I think I was a child when I first began learning about serving others. My church had an organization called Girls in Action (GAs for you fellow Southern Baptists out there...), and we worked together to do mission projects for our community.
In junior high, I went on my first in-state mission trip with my youth group and loved the chance to work on a small construction project and help with Vacation Bible School.
In high school, a teacher encouraged us to begin building community service hours for our "resumes." Though I did work hard to earn hours, I always felt there was more to it than that.
I always felt such a joy while I was serving. Helping others and encouraging them was something that my heart was passionate about. It wasn't just to "get hours" or to "look good" on a resume...it was a way God was using me to share His love through actions.
During college, I attended First Baptist Church of Arakadelphia, Arkansas. They have always been a very mission-minded church - both home missions and foreign missions. But while I was there, they had an idea. Why not continue to focus on and support home and foreign missions....but bring missions to the community our church was in too?
And out of this desire to minister to the local community, Arms Around Arkadelphia was founded. It began with a few small projects around town doing minor repairs on some homes. Then it grew to a project through which every home in the community was provided with a set of batteries for their fire alarms.
This year two homes were repaired during the first weekend project in May, and five homes were repaired during the week-long June focus. Repairs included painting, rebuilding, roofing, plumbing, electrical work, gardening, sanding, moving, hanging cabinets, and much more. The motto became, "It's not a mission trip...it's a mission life!"
I think one of the things that touched my heart most was the variety of ages, skills, and work involved.
There were youth and young adults, senior adults, and children...all working together for the Kingdom of the Lord. (The precious picture above is our pastor's wife and her grand daughter, who had her own special pink rake...what a wonderful helper she was!) :)
We started every morning with a team devotion at our worksite. I enjoyed working alongside men and women who I had known before, and some who I had the blessing of meeting during the week. The sweet girl in the bottom picture is one of my favorite youth! I met her when she was in the children's choir I helped with at church in college. Now she has grown into a young lady with a beautiful heart that loves God above all else and longs to serve in missions as well.
There were so many jobs to be done throughout the week. Some people served on the prayer team. Some served in the kitchen, preparing the lunches and dinners we shared together each day at the church. Others brought popcicles and gatorade in the morning. (Our favorite crew! haha) Still others were the "go-fors" who drove from site to site and made trips to the hardware stores while others served by picking up loads of trash that gathered at each site.
Of course there was time for some fun too....and a little playing in the paint! :) You can see, we had lots to keep us busy!
Testing out the stepping stones by jumping back and forth was also an important job! :)
And of course we needed a video man to capture all the hard work and memories going on!
Being a part of this church in college was a tremendous blessing to me, and I still feel like I am going home when I visit there...almost like no time has gone by, and I'm just supposed to be there. I love each and every person I have grown to know there from children to adults to senior adults.
As I've been working on my application for the Journeyman overseas missions program, I have begun to really look deep into my heart. What makes me who I am? What are the passions God has given me, and how does He desire to use me? Maybe you have heard Christians talk about "spiritual gifts" before. I used to hear this term and wonder what kind of gift God had given me. But as I've grown as a Christian, I have begun to see the desire He has given me to serve and to encourage others. I also have compassion and a burdened heart for those who are hurting and in need of love. So I was not too surprised when I took a spiritual gift inventory and found these results...
God has gifted each of us in such unique ways, and it is through the mixture of all these abilities, desires, and passions, that He builds the church. I love knowing that there are so many different "parts" to the body of Christ, and that no matter what your gift, He will use it if you are only willing and ready.
How about you? What is your gift? Have you ever taken an "inventory?" I would love to hear about the unique ways God has made each of you and encourage you to take a closer look at your gifts! There are tons of resources to help with this, but I took a simple quiz I found through searching online.
So - here is another one of my summer adventures. And my heart has been overflowing with joy from serving since last week...thanks for letting me share that joy with you! By the way, I am still trying to get the paint out from under my fingernails, and yesterday when I was combing my hair, I found a few strands with paint in them! Gotta love taking the work with you, even a week later! :)
"Therefore, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for man." -Colossians 3:23
"Serve the Lord with gladness..." -Psalm 100:2