Vol 8, Num 20 :: 2009.10.16 — 2009.10.29
Several months ago now, I was invited to go observe how another church was running a community outreach program and to help out while I was there. Before I went, I felt God putting on my heart that I was going to serve them to my very best for his glory.
Coming from further away, I happened to arrive before most other volunteers did. Since I didn’t know anyone except one person from the church, I wasn’t sure who was part of the church team serving and who was an invited guest for the morning. Shortly after the event started, the team leader I had met on arrival was distributing name tags to those helping out and somehow in the bustle and confusion of the event, everyone else was handed a name tag besides me.
It might sound strange, but it was a humbling experience as I realized that my tussle with God that morning was for recognition of service. I felt him saying to me, For whose glory are you serving? Does it matter if you are recognized for what you are doing or not? Does it matter if no one knows your name or notices you are here? I recognize you, I know your name and I see everything you are doing for my glory and I am pleased. Are you serving people for your glory or for mine?
Two days ago, I organized our own church’s women’s community outreach event. I say “I,” but in reality, God did most of the work while I worked on getting rid of fear, panic and a sense of being overwhelmed by things I couldn’t control. It has been quite the rollercoaster ride but one during which I saw so clearly how much God desires things to be done for his glory and not for mine.
And what a treasure hunt to find God’s plan and purpose for the event. It began with a desire to reflect the hearts and activities of some of the older ladies in our congregation and their service to the community, then progressed to serving the community and simply showing them the love of Jesus in practical action.
When we began, my vision was for the women of our church to do something practical along the lines of gardening, painting or clearing out for a nursing home and to have a morning tea together, a bonding experience for us and a blessing for others.
One thing led to another and one conversation provoked other thoughts about what we could actually offer in terms of time commitment, people and resources. In the end, everything was set up and decided quickly and easily within one 10-minute phone call with a contact of a contact of a friend. When I started to panic about how many people had signed up, God tripled the number of volunteers over the course of the last week before we were due to volunteer. When I was overwhelmed by the task of catering for food for 44 people at the last minute (15 volunteers, 29 people we were serving), God raised wonderful women who pitched in and each organized one element of the barbecue, so that I only had one or two things to provide myself. Incredibly, God even provided the husband of one of my friends to come and do the barbecuing just one hour before we were due to serve everyone lunch. Then, without needing to be asked, all the volunteers pitched in to help serve food and clear up afterwards.
I have discovered that when we go with God’s plan, it can be a bit of a hair-raising last-minute affair, but when he organizes things, he does it quickly and easily and his purpose is to take the pressure off us, if only we will do the same. His plan is so much more amazing and so much more of a blessing to us than we can possibly imagine.
We ended up with four teams of three to four women gardening at four residential houses for intellectually and physically disabled adults. We were humbled by how grateful and how hungry for love the residents were. Each of the teams were served morning tea by the staff and residents of the homes and afterwards we had the joy and privilege of providing and serving them with a barbecue lunch at their day center.
I say it was a joy and a privilege because it was literally just that. These are people who have lived in care long-term – one lovely 50+ gentleman had been in the home since he was four years old. His family member who had recently had to move further away, could only visit him four times a year or so because of the distance. They missed each other very much. It was indescribable to be able to do something with excellence for them, not just to meet their basic need for help with gardening, but to bless them on top of that with love and generosity.
We spent the weekend not just serving, but connecting with a part of the community that we didn’t even know existed prior to this. It has been, quite simply, a life-changing experience, both in organizing and in serving. My friend used a beautiful phrase she had heard the night before of “never being more than a hand a way from God,” which conjures a picture of holding God’s hand on one side, and on the other, the hand of someone in need. I have seen the heart and the passion of God to pour out his love on people, not just in dribs and drabs, but in abundance for his glory.