Working with the Villagers
I spent a lot of time with the village families during my first year in Romania.
Not wanting to be a burden, I knew it was necessary for me to carry my own weight, helping out around the house, helping them do the work in the field, etc. even though I was not one who generally knew how to do these tasks. This was a new experience for me. I think by working in the garden, I demonstrated an attitude that helped endear me to the people.
There were many weekends that we worked in the fields, and although I wasn’t too familiar with this kind of work, eventually I got the hang of it. I knew that my ministry would be boosted by the fact that the village people knew that I knew how to do the work they do, and help out with the outdoor chores.
At the university, I noticed a pervasive mentality among pastoral students that a person training for the pastorate should not get involved with menial tasks like working in the fields or doing some kind of work of this nature. A pastor should be paid for being in the pastorate. He should do his work and let the people do theirs.
I did not agree with this mindset at all. A pastor should be among his people. He should not be foreign to the kind of work they do. If the people do work that is considered menial, he too should be ready to do that kind of work. That’s one way that a pastor can relate to his people.
It is also vital for a pastor to understand his people. That can hardly happen if the pastor has no experience out doing some similar things to what the people are doing. Church people respect a pastor that they know is a hard worker. Even if the pastor is working only as a pastor, as long as he has a strong work ethic, the people in the church notice and respect that. A pastor who is “too-above” the kind of work that takes place in the fields is setting himself up for future resentment on behalf of his church members. It was an invaluable learning experience for me to be able to help in the garden and to be involved with them in what they do.
I think it meant a lot to the villagers that I was willing to pitch in and help whenever there was work to be done. They might have expected me to be “above” that kind of work because I was an American and not used to working in the garden. Even though there was a lot of hard work involved, I knew that I could make this a fun experience for me and for the teens. We would often tease each other and tell jokes and stories to make the time go by faster. Instead of letting the work around the house rob us of our fun, we made the work itself fun.