Friday, March 27, 2009

“ONE SENT” to the Hardware Store!

Any expat or missionary will tell you: practical, everyday matters, which are easily taken for granted back home, are often among the most difficult aspects of cross-cultural living. Finding and training a barber in a foreign setting, for instance, is not as simple as it may sound. Locating a trusty auto mechanic can be a challenge when the native tongue of the area is not your native tongue. For me, ranking right up there with schooling a barber and locating a reliable motor master is the challenge of befriending a good hardware store guy.

Those big box home improvement stores are beginning to appear in our city of Athens, Greece. You know the type; everything you need to repair the stopped sink or install the busted fuses can be found; I stand for hours, trying to decide whether to buy the $50 shower nozzle or the cheapo, $19.95 version. Unfortunately, the Greek teenagers who work at the place know less than I do about the eccentricities of home repair; and that, my friend, is precious little!

What I have been looking (and praying) for is that handyman guy who operates a little neighborhood hardware store – the one with screws of every different size, ladders and pieces of chain; the guy should also know a lot about how to do things around the house. I need an unpaid consultant, you see, who is willing, at no extra charge, to take me under his skilled wings and lead me, step-by-step, through the truly complex process of something like removing the broken potty seat and replacing it with the shiny, new one. I need someone who feels called to help out the lame-brained, mechanically-challenged and less fortunate – and who is available 24/7, exclusively for me!

Well, glory hallelujah, I have found him! His tiny shop is just around the corner! The shop is no bigger than a good-sized, four-door, American automobile, with cans, hangers and shelving reaching to the ceiling; you have to back-out of the place when you leave, but, this guy has everything! And he speaks impeccable English! And he is a super nice guy!

This week, I went to him in the ostensibly futile (for me) effort to repair the hinge mechanism on the bathroom cabinet doors. I showed him the broken piece that I needed to replace or repair and looked pitiful. Immediately, he swung into action! He took out some sort of measuring device that calibrated the diameter of the broken piece, turned quickly to that myriad of tiny drawers behind him, announced triumphantly that “What you need is a number 6!” and pulled open several drawers, each of which proffered several versions of number 6 nuts, bolts and washers. “Choose which one you like!” he said, as if I had the slightest idea how to make such a momentous decision. Finally, he gently suggested, “Why not take this one!” followed by “How many do you need?”

I felt like I had died and gone to heaven! There he was, in my neighborhood, with everything I might possibly need and the knowhow to guide me in how to use it! And guess what? I took the stuff home and installed it! And it works! Now, Janice thinks I’m a mechanical genius!

Somewhere, back there in my early childhood, perhaps in what was then called “Training Union” at church, I was taught that the word, apostle came from the Greek word (apostolos) for “messenger” or “one sent.” We were told that Jesus sent out every one of His followers, to show Christ-like love and to care for others, in His name. Although there were some people in the Bible who were referred to as “apostles,” as in the “Acts of the Apostles,” we Baptists were taught that all followers are “sent” by Jesus, not just the preachers and missionaries. We learned, back in those golden “olden” days, that although clergy represented a specialized version of that universal calling, they were no more special than the non-clergy who were farmers, bankers, brain surgeons, business persons, school teachers or taxicab drivers, yet recognized that Jesus had “sent” them to their work, as “apostles,” in His name. Since my parents were devout lay persons who took their faith in Jesus to work with them, and since no one in our family had ever been clergy, this was not a hard concept for me to grasp as a kid. I just figured that everyone who served Jesus was an “apostle” of His, no matter what work they did!

Oh, I forgot to tell you. The Greek guy at the hardware store? My latest, best friend? His actual name is APOSTOLOS!

1 comment:

Renae said...

Hi Dr. Newell!

After all that painting and repair work we did in New York (Focus Mission trip, 1989ish) I'd have thought you were an expert! ;-)

Please give Janice my love. Praying that all is well for you in Greece.

Renae (Smith) Brumbaugh