With my church job, I have a golden opportunity to do lots of volunteer work. There are SO many places and people that need help. The other day Julie asked me for a list of suggested service projects (she is beginning to work with a volunteer group in NYC called One Brick). In about five minutes I had listed at least 15 suggestions, right off the top of my head. As overwhelmed as we sometimes feel about the world’s pain, lending a hand does assuage some of those helpless, hopeless emotions.
Last night, a group of us served dinner at a downtown church, mostly for folks affected by HIV/AIDS. It was a whirlwind of heating up food, dishing it out, cutting and serving cakes, clearing tables, etc. At the end, we all felt good about our evening’s activity. We were rewarded with many thank you’s, both from the guests and from the staff of “Feast Incarnate.”
|On Rosebud Mission Trip-where is my young friend now?|
It got me thinking. We did our little bit, then we went home to our comfortable houses. I am personally guilty of compartmentalizing these experiences, on to the next project with very little further thought about those I have just served—until the time, weeks, months or even years later—when I return. The variety of opportunities keeps things fresh and interesting, so I am ever on the hunt for new ones.
But what of the incredible people for whom these places are an ongoing ministry? The ones who prep everything before we occasional volunteers arrive? The ones who will still be there long after we are gone? I am in awe of these everyday heroes, many unpaid, who don’t collect a ton of service projects, but stick to one that matters deeply to them. They do the unexciting, day after day stuff that keeps doors open and hope alive. Last night I took special note of some regulars at the church. Michael, who lives quite a distance away but is there every single week to keep things running smoothly. Isaiah the dishwasher, who works miracles in that tiny kitchen (he can polish off dishes from 130 diners in a matter of minutes), while engaging everyone with his great sense of humor.
Then there is Violet Little, the wonderful pastor of Welcome Church, the homeless ministry of the Lutheran church in Philadelphia. Violet not only leads outdoor worship, she leads weekly Bible studies, organizes meals and even sets up safe winter housing for women in need. This is Violet’s calling, unglamorous work but such a blessing, every day of the year.
I pray that I may learn to focus, not on the quantity of ministries I support, but on the quality of my involvement—wholeheartedly serving fewer, but on a more regular basis. May I remember that what people hunger for most is relationships, and relationships take time to develop.
And so today I lift up the everyday heroes in our midst, the ones who show up, and stick around. God bless them, every one.
|Welcome Church Hands|