When working last week in the DFW Metroplex with Mission Arlington, I had the unexpected opportunity to observe the reputation of MA among the larger Metroplex community.
Before I tell the story of my observation, I should tell you that the leaders of MA went out of their way to coach volunteers on the handling of their reputation. Matt Hart, one of the leaders, frequently helped us to understand the attitude with which we should engage the world around us when we performed our assigned task. At one point, our group was asked to execute a “Free Garage Sale” at an apartment complex that was known for its residents not having many possessions – or even any furniture at all. Matt coached us that our instinct may be to regulate how much anyone takes, trying to ensure that there may be some equity in the taking or even that some may be hoarding for reasons that we might suspect to be vaguely inappropriate. Matt encouraged us to be generous. No matter what anyone took, we should help them carry it to their homes and bless them on the way.
As MA would be continuing to work with these people long after we were gone, they were hoping for the reputation left by all of us to be one of gracious concern for the community, no matter who they were.
Seeing that their reputation was so carefully cultivated (and I mean that in the most positive way), it should not have surprised me, then, to find it working in our favor not long after we arrived.
On our trip down, I noticed the engine sounding as though there were a leak in the exhaust system. By the time we got to Dallas, the leak had become problematic – meaning that the exhaust had come completely apart just after it left the engine which caused the van to run very rough under acceleration. It sounded like a redneck pickup, and as a recent owner of a pickup, I say that with all due respect. ;)
I talked the situation over with Matt, and he handed me off to a mechanic not far from the MA facility. This is where my observation of the MA reputation began. The mechanic said that he did not deal with exhaust issues much, but would look into it. He later would tell me that the exhaust was indeed in two parts and that he wouldn’t be the man for the job, but he had noticed the low mileage on the van and called a local dealer to see if the problem might be under warranty. They thought it could be, but would have to see it before they could commit. When I offered the first mechanic some money for diagnosing the problem, he wouldn’t take any.
Upon arriving at the dealer, I told him what was going on, that we were down from Tulsa working with Mission Arlington and needed to get the van back into action as soon as possible. I then asked him to check if we were under warranty. It turns out that, while we were well under on mileage, the time on our warranty had run out. The dealer service rep then gave me directions to a muffler shop that would do a good job. When was the last time a dealer rep helped you find his competition? It’s never happened for me.
I took the directions to the muffler shop and told him our story thus far, including our need for the van in use with our Mission Arlington responsibilities. He walked over to the van, listened, looked and then said, “No problem.” He was going to fix it while I waited, but we were due at our ministry spot, so I left the van with him.
When we pulled up to the ministry responsibility less than an hour later, he called and gave me the run down: Someone in Tulsa had tried to steal our catalytic converter, but had not gotten all the way through cutting the pipe. Under pressure of driving, the pipe ruptured the rest of the way and was in two pieces. He had welded it together and was charging us $20, a bare minimum for time and labor.
Each of these men was encouraging and deferential. All of them wished us well in our efforts with Mission Arlington.
Later in the week, we went to a local Cici’s Pizza for the buffet. It was the only time we went out for supper during the week. When they found out that we were from MA, they knocked the price of the buffet and a drink down to a flat $5 from the $8 and change range that it normally was. It saved us about $50. They told us how happy they were to help us as we helped their community.
Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”
Matthew 5:16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
As I reflect on my unexpected observation of the reputation for helping the community that Mission Arlington has earned over the last 25 years, I am torn.
On the one hand I am astounded and inspired by how powerful that reputation is among so many in the Metroplex and how it elicits aid from people, some of whom were not a part of the Kingdom of God.
On the other hand, I am grieved by how non-existent that reputation is around the world where other parts of the people of God gather to worship and work. Especially those in the part of the world where I live, work and worship.