Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Jesus, The Louvre, Paris
My wife and I volunteered to participate in a community mission effort a number of years ago. We gathered as a group in our church Fellowship Hall and were given an assignment for the day to make a difference in our community. And before we all departed, our Bishop gave us a rather daunting instruction. We were challenged to “see Jesus along the way”. We ended up working with a retired law officer who was trying to offer after school assistance to elementary school children. He had received a large number of books from a major school supply company that desperately needed to be organized. In the course of spending the day with this man, we got to know him better and understand that his heart was in the right place, but his resources were woefully lacking. When the kids arrived later, he slipped outside and grilled hamburgers for them on a small charcoal grill and he prepared steaks for us. When we returned to our church for a debriefing, I was able to confirm that we had indeed seen Jesus that day in the form of a man that had seen too much suffering and pain in his career and sought to do something positive about it at its core.
Now that I’m retired, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer in the same area with a more organized national mission staffed and funded by our church. There has been some concern that we aren’t working with an elementary school that’s close to our campus. But in checking, the school where we are currently volunteering is only three miles from there. Perhaps one day we can do both. There seemed to be a bit of divine guidance that led us to this place. Our Vision Team is reviewing the demographics of an area that is within an eight mile radius of our campus. The school is in an area where over ninety percent of the students qualify for free lunch. The racial diversity in the school is quite varied, including us. We work with a coordinator who genuinely cares for these kids with hugs and tough love. We help with homework and reading, go to the gym and computer lab, and send them home after serving a warm dinner. Volunteering in my wife’s middle school Media Center gave me a great appreciation for how critical it is for these students to arrive from elementary school with a proficiency in reading. Without this critical skill, they are at a severe disadvantage in all classes and many become the frustrated distractions that also deprive the other kids of a quality education.
I wouldn’t normally have any contact with children in this school if it weren’t for this volunteer work. I get a few stares when I drive through the neighborhood. One of the criticisms of today’s churches is that their vision can’t see past their buildings. Too many focus on luring people to where they are instead of reaching people where they already are. Sending checks to those in need is very important as money makes things happen. But there’s no telling what positive effect it has on folks when they catch a glimpse of Jesus through other people. God actually appeared to his chosen people in the Old Testament in various forms and in human flesh in the New Testament, but today His work is mostly accomplished through you and me.
I had been helping a young second grade boy with reading a Christmas book and another about a pig that outfoxed a fox. He actually didn’t need much assistance except for just a few foreign words. When a woman with similar features appeared to pick up one of the children, I noticed that the boy was gathering his backpack and putting on his winter coat. So I approached her and mentioned that he had done a very good job of reading two books to me today. She asked if I was from the church and I acknowledged that I was. She then thanked me for helping her family have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with the donations that had been sent home with every child before the school break. Her eyes revealed a true sincerity. Without giving my response much thought I mentioned that it was all in the spirit of Christmas and it was a two way street. I had experienced a much better holiday season this year because we were able to provide the interaction, presents and food. And it was especially gratifying to observe that this woman was able to see Jesus through the efforts of the people at our church.