When Service is Sinful

Last week, I was reading the book, Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster. This book talks about spiritual disciplines and how to implement them into your life. While reading the chapter on worship, this caught me off guard:

“Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry.”

Could a thing as good and Godly as service become idolatry?

When discussing with others, I discovered that most people responded to this statement with: Service can become idolatry if it is done out of reasons other than for God. An example of this would be serving because it make you feel better about yourself.  That is one way to view this statement by Foster, and it makes total sense. However, I thought of it differently.

My service is for God. I feel that God has called me to serve, but have I been focusing on service so much that I have missed other ways in which God has called me to live?

I have been putting a lot of my focus on service for the past few years of my life. Through participating in several missions trips, service has become a huge part of my faith. Had I made service a bigger part of my faith then I should? And how do I know?

I think after reading and discussing this topic, I will be intentional about exploring other areas of my faith.

Please let me know your thoughts on this statement by Foster and how it would apply to your life! Also, if service has become a form of idolatry, how do we address it?

 

 

When Homelessness Hits Home

This past weekend I was able to take some time away from school and volunteer! I went with a group of friends into the city and teamed up to do a mobile mission. We loaded up a van with clothes, toiletry supplies, and food, then drove to different spots around the city where the homeless typically congregate.

As this was not my first experience with the homeless population, nothing came as a real shock to me. However, each time I am always reminded of my appreciation for these people. I or someone I know could easily be in the same situation… being stuck homeless on the streets. We are so quick to judge these people when it could so easily be any one of us.

I met two young men, probably college age, who were so grateful to receive any sort of help we could give them. I don’t know why these boys were on the streets, but it really hits home when they are so young and going through this on their own.

I also got to meet one college-aged girl. We were serving hot coffee, and she brought along an empty gallon jug and filled the whole thing up with coffee. She then asked if we had any pads or tampons… she took the whole box of tampons. Could this girl be any more relatable? Like girl, I feel you. 

A lot of the time this is not what homelessness is thought to be, but this is the reality. People just like you and me were caught in a bad situation now their lives are flipped upside down.

Hero Mentality

I have heard again and again… don’t have a hero mentality.

But I can’t help it!

To give some context, when preparing to go on a service trip the leader always reminds us not to have a hero mentality. Meaning, don’t start serving thinking that what you do is going to have this HUGE impact and everything will be better once you leave.

Typically when serving, you are partnering with an organization who has been serving a community for a long time. When you come in for a week to serve, that is just one week of the years the organization has been there. If a whole organization has not solved all the problems by now, do you really think you can?

Therefore, it important to remember that when we serve, we are only one tiny piece of the puzzle. Of course our service has an impact, but we must remain a humble servant.

Which brings us to the spiritual side of things… remember that is all God working through us. It is through God that these communities step out of poverty or the man on the side of the road is given a bed for the night.

Only God has the power to save the world. Although it can be hard to take a step back and humble ourselves. It is good remind ourselves, THROUGH CHIST we can do all things.

 

 

Having a Mission’s Mindset – San Francisco

This summer, I went on vacation with my boyfriend’s family to San Francisco, CA! It was such a good week exploring the pier, seeing the painted ladies, and eating yummy food. However, I have one regret…

Starting on our very first day, we were walking to our tour, and all along the streets were homeless people. My heart immediately went out to them, and I looked up at everyone around me to see if any of them had stopped to help. I saw that no one even acknowledged the homeless people. I had to tell myself,

Oh yeah, you aren’t on a mission’s trip, things are different.

I tried to figure out if I had anyway to help these people, but I didn’t have any money or food to give them, and I didn’t have the time to stop and talk to them either.

I realize now that I was not prepared mentally or physically for this. Vacation had just begun, and I was ready to have a good time. To be honest, my thoughts were selfish… helping others was no where on mind. But so what if I’m on vacation, I’m not going to pretend that there is not poverty all around me. From now on, I want to always have a “mission’s mindset.” At anytime or anywhere, I want to be ready to help. Whether that means keeping my schedule flexible or packing extra granola bars with me, I don’t ever want to put my own desires over the needs of others.

“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”

-Proverbs 21:13

 

Predetermined Prisoners Miami

In Spring 2018, I went on a mission’s trip to Miami, FL, with Praying Pelican Missions. Our team spent two of our days volunteering in a low-income community, where the majority of the residents end up in prison at some point in their life.

We volunteered at an organization working to improve this community. This organization was actually started by members of the community themselves. Before we began working, we were able to hear a little about what has been accomplished so far. Prior to the start of this organization, the school was an F school. It is now a B school.

What this organization does is simple. They make the communities environment colorful and happy. Now, there are colorful playgrounds, painted sidewalks, and a community garden.  Before all this painting took place, the community looked very plain. Tan cement walls everywhere. It really had a prison-like atmosphere. Since the children of this community were being raised in a prison-like environment, in a way, they were being prepared for prison.

At first, I didn’t quite understand this concept, it had to be somewhat of an exaggeration… but then I saw it. While we were waiting to start our work, I saw two young boys leaving school with a man, I guess their father. He was yelling at the boys for having to be picked up from school because they had forgotten their back-packs (or something innocent and simple like that). When they got closer to their house, they stopped walking. The man turned to the children, and had them put their hands above their heads. The man had a belt in his hand. He had the children walk with their hands still above their heads into the house.

I and the rest of my team were shocked, and we felt for those boys. Fortunately, this organization is making good progress for this community. This experience was very eye opening on how an environment can shape your behavior.

 

Poor in NYC – Could you do it?

Throwing it back to the year 2014. A team of us in New York City.

Our team was led by CSM (City Service Missions) for a week where we served at different food pantries and soup kitchens.

One day our leader gave us a challenge. She took us to an area in Greenwich Village (I believe) and gave us boundaries. The purpose was to put us in an area with a higher income. She gave each of us one dollar. This dollar is all we had to pay for our dinner. She also gave us a list of tasks to accomplish while we were there, most of which involved starting a conversation with a stranger. Then our leader left and we were on our own.

We walked around and searched all the blocks within our boundaries searching for a cheap meal. In some parts of New York, it is easy to find a slice of pizza for a dollar or something along those lines. However, if you were in this area in Greenwich Village, you would have no luck finding a meal with so little money.

An hour went by and our team was getting quite frustrated with one another and the whole process. After plenty of arguing, we gave up.

Luckily, we had leftover bagged lunches because we were unexpectedly served a meal for lunch at one of the soup kitchens we served at. This goes to show, if someone really only had a dollar to spend on food, how much one free meal could help, and how much these soup kitchens are really helping the low-income communities.

We ate, and then we started to focus. Each of us decided separately yet at the same time to go start making conversation with people. Some of us even got to share our lunches. Talking to the people who actually live in the area helped us learn and understand low-income life in NYC more than anyone could have taught us by lecturing. We then put all our dollars together and bought one meal that we gave to a hungry man on the street which was a much better use than any of us spending it.

Although, this challenge did not go as it was supposed to, and you could probably say we cheated… it still delivered an important message. We got a glimpse of how hard it would be to live off of a low-income in a place like NYC. We also realized how silly it was of us to get so frustrated about not finding someplace to eat when we weren’t even starving and we had a back up lunch all along. While talking to the people we met, we were able to get our priorities straight once again and stop focusing on our own wants.

This trip to NYC was probably the first time I was introduced to poverty. I was young and still learning, but every experience has an impact.

Developing Nations and Maintaining Culture

When working in international service this is an important question to ask. How do we help nations develop without stripping them of their culture?

During my time in Bolivia, I saw beautiful outfits, I watched many traditional dances being preformed, and I ate delicious food specific to the culture. It would be terrible for all these traditions to fade away.

So how do we introduce a community to new technology and resources without completely changing their values and essentially their culture? With all the new and improved, it is important to ensure the traditions are not left behind.

Overall, there must be a balance, a way to keep the good and improve on the bad.

Let me know if any of you have put any thought into this!

Looking Back on Belize

I went on a week long mission’s trip to Belize the summer after I graduated high school. It’s been two years now, and I’ve learned so much since then.

I went along with my youth group to Belize through and organization called Praying Pelican Missions. (btw I love this organization)

Looking back on this trip, I wonder what impact we really made.

My youth group was in charge of leading a VBS at a small church in Belize for three days. We also packed together some meals and distributed them to homes throughout the community. I enjoyed spending time with the youth so much, and I really did form some great relationships…. but what now?

I’ve been thinking that what we did was so temporary. We gave the youth one fun week, but we didn’t give them anything that would allow them to continue improving their lifestyle. Nothing was sustainable. We didn’t do anything that would’ve led to us coming back to Belize a year later and seeing growth and improvement in the community.

Actually, I realize I didn’t and I still don’t know in what areas Belize needs to improve on.  What was their “problem” anyway? Why did we go to Belize and not some other country?

Now of course, Belize has their poverties, and I’m so happy to have served there.

However, I would have liked to know more. Prior to students or anyone going on mission’s trips like these they should be taught about the specific culture and what sort of poverties the people may be experiencing. Are they malnourished? Experiencing the aftermath of a natural disaster? Or are we just there to talk about God?

Too often, Christians go in helping blindly.. thinking they can save they day without ever asking what the problem is.