We have spent almost two months offering various perspectives on mission and service, but at the end of the day…What’s the point?
I love Chicago, and a few weeks ago I has in Chicago for a meeting. Taking the train into the city and walking the streets is exciting, at least for me. As an experienced traveler, I can navigate things pretty well. But one aspect of my trip left me uneasy. Here’s what happened.
Walking with a colleague to dinner one night, a mother with two elementary age kids came up to me and asked me for money. I answered, “Sorry I don’t have any cash.” Which, truth be told, was only partially true. The truth was, I don’t know what to do. I wanted to help, but there wasn’t an easy answer and I was in a hurry, so it was the easy way out. Hold that story for a moment.
Earlier that same day, I was getting on the train near the airport and didn’t have enough cash to buy my ticket. They didn’t take credit cards and I had some cash, but not enough. I dug through my purse, my luggage, and my briefcase, only to come up a quarter short. Not sure what to do, as the nearest store was many long blocks away, I decided to ask a stranger for a quarter. He didn’t have one but said, “Here, take this dollar.” I offered him my odd collection of change, but he refused. I thanked him, deeply grateful, and went forward with my plans.
Moments like these, especially serving as bookends of my day, are the point for me. God calls us to love our neighbor. I get that. I believe that. Yet, in my everyday life, I don’t always know how to live it out. Should I have taken the women and her children to the Panera we just passed and bought them dinner? Should I have stopped and asked her name and heard her story? What would have been the “neighborly” thing to do? I don’t know, but I don’t think I did it!
David Livermore in Cultural Intelligence reminds us cultural intelligence isn’t the point. The point is taking good ideas or good intentions, and turning them into concrete actions which transmit God’s love to others. Grace was extended to me at a train station as a stranger gave me a dollar. That was a concrete action which transmitted love and compassion for the other, the stranger in our midst. And in that case, the stranger was me! As I walked by the woman with her children on the street, I didn’t do the same.
So, what’s the point? The series Reclaiming a Servant’s Heart was less about the idea of service and more about the action of serving, helping God’s people live as God’s servants in the world. I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot to learn. Yet I do know this, I’m on the road…and I hope you are too.
Keep asking hard questions about mission trips, service-learning, and service projects. Don’t stop challenging people to put actions to their ideas. Give them tools, experiences, and opportunities. But remember, it’s not about us! It’s about being God’s love in the world.
Can I hear an Amen?! Amen!
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