? I was one sweaty, drippy, unhappy camper. By the time I reached the area directly in front of the platform, I’d had it right up to my mud-covered sandals.
“Lord,” I grumbled under my breath, “I’m the guest speaker. Can’t they get someone else to do this?”
His response pierced my heart. I thought you wanted to serve me, Liz.
My eyes filled with tears. “I do, Lord. I do want to serve you.” Wasn’t that why I’d come to the Dominican Republic? To serve Him by loving His daughters? What was I thinking, putting myself above His other servants?
Forgive me, Lord. Please, please forgive me.
Jesus told his followers, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). I was the one who needed washing, not the floor.
Yet Christ, because of His mercy, chose to “wash away all of my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). My pride, my stubbornness, my judgmental attitude. All of it.
Overcome with sorrow, yet grateful to be forgiven, I tackled the floor with renewed vigor, singing and laughing with the others, as we turned a brewery into a sanctuary.
The next morning, three hundred women came, dressed in their best clothes. We spent all day together, studying God’s Word. It was joy unspeakable.
Near the end the conference, I invited women to come forward for prayer. Slowly at first, and then in greater numbers, they left their seats to meet with our prayer team.
But not the women in my front row. One by one, they bowed their heads and knelt beside their chairs on the concrete floor. Yes. Right. There. In front of the platform.
See? God whispered. You washed the floor for them.
The Lord is ever good, ever patient, ever kind. Every day. Every place. Every time.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).