I have been a Christian for many years. After several years at my old congregation, I had stopped growing and began to feel spiritually broken. I finally left that church because my child was also no longer happy. She just reached her breaking point before I reached mine. One Sunday, instead of going to our old church, we found a local church that had previously sponsored a community day event. We had a good time at the earlier event and enjoyed the service we later attended.
We became regular attenders and I have been a member for the past six years. It is a bible-based church whose mission is to help others become fully devoted followers of Christ. One of the principles that supports the mission is the idea that saved people serve people. Recently, someone asked me why I serve? The bible tells us, “But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22 NLT). I answered by saying that I am called to serve because service is what called me to where I am. Although I could not do very much in the beginning, service has had a huge impact on my life and has been the answer to my prayers. I prayed that I could be in a place I could call home, have a sense of community, and make a global impact. I had no idea that I would find all of those things in one place or that serving would change me in the process.
When I first arrived at my church, I was the single mother of a pre-teen and was struggling to keep it all together. I was polished and poised on the outside but was sometimes holding on by a wing and a prayer inside. Casting Crowns’ Does Anybody Hear Her paints the picture of where I was with, “She is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction. She is trying but the canyon’s ever-widening in the depths of her cold heart. So she sets out on another misadventure just to find she’s another two years older and she’s three more steps behind. Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Or does anybody even know she’s going down today? Under the shadow of our steeple with all the lost and lonely people searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me. Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?”
The two things that left a positive first impression of my new church on me were the heart-felt message and that the people I encountered (volunteers) made my child and me feel genuinely welcomed and loved. [These people did see and hear me!] As I returned several consecutive sundays, the messages continued to resonate and people kept serving, seemingly with great joy in their hearts. The consistency of the experience led me to go through the Discovering Membership class and become a member. My faithful God had answered a prayer by giving me a family (his loving servants) and therefore, a place to call home.
Because of the demands of work and raising my child, coming to church was the only extra thing I could do with any consistency (and that only included going to the hour-long late service). Although I knew neighbors and co-workers and even had friends, I couldn’t the find time to spend with them. One day, a staff member invited me to help with the Discovering Membership class. She told me it was a one-time three-hour commitment and my pre-teen could come with me and help out with child care. We tried it and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction we had with others who were serving. Over the next year, we helped out with a few Next Steps and Discovering Membership classes. I met several people, was able to have meaningful and stimulating conversations with them, and we became friends. Through a conversation I had with a sister, I learned that I could meet more like-minded people and engage in my passion for cooking if I was willing to take a few minutes every six weeks to bring snacks for the other volunteers. I realized God had answered another prayer by giving me a sense of community.
Over time, I transitioned from spiritual survival to spiritual growth. I joined a small group and because of my new community, I learned a lot — including different ways people were serving in the church. I prayed to God that one day He would see to it that I could serve a few hours per week like those around me and that I could do something to make newcomers have the same positive experience I had when I first came. As the months passed, the people in my small group continued to pass on spiritual lessons to me that I had a chance to share every time I traveled overseas. I realized that God had answered my prayer of allowing me to have a global impact.
Wait! He wasn’t done yet. He continued to lighten my work schedule so that I was not always so exhausted, which in turn, gave me the ability to say yes when volunteers asked me to help out in other ways. I first filled in occasionally on the Guest Services team. I then added every now-and-then assistance to the usher/greeter team and Kids Time. As more time passed, God continued to execute his plan. Now, I am still on a regular rotation with serving food for other volunteers, I fill in for Guest Services, I am a head usher/greeter and I co – lead a small group. He answered my prayers of allowing me to spend more time serving as well as being able welcome and love newcomers.
All of this in just six years and all because God’s servants met me outside and gave me a front row parking space (parking team), took me by the heart at the front door with hugs and smiles (greeters), took my child by the hand to a fun-loving environment (Kids Time), showed me around (Guest Services) and got me connected (small group). Although my initial prayers were a bit self-serving, God used service to place me where he wants me and continues to use me for His good. As I got to sit and learn while others served, I now have the honor and privilege of serving so others can sit and learn. And I have a ball doing it. I get to come to my church home at least twice per week, engage with people in the community, and learn lessons that I can then spread throughout the hemispheres. Serving has changed my life. The model I see all around me and the one I pursue is Martha’s work with Mary’s heart – the results of joyfully listening and serving Him. Casting Crowns in Love Them Like Jesus epitomizes how we should serve His children with, “Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions; just know that He loves them and stay by their side. Love them like Jesus.”
My reflection on this part of my journey has reminded me that:
- God is faithful
- Take all things to Him in prayer
- Start where you are
- Meet others where they are
- We are not our own when we serve Him
Be sure to continue to obey all of the commandments Moses gave you. Love the Lord and follow his plan for your lives. Cling to him and serve him enthusiastically (Joshua 22:5 TLB)