Mother Teresa is an iconic figure of what sacrificial, servanthood looks like. Even she recognized that it was not her love and her service but God’s through her. At first, I assumed God would give me strength and that his love would show through me automatically, and that I wouldn’t need to seek Him.
While reading Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin, I became excited for this awe-inspiring rush of God’s love to fill me and pour out of my work. Did you catch that? My work. This things I was going to do. The diapers I would change. The mouths I would feed. The good deeds I would do. It was going to be about what I would bring to offer.
On my first day of serving, I was handed a baby boy, who was about a year old. He was unresponsive to words or touch, but his eyes scanned the roof and never made eye contact. After prayer, the volunteers sang Jesus Loves You to the children and listened to worship music. I rocked the little boy I was holding and I prayed that God would help me love this boy. I prayed that God would be the one serving, not I.
After 45 minutes his hands began to reach for mine and squeeze them slightly.
I had prayed that God would show this little boy how much he was loved. And I believe God did. It was amazing to see God’s love everywhere I looked. I completely believe that it is because the sisters are continually in prayer with each child or person they serve. They ask God how he wants to love the person they are focused on.
God worked through my disobedience, He worked through my wandering heart. But it does not give me the right to justify walking away from His presence and expecting God to still work.
Our service time in Chiang Mai, Thailand included aiding a local church and school with their building project. Promise Lutheran Church is partnering with local people to build dormitories for low-income students so that they can attend the schools in the city. The ATW II team brought both the resources and the laborers in order to complete the first stage of this building project. Robyn explains what we had done so far on that first day.
Before serving alongside the Missionaries of Charity at Mother Theresa’s House in Kolkata, India, I did not fully understand what the meaning of service was. If someone were to ask me what it means to serve I would say it is a selfless act of love shown to others, but I did not fully understand this concept until now. I had the opportunity to serve at Prem Dan, which is the home of the disabled, handicapped, and mentally ill elderly women. I was finally able to understand what service really meant through this experience.
While we were in India we read “Finding Calcutta” by Mary Poplin for our Service Learning Practicum class. I found a lot of correlation with the book and my time of service in the home. Poplin, says, “It is a very different task to bathe a soiled adult when you see him as Christ than if you are simply cleaning someone for your job.” This was something that I constantly reminded myself of when I was serving at Prem Dan. God was standing right next to me the entire time. It was more than just washing clothes, feeding someone, or helping them go to the bathroom. I would look at them and see Jesus, and that is something that I had never done before. Looking into the eyes of the women, I realized that God sent us to simply care for them and show them His love. Ephesians 6:7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” This is commanded to us by God and was lived out by Mother Theresa. What great examples for us to look to for our own lives.
I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been able to serve at Prem Dan. I am not proud to say that it took something like this to make me realize this and open up my eyes. God sent me to Kolkata to strengthen my abilities and knowledge in how to love and serve others. I realize now that true service is displaying the love of Christ that he shows to us every day and letting that resonate through our being. Prem Dan tore down every wall of pride that I entered with, which is completely and radically different from my day-to-day life. “The more we empty our focus on ourselves, the more he can fill us.” – Mother Theresa. I experienced what it was like to be totally emptied and filled up with Christ.
Our time in Vietnam included working with the local commune leaders on a drainage system near the local health clinic. In the village of Phu Tho, the local government leaders were very welcoming and excited for us to work alongside them for this project. Students mixed cement and placed it where the trench was being built. Other students dumped dirt into the stagnant water, slowly soaking the water up and eliminating the mosquito-filled pond.
ATW II trench digging
At first, our project seemed mundane, even self-defeating. What happens when the drainage trench clogs? Why are we moving this dirt by hand when a tractor could accomplish the task in five minutes? We began to see, however, that our service project had less to do with the project and more to do with the people. We were able to work alongside them and to show them that we cared about them. We were able to tell them about ourselves and why we had come thousands of miles to mix cement with them. It was an amazing time to realize that we have not come to accomplish projects, but to love the people that we meet.