Being in God’s presence, for me, is like looking into a mirror so that I can remember what I really look like. Sometimes, a lot of times, I forget what I look like. I let people’s reactions (negative and positive) distort my personality into a caricature of itself. These versions of me are based in reality, in the same way cartoon caricatures resemble their model, but they still distortions of how God intended me to be. That is why being in God’s presence is integral to me, it grounds me in reality.
Recently, I was asked about the importance of service work. 8 months ago I would have answered completely differently than I would today. 8 months ago I thought the importance of service work was to make a dent in the world’s problems. I thought that my; education, money, and experience, would be a magic bullet to the world problems. I thought I would walk in any situation, see a problem and give a quick prognosis, like; “Oh what these people need is more education.” Through the blunt rebuking of Scott Kline’s famous “you aren’t going to solve their problems” speech, I have come to understand that the true gift of service work is not something you give to others, but rather it is something you received from others. The importance of service work is the importance of seeing yourself as you were intended to be.
Let me give you an example. I did not like going to the working center. I had to get up early, take the city bus, go downtown (an area I have never been comfortable with), and work with people I would normally have tried to avoid eye contact with. To make matters worse, I only had the skills to do medial work (something I have always viewed as degrading to my pedigree). Then, one day as I was stripping down a bike, a impoverished looking mother came in with the cutest little girl the world has seen. The women asked which one was her’s, my boss pointed out a child’s bike amongst a stack of repaired bikes. The little girl rushed to the bike with an exuberance that would be lost with maturity. Suddenly, her smile dropped from her face as she asked a question, “mommy how much is it?” By the way her smile dropped I knew that question’s answer had been the dead end to too many of this young girl’s hopes and aspirations. My boss chimed in, “its free”. The girl turned with shining eyes and repeated his words in disbelieve, “free?!” That moment affected me in way that only engaged service work can. Initially I had been judgmental toward the less than coordinated mother (after all she had a unkempt mullet!). To me she was a result of series of poor life choices. Through that little girl however, God reached down and touched my soul. He warmed my heart to a family I would have secretly judged. He showed me the man I had forgotten I was. That family’s problems will not be solved through receiving a child’s bike. Over time I will again forget what I look like. That being said, it is wrong to believe that that moment of grace did not hold significance to it. For that one moment, everyone in the room remembered exactly who God had intended them to be, and for me that is the importance of service work.
If I were only interesting in making the biggest difference in the third world, I would not visit it. It would be a lot more efficient to do what the third world is famous for, out sourcing. Honestly, by going to these places we are providing our countries with the one thing they already have an abundance of, cheap labor. Simply stated, for the amount of money being spent to send me to Ghana I could higher two people that could stay there 4 times as long. making the biggest difference in Ghana is not the point of my service work there, however. The importance of my service work through beyond borders is the restoration of a small piece humanity. To immerse myself so far into the man God has intended for me to be, that it sticks with me. This sounds selfish, but I do not view it as such. The world can only benefit from having someone conceptualize and actualize what it means to be fully human.