If you’ve ever served other people, either as a missionary or simply offering to help a friend or loved one in need, you eventually begin to ask yourself tough questions. Things like; Is the person I am serving going to be changed by this offering? Is this a good use of my time? Are my efforts really making a difference? These are real questions and they are important to ask.
We were a few days into serving the community at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, and our group of fifteen spent an afternoon painting the basement dining area. Excited and looking to make a difference, folks jumped in and started covering the cinder block walls in fresh white paint. We learned how to use rollers and brushes, and how to keep the paint from dripping everywhere. The project could get pretty wild with a large group, so I served as the worksite foreman to keep the energy channeled. The room needed to be finished in a matter of hours so that approximately eighty people could eat dinner. While not immediately apparent, it became obvious the dirty walks also needed to be refreshed. Yet when all was said and done, the sunlight streamed through the small glass cube windows and lit the room brightly – it was a significant improvement.
A few days later I was talking with one of the participants. They expressed disappointment because unlike in prior years, there was no homeowner to get acquainted with personally. Instead, we worked for a large organization that seemed impersonal. After all, we had only painted some basement. These were genuine, heartfelt concerns. I was glad this person shared them with me, and they caused me to ponder. After a time, I responded; “Well, the basement was dirty, but more importantly, this is the only kitchen these hundred or so people living at the CASS shelter have. This is their kitchen – not just some room. Isn’t it of value that we made their kitchen cleaner and nicer for them in their house?” Days later, in various forms, we continued this conversation as a group. As always, I was proud and impressed by the insights and openness of our youth. But in all honesty, I had not thought about that room being someone else’s personal kitchen until this person expressed their concerns to me.
‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40
Just as people did in Jesus’ day, we ask questions. There is no shame in asking genuine questions or voicing heartfelt concerns over the giving and receiving of our time. Serving others isn’t always glamorous. We don’t always have a “homeowner” to express gratitude towards us. The value of our efforts is not always apparent, and our work can seem pointless. But that doesn’t mean we have not touched someone, or even a group of people, in an impactful way that shares the love of Jesus Christ to all the members of our family.
When was the last time that you faithfully performed a difficult form of service? When was the last time you were stretched enough so that you would ask the truly hard questions?
Grace and Peace,