Like me, your mother or grandmother may have told you, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” After I grew up I was shocked to find that this particular phrase is not in the Bible! But on the other hand, the Old Testament devotes a great number of Jewish laws and ceremonies to washing and cleansing things. We could argue that these symbolize the washing away of our sins. But any way you look at it, God wanted his people and his house clean, especially before worshiping. We don’t follow the Jewish law; praise God we are saved by grace! But we still appreciate coming to the house of the Lord and knowing that we will find it clean and waiting for us.
So how does it happen that after that natural messiness of a worship service, the kids’ meetings, or a special event, the litter disappears, the sinks and toilets are cleaned, the floors are vacuumed and mopped? It’s because we have wonderful custodians named Mark Bykerk and Jessica Swainston. This is Mark’s testimony of praise, for he is thankful to God for his job at Hillside. Mark has a film editing company, but he finds that his business is not enough to keep him employed fulltime. He began to supplement his income by doing custodial work at Grand Rapids Christian School, when his parents noticed an announcement in the Hillside bulletin for a custodian and he applied.
Here is what Mark has to say about his job at Hillside. “I was ecstatic when I found out about the job! It sounded like just what I was looking for. It was truly a blessing from God. Little did I know that this job would become not only my ministry, something I do for the church, but this job would be the ministry of the church to me.”
He says that in the Hillside environment, staff and congregation are fantastic to work with, as together they are all part of a bigger thing. “If it’s a stressful day, I remind myself that I am part of a greater thing. When I set up for an event or clean up after, I am part of that ministry. I am doing a part of God’s work.”
“But better than any of that has been the way I feel close to the Lord while doing my job. I have an awareness that I am in God’s house, doing his work. An example of this awareness of being in God’s house is how I feel about the prayer room. I know that the Holy Spirit lives within each believer. Yet, when I clean the prayer room, or even when I am just passing by that opened door, I feel the quietness. I feel the Holy Spirit and I am in awe. It amazes me when I realize how many, many times that little room is used each week as God’s people come to focus on prayer. This room and what it is used for causes me to worship. And this reflects the general awareness that comes over me as I work—I am in the house of the Lord.
“In addition to the sacredness of the place that I work, there is also that awareness that I am not alone in what I do. When Jessica and I set up for an event, there are almost always other staff who pitch in and willingly help. The same with tear down. Young people or just people from the congregation offer to help with tables and chairs. I should be used to it by now, but it still blows my mind how my job is seldom lonely because even when I’m at work, I’m part of the body of Christ in action.
“For example, the church picnic is a phenomenal event that requires every table we own plus more. It would take the two of us days to set up, clean up, and take down by ourselves. But there are committees, and there are people, as I mentioned, who just pitch in. On the day of the picnic, I take care of trash as the event progresses, keep an eye on the over-all maintenance of things, like resetting a blown circuit breaker or helping anyone who needs help. We are able to do everything that needs to be done to hold a picnic for several hundred adults and children—because we are the church, and we are many. Who else gets to say that God’s people have helped them with their job on numerous occasions?
Despite the helpful and serving hearts of the Hillside congregation and staff, there have been times when his job, like any job, proved harder than Mark anticipated.
He says, “The job was more challenging than I dreamed it would be. The first months and subsequent years after my hire lead to quite a bit of change in the original position. It involved taking over many more tasks, becoming a leader as our former custodian left, dealing with the daily mess of the construction phase, going through the hiring process as we hired Jessica Swainston to be custodian with me, and managing our aging building. But even with all of this change and increased responsibility, everything has changed for the better in my life. Because of my job as custodian at Hillside, I have been privileged to buy my first home and to be there for my family.
“When we had our new baby, I was able to go to the hospital and support my wife. When I took her home from the hospital, I got to help her and spend time with our children because others on staff were willing to cover for me so I could have this precious family time. And when I had a health issue, others picked up my slack, GRACE was shown to me so my job was made easier by the help of others. Everything I do at Hillside, and everything people do for me, makes me live in an awareness of His presence. I am blessed to be a custodian at Hillside.
“From the sense of awe I have feeling God’s presence as I work in his house, to the blessings that I feel working for and with God’s people, it is indeed a good thing for me to be a custodian in the house of the Lord.”
After I spoke to Mark, I wondered if he felt like the priests in 2 Chronicles 29 who after consecrating themselves to God, went into the temple to clean it, repair it, and said to the king, “We have purified the temple of the Lord.” Now they were ready to worship.
– by Margaret Broersma