Work with the Grain
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My father, God rest his soul, was a wood working man. In our many days together out in his sawdust covered wood-shop that was filled with rusty hand tools and homemade workbenches covered in peanut butter jars full of nails, he had many rules to live by. Some were lessons of patience, for instance, one of the earliest jobs I can remember was fishing nails out of the large pile of sawdust under the table-saw. Others were feats of strength, I used to hold up the heavy end of many large millwork pieces while he calmly “eye-balled” their squareness. Later on he graced me with simple sayings such as, “Always work with the grain, son. Life is a lot easier that way.”
My father converted to Orthodoxy when he married my mother. His life perspective came from two sides, on the one hand he was a hard working construction man with good morals but without much thought on the bigger picture. His faith prior to converting to Orthodox Christianity was largely non-denominational. His German father, my grandfather, was Lutheran and his Irish mother, my grandmother, was Catholic. When my grandparents were married my grandmother’s family, who were very strict in their Catholic ways, completely cut off the family’s communication with her because she married a Lutheran. This left my grandparents a little sore on the topic of religion and therefore they did not practice anything, except for solid morals. It was a small miracle to see my grandmother in the last year of her life, when she had lost almost all memory, and asked for her rosary and a priest with child-like innocence. On the other side of my father’s life, he was an Orthodox Christian with four children, going to church every Sunday, with a heart full of Christ’s eternal light. It was “working with the grain” and letting it guide him into Orthodoxy, that contributed to his “completeness”.
Too often I find myself, blessed to be born in the Faith, working against the grain and trying to manifest my will out of what God has laid before me. The simple truths are in every minute of everyday, but often my agenda runs through them like a train in a dark tunnel. Recently, however, I was again awakened from my foolish ways by another glorious example of working with the grain, by someone who prefers to simply say, “You are Bread.” Jesse Brandow, OCMC missionary in Guatemala, opened my heart to the greater image of life and God’s wisdom apart from my own with his recent article “You are Bread.” This is an amazing, hope filled, self-realization by the young missionary to Guatemala, which can become the same realization for many who read it.
In his recent reflection Mr. Brandow speaks about trials, experiences, and changes, in his time serving the faithful of Guatemala. Through his work and missionary experiences he carries his St. Vladimir’s Seminary education with him, but at this time he recalls something Fr. Chad Hatfield said, “‘Remember,’ Fr. Chad says, ‘you are bread.’ God calls each of us to see the world’s hunger for Him, whether in Guatemala or another country. He calls us to become the nourishment that the world seeks. Although we usually offer mere crumbs, God multiplies what we give and spreads His nourishing bread throughout the earth (view the full article here).”
Mr. Brandow has been a missionary to Guatemala since April 21st, 2015 when he flew to Nueva Concepcion, a hot and humid city close to the Pacific Coast, to begin his two years of mission work. He continues to serve in varying missionary capacities and has moved to the mountainous area of Aguacate to minister in the rural villages that have converted to the Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarch.
To follow news from the mission in Guatemala, you can “like” Jesse’s missionary page. Jesse works in Guatemala through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), the pan-Orthodox missions organization endorsed by the Assembly of Bishops. To learn more, visit www.OCMC.org.
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