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In the vestibule of heaven

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Before becoming a pastor at Portage Avenue Church, I was employed as a maintenance assistant at a personal care home. My work, for the most part, was quite menial. I took out the garbage, unplugged toilets and sinks, replaced light bulbs, and painted rooms.

After three years in this line of work, I really wondered what good, if any, had come of my efforts. Was I only good for unplugging toilets and taking out other people’s garbage? I mean, did my labour really change people’s lives for the better?

Well sure, I thought, people need working toilets and plumbing. They need a clean place to live in as well. But somehow these thoughts didn’t really appease my need for a sense of worth in what I did for a living.

Then one day, I heard a retiring staff member from the personal care home where I worked share what had helped her get through her tough days, through the times when she wondered if her efforts were worth it. Her husband had once proudly reminded her that she worked in the vestibule of heaven.

In other words, as a worker in this personal care home, she served and attended many who were in the final days of their life’s journey, on their way to meet God. These were individuals who needed some help to take those last steps beyond the hallway, beyond the vestibule of this life, in order to enter those heavenly gates with dignity, peace, and joy.

When I heard this, I walked a little straighter, a little taller, and with a bounce to my step. My work wasn’t menial, it had eternal consequence. And whether people thanked me for the work I did or not, it would help them make the transition from this life to the next.

Looking back at this experience, I can see how my calling to be a pastor began as a maintenance man. This was a job that meant so much more than at face value.

You too have a task at hand, a job that means the world to others. No matter what you do, you have the privilege and opportunity to bless others because of it. No matter what you do, your job isn’t menial. It has eternal consequence.

—Edgar French — This meditation is excerpted from a message given to Habitat for Humanity workers in July. Edgar French is a pastor at Portage Avenue Church, Winnipeg.

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