By Jane Horvath
I have had the opportunity, privilege really, to go on several mission trips. One trip was to a school in Jamaica where we were involved in their ongoing building program. Construction is not my forte. However, we were bringing most of our own food for the trip and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for our group was part of our responsibility. Now, cooking for groups was an area of expertise for me!
Part of our planning responsibilities was making menus and gathering as much food and dry goods as we could prior to our trip. I reached out to the director of the food services at the school cafeteria associated with our church with the hope of getting some donations. The director was very helpful, but there was one problem: She wanted to donate a big, industrial-size can of baked beans. I HATE BAKED BEANS. I could not think of any reason why we should bring this giant can of beans. After all, probably many people felt the same way as I did, and it was going to be hot (really hot). Why would anyone want hot beans after working in the heat all day long? Moreover, do we really want people eating beans when we are sharing our bedrooms with up to six people?
Well, guess what? I did end up reluctantly bringing the can of beans. I was not planning on opening the can and cooking them. I figured I would leave them with the missionaries to dispose of as they saw fit — through their stomach or in the garbage. At least I did what I was supposed to do — bring the beans.
As we were unpacking the groceries, the missionary saw the beans and exclaimed, “Those are my favorite beans, and I have not had any in the five years since I have been here.” THAT was the reason I was supposed to bring the beans. Serving can be difficult in America, but it can be even more difficult in another country. Isolation and feeling as if God does not remember who you are can be a lie we hear and believe.
It was obvious God knew the missionary well and used a willing participant (the cafeteria director) and an unwilling participant (me) to bring His gift of love to this missionary. I do not think we ate the beans that week, I cannot remember. But I do remember being thankful that I brought the beans even though I did not want to do it. God knows exactly what can encourage us and often he uses us, willing or not, to encourage others.
It should be with us all year,… but it isn’t….it’s brought to the forefront of our minds around this time each year… “It” is the idea of what’s truly important.
For a brief moment in our otherwise hectic year, we pause momentarily to think about others. It seems that we tend to spend more time than usual thinking of our friends and our loved ones. Somehow, amidst the hustle and bustle of commercialism, we actually stop – albeit it briefly – and focus on the value and meaning of the relationships that are the closest to us – the ones within the context of our conscious world.
But what about the relationships to our family as the Body of Christ? What about our call to take care of the needy and the downtrodden among us?
“For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11.
How are we associating value to those relationships? ARE we associating value to those relationships? Have we become so involved in our own lives that we are desensitized to the needs of others around us….the needs of people we don’t even know?
When is the last time that you thought about the needs of someone not immediately related to you …..Someone that you don’t even know? Many of us think we can’t “afford” to give money – we’re barely making ends meet in our own families. I think we’re missing the point if that’s the stance we take. One of the most valuable things you have is your time. When is the last time you volunteered your time to help someone in need? When is the last time you used your spiritual gifts to serve others in a ministry? Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? They aren’t for you – they are for other people. They may be for people you don’t even know personally….yet.
The bible tell us that we are called to be “salt” and “light.”
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
As such, we need to set the example of giving and caring for others. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It can be a gift of our efforts or of our time. In many cases, that means more to the person on the receiving end anyway. In any case – it means getting beyond ourselves and sometimes out of our comfort zone to realize we are part of a larger family – the Body of Christ.
“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” Acts 20:38
If you haven’t “given” in this type of manner, I encourage you to do so. The feeling you’ll have afterward is indescribable. The reward you receive isn’t temporal – it’s far greater. You are doing what you’re called to do as a child of the most high God. You’re following the example set before you by Christ, himself.
What one thing can you do, this month, to give back to your community and to those around you in need? How will YOU choose to be Salt and Light?