I will never forget. It was my first year of Bible college at what was then Northwest Bible College (now Vanguard College) in Edmonton, Alberta. It was also my first time ever being anywhere except Newfoundland. As part of our studies, we were each put in something called mentoring groups. A professor would lead the group and we would get together once a week to chat, pray, or like we did quite often, eat. I enjoyed mentoring group and enjoyed the people I got to hang out with each week.
Another yearly event that took place at our college was Service Day. Mentoring groups would get together and go to homes, churches, businesses and in my case in this first year, a homeless shelter called “Hope Mission”. Needless to say, this would be a day I wouldn’t soon forget.
After cleaning the common room, which at one point I am sure had white walls yet were a dingy, light yellow shade from the tons of tobacco that clung to them, to scrubbing mats and serving lunch, the thing that has been burned into my memory about this day was a simple conversation.
A man approached me to talk. He was clean cut and looked healthy. Once we got to talking I asked him if he was a worker there only to be told that he lived there and was working on getting back on his feet. This man had a wife and a great career. But due to some bad choices, he found himself left with nothing. He didn’t choose the path that he went down, but he ended up there anyway. This conversation was just what I personally needed to realize just how blessed I am and how much I need to consider those around me who are less fortunate or are who I sometimes call the forgotten.
Forgotten by society, government and sadly, most of the time, the church. From the perspective of a youth pastor I look at an event like YC. YC does so much for the less fortunate. It is a great even that I support and love. But I have been led to think about how much time, energy and money gets put into this event by youth groups and churches. This isn’t a knock on YC, in fact, this really has nothing to do with the event. I am just using this as one example.
We focus so much of our resources on going to this event that really is all about us. I wonder if we would be as efficient if the work we did gave nothing in return? I am troubled by the attitude that always asks “what am I going to get out of this?” What if all we got in return was a sore back from lifting boxes of food at our local food bank? What if all you heard from this was the simple thank you from the single mom you delivered groceries to? Shouldn’t that be enough? Why must we always have to be rewarded for acts of service?
My prayer is that I would be more than satisfied with “thank you.” That I will always thank God for the amazing things he has blessed me with and continues to bless me with each day and realize that receiving shouldn’t be what drives me to do good. Giving is what must drive us to fulfill God’s initiative.
What this man gave me was a sense of reality. A sense that when we serve people and see them turn their lives around we are doing what Christ has asked of us. I am thankful for this experience and although I don’t know what happened to this man from that point on, I am grateful for the lesson he taught me.