Sep 23, 2009

Sacrifical Service

I was blown away by the love and kindness shown by a volunteer recently. Let me tell the story of a day in ministry with the help of "Mary". I met Mary at one of my speaking engagements. Afterwards, she approached me and said, "I am so impressed by the activity of Street Youth Ministry. I wish I could help, but I've recently lost my job." Mary is in her early to mid-twenties so I don't imagine that she has much to fall back on. When she said, "I don't even had room in my budget to buy sandwiches for your kids," I believed her.

However, some time later, Mary contacted me again. "I want to do something for Street Youth Ministry." I asked her about what she liked to do and among the list was working in Photoshop. I had a project of redoing my ministry brochure that I was looking for help with. She took the task. Somehow in the process of reading the materials and the blogs, something must have happenned. Because the next thing I knew, I had an email that said, "I'm bringing over sandwiches tomorrow." I was ecstatic I didn't have a volunteer for that day and hadn't for a little while. I was not looking forward to making sandwiches myself yet again. And the kids were a little tired of my hurried and sad attempts at making yummy sandwiches.

When Mary arrived, I was struck nearly speechless. Mary had baked three loaves of bread that day to make sandwiches with. And because the first ones didn't sliced well, she had baked three more. And to cut down on cost and increase quality, she had baked and sliced by hand a ham instead of using lunch meat. So I was looking into a bag of delicious baked ham and cheese sandwiches with homemade bread. Wow! And naturally, things had not gone easy for Mary. I believe she had spent the better part of the day doings this. (I remember my granny teaching me that baking in high humidity conditions is tough.)

The next day at Bible study, there were ten street youth there. I lost no time in telling them the story of how the sandwiches had come to be, "These are a true gift of love from a young Christian woman, just a little older than you. She didn't know at first how to find enough money to help you out because she lost her only job a little while back. But she had found a way!" One young man was so taken with the homemade bread and fat slides of ham that even the cheese seemed estraordinary. He said, "Wow! This cheese isn't like anything you can buy at the store! This is amazing!" I didn't dissuade him of the notion that the loving volunteer might have had cows in her backyard and made the cheese with her own hands, too! They were loving the message that they mattered so much to this young Christian woman who also had no job and not many extra resources.

We went on to cover the first half of Mark 14. This is for me the most pivotal moment in the Bible and in my faith life. It's the moment in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus chose to submit to God's will to be the sacrificial atonement for my sins, the sins of Mary, YOUR sins, and the sins of the street youth. It was a disturbing moment for Jesus. But he submitted: "Not my will, but yours," He said to God.

I explained to the kids that I live my life in response to that moment so long ago. I know that I will be in heaven one day and I know that if I turned my back on God I would spend eternity somewhere else. But this outcome of heaven or hell isn't what drives me. When I get to heaven I may find myself saying, "Wow! This is amazing and beyond my wildest dreams! What was I talking about in that blog back in 2009?" But for me today, it amazes me that Christ did this awe inspiring thing for me in the garden the night before he was killed, taking on all my sins, risking knowing all my darkest moments intimately. That's right, Jesus knows exactly how black my heart has been when I was doing that worst, unspeakable, terrible things. There's no hiding it, no sugar coating it, and no avoiding it. And he took that on with no protection from harm and no guilt of his own, even to the point of dying a shameful, cruel, and demeaning death on a cross that He had done nothing to deserve. And then he made my sins all go away on Easter morning. I try to live my life in response to that love. I try to show that love to the street youth.

Thank you Mary for showing that same love to me and to the street kids with your sacrificial service. It was noticed, and it really mattered!