Service hours. Volunteering. Giving back. Whatever the label it is an important part of growing up into a wonderful human being.
At Liberty Christian School, 8th graders recently invited and fed homeless men from the Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore. In February, the 8th graders also traveled to Costa Rica for a week long missions trip. As we think through what that was like for everyone involved, we can easily see the importance of service, whether it is providing food or clothing for those in need, picking up trash, helping to build a house or a playground, or going on a summer missions trip:
Helping others. In doing some acts of service you may not feel as though you are filling a huge need but simply putting a “drop in the bucket.” However, every little bit does help--and what would happen if we all declined to help because our individual contribution was not going to make a huge difference?
Inspiring others. The stories that we read in which a young person starts a campaign, reaches out, or gives back are often the most inspiring stories of all. Sometimes grown-ups can get jaded, or too absorbed in their own responsibilities or troubles. Each young person doing good in the community may inspire several adults to get back into the spirit of giving, or at least regain their trust that kids are capable of kind and selfless acts.
Developing compassion. Many service projects start with a compassionate vision of a person or a group of people; however, some of us may go along because we have to or because others are doing it. But once we actually show up, we may be stretched outside of our comfort zones; we will see the real needs that prompted the project and our hearts may be touched. We may be moved to greater ways of helping and find more rewards than we knew possible.
Developing humility. Similarly, when you come face to face with a homeless person you will experience the fact that they are a person. You may realize that any of us could be homeless if only a couple of details in our circumstances were to change. You will develop a greater awareness of your own neediness and possibly of ways in which your living differently could impact others. Other forms of service can humble us simply due to the fact that we spent a day scrubbing dirty things instead of entertaining ourselves. However it is developed, humility is a wonderful quality.
Sharing the Gospel with others. If you meet the physical or material need of a person it may touch their heart more than you know. It may open up a “door” for you to talk about deeper needs or discuss the Gospel. In her book Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis describes how she feeds, clothes, and cares for orphans in Uganda. They know the love of Jesus because they see the love that she has for them. In many cases this is a love that no one had shown them before.
Experiencing the power of God. Katie Davis writes, “People are people. They all need food and water and medicine, but mostly they need love and truth and Jesus. I can do that. We can do that. We can give people food, water, medicine, love, truth, and Jesus. ...We can’t do it in our own strength or out of our own resources, but as we follow God to wherever He is leading us, He makes the impossible happen.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus paints us a picture:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. ...Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
When it comes to “giving back,” that is really what it’s all about. We love because He first loved us. We give generously because we have received generous blessings from God. It’s never too late to start!