Everyone Has Something To Give.
Service to others is central to the Christian faith. When He washed the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus turned the typical relationship of master/servant, leader/follower upside down.
By doing so, He set a powerful example for His followers to do the same.
Understanding The Need For Service
I remember when our ministry to vulnerable children began to grow, from 35 to 65 to 100 to 200 children. I recall when we expanded our programs and students went from coming for an hour and a half, to attending for the whole afternoon.
There was a definite point when we saw that students were flourishing in our classes. We realized that they had committed, and many of them were going to be with us for quite some time.
As we began to get to know our students better, we saw that there were key things we needed to focus on to help them in their personal growth and development.
In discussion with our team, we created a list of values that addressed some of the core challenges they face growing up in challenging environments.
It's not a comprehensive list, but it deals with core tenets that they need to understand at this time.
They are: 1) Responsibility, 2) Excellence 3) Learning, 4) Service, 5) Respect, 6) Order, 7)Truth.
When it comes to service to others, we address two aspects:
1) No matter how little you have, you always have something to give.
Many of our students come from very challenging backgrounds. This is why our ministry is here and why we have developed programs to serve them. When you don't have 2 cents to rub together, it's easy to adopt the mindset that you can't do anything for anyone.
We work on challenging that notion by helping them understand that they don't need money to help others.
We teach them that there is a multitude of ways they can serve others that are both tangible and intangible. They can give their time to help others, and we provide opportunities for them to serve each other in our center. More advanced students regularly help instruct, mentor, and tutor new students. Work, they can give to others by using their physical abilities to help. We have a cleaning schedule in our center where all the students take turns cleaning the facilities. Students also volunteer with maintenance on the facility when we need to paint or make improvements.
2) Serve others as you would be served.
Through our Bible studies and classes, we teach our students to reflect on the deeper aspects of their interactions with others. We help them understand what they want and need in life and encourage them to think about how others might have those same needs.
All of our students attend our program because of the donations and generosity of others. Helping them understand that they can participate in our program because someone else is serving them, lays the groundwork for challenging them to do the same for others.
The Christian faith is something we study and learn from God's Word, but ultimately it has to become a part of us so that it is something we live out. Some would say that missions is the lifeblood of the church.
When we act out our faith to others, it has the power to make it come alive for ourselves.
We knew early on in our ministry that if we wanted our students to take the things we were teaching seriously, then we had to provide opportunities for them to do what we were teaching.
Last year several of the youth at our San Jose Pinula center had the opportunity to participate in a local mission trip hosted by Identify, one of our ministry partners. They traveled to a rural village and spent a week doing Vacation Bible School with children who lived there.
It was a wonderful occasion for them to go from being served to serving, from receiving to giving. Over the years, they have all experienced many mission teams who visited and did events for them. Now they had the chance to do for others what so many had done for them.
They returned energized and ethnized, which led to the youth group organizing a local service activity last Christmas. With encouragement from our staff, they prepared a Christmas party for the elderly at a senior center in their town complete with food, games, songs, and a Christmas message. They made a powerful impact in the lives of others and were inspired to find ways to serve.
When the Covid-19 crisis came to Guatemala, the families we serve were among the hardest hit. Many of them struggle to get by in the best of times. Most are day laborers who work in the informal economy, and the money they make every day is what they use to feed their family.
With quarantines in place, businesses shut down, no public transportation, and no way to make money, many people started to go hungry.
Thanks to many generous donations, we have been able to give Emergency food bags to the families of our students.
Reaching Out To The Community
While serving the students' families in our centers was our primary focus, we knew that there were many people in need. We felt especially burdened for the elderly, infirm, and disabled in our communities.
As a ministry funded entirely through donations, we have a tight budget and limited staff who are very busy. They didn't have the time to seek out those in need.
Stepping Up To Serve
In talking with our staff, the idea came up to ask our students for help. They were the ones who had been laying the groundwork in the students' lives over the past years. They were the ones who had facilitated the local outreaches done by the students, and they believed that if given the opportunity, the youth in our program could help us with this.
We let the students and parents know that we had extra emergency food bags for people in dire situations, and asked that if they knew of anyone, would they be willing to help by delivering food to them?
It was amazing to see them step up. Students were not only willing; they were excited and enthusiastic about serving.
We instructed them in proper safety procedures, ensured they had masks and gloves and gave them the food bags.
The stories they came back with were fantastic.
Stories From Our Students
“My name is Beverly. I visited an older woman, her name was Juana Antonia Ramírez, and she was 80 years old. She lives in a simple house that she rents. It is hard to find work at her age. She learned long ago to trust God and that he would provide for her. One of the things that made her the saddest is that the churches are closed. She has great faith in God and knows that he will provide for her, just like he did with the food bag we brought her.”
“I delivered a bag to a lady named Ester Concua. She is a 74 year old widow and has a son with special needs. She is ill, has an infection on her leg, which prevents her from walking well. I had seen her several times on the street and wanted to help her, but I didn't know how to. When the Cadanino ministry asked for help with identifying people in need in our community, I volunteered to bring a bag to Ester. I also took the time to read the Bible with her, and we read some Psalms. She told me that they had no food and was very thankful.”
“I went to visit a lady named Marta de Tepas. Her and her husband sell small bags of garden soil in front of their house. But these days, with the crisis, no one is buying anything, so they don't have any money. When I visited with them, I asked them if they wanted me to read to them from the Bible, they said yes, and we read Psalm 112.”
“My name is Byron, and I brought a bag of food to the family of Elvia Hernández. When I was passing her house, I saw a white flag on her door. There is a crisis in Guatemala. When people put a white flag on their door, it is because they are desperate for help. When we went inside, I saw that she was a very old lady and had a lot of needs. I gave her the food, prayed with her, encouraged her, and we read the Bible.”
From Lili, coordinator at the San Jose Pinula Center.
“This week we delivered bags of groceries to all the families at the Cadaniño center where I work.
These families are going through a tough time.
We knew that there were people in our community who were in need and decided to ask the teenagers in our youth group to help.
They were excited to serve others in this way, and joyfully picked up bags of food that they brought to people in need.
They truly understood what it means to serve others. For me, it was beautiful to see that all the Word of God which I have been sowing into them all these years, is coming alive.
I am very grateful to be a part of this ministry and thankful for all who help make it possible.”
Service To Others Is Service To God
When you understand that your salvation, your redemption, your eternal life is predicated on the fact that it was Christ’s death on the cross that saved you and that it was not made possible through your works or your effort, you can't help but be grateful.
But what do you do with that gratitude? You show it in your actions to the one to whom you are grateful. The way that Jesus instructs us to do this is by service to others.
Matthew 25:40 says, "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
When we serve those in need, it is as though we are serving God.
It is a proper understanding of the Gospel and an acceptance of the fact that God has done for us that which we cannot do for ourselves, that propels a follower of Christ to live out their love for God through service to their fellow man.
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