Last night, our Outreach Committee met for our monthly meeting. It was fairly typical, but something about it struck me differently than in months past. As we went around the table sharing what our various ministries have been up to, I was reminded again just how many opportunities there are to serve God’s people through St. Mark. There is always someone cooking massive meals, sewing quilts, selling school uniforms, and giving generously, and sharing God’s love with the community.
Whether through the church or on your own, it is pretty easy to find a hands-on service project which is all about getting work done. A goal is set, and you work as quickly as you can to meet it. How fast can a group of woodworkers build thirty-one step stools for the elementary school? How many bags of food or necessities can your team package in an hour? Can we decorate a Christmas tree with mittens for folks in need? These are all admirable tasks, and St. Mark people regularly jump at the opportunity to do a bit of busy work for the sake of others.
There is another style of service, though, that can take your compassion to another level. In many ways, it is simply an extension of the more active types of outreach. Some folks call it accompaniment ministry, though I am sure it goes by other names. Put simply, service projects can take on a whole new meaning when volunteers encounter the very folks they serve. Amateur carpenters work alongside future homeowners with Habitat for Humanity. At open laundry nights, Laundry Love volunteers load machines with quarters and soap as clients add their dirty clothes into the mix. And between all the working moments, those who serve and those who receive service have the opportunity to bond in indescribable ways. They form friendships, and they discover the presence of Christ in one another.
Accompaniment ministry can be difficult if you go into it hoping to complete a whole list of tasks. It takes patience, and it is far from efficient. At the same time, it can leave you with more than a fleeting sense of accomplishment. Like any service event, you may go in hoping to share God’s love with someone. But, those who have worked with groups like Laundry Love, our uniform Co-op, or Becca’s Closet have found that they have received more than they gave. When we work alongside God’s people, we are just as likely to be transformed as those we intended to serve. May you have such an opportunity to live into the good news of Christ’s love for all people.