Just a few weeks ago the Abante Team received the opportunity to serve at an event at one of the local private schools that doubles as a church in French Harbor. They asked us to come with a sermon prepared. Afterward, we would spend time with the teenagers and play games with them for about an hour. The description of what they wanted was simple and it was similar to the things that the team had done before so the preparation for it wasn’t a difficult thing.
When the team met to talk about the event and the different things the school had asked us to do, I made sure to keep the focus on the people rather than the tasks. I always want to be sure the team knows why we do what we do. Often when anyone does a lot of similar tasks they can begin to lose the heart behind the action themselves and just do things out of routine.
This is seen in any job, career, or lifestyle that involves repetition. One of the main things the colleagues learn in Abante is that “people matter most”. At the end of the day, we serve because it’s what Jesus displayed with his life; but more than that, we love the people that we’re serving and care for their individual needs.
On our way to the school, I found myself excited, not because I had a sermon prepared but because I knew that we were going to have an impact on the young people we would see that day. I decided to preach on the Good Samaritan. One of the needs of these young people was learning not to judge others based on where they were from or how they look. I shared that we should always be there for others even if we don’t normally associate with a “certain type” of person. The students really seemed to listen and enjoy the message.
After that, we all went outside where one of the colleagues, Gabriel Martinez lead us in games that they thoroughly enjoyed. Overall, the event had been a success and we felt good about all the things we did. Even after everything, the best thing we did was genuinely connect with the students and hold meaningful conversations.
It’s safe to say that if we’ve been walking with Christ long enough, we have all had moments of awestruck wonder of who he is and how he orchestrates situations in which we learn more about him through serving other people. There is this concept in the Bible that has been proven true time and time again in my own life: when we humble ourselves and serve people, we are serving God and drawing closer to him.
Through this simple event, we had the opportunity to build a lot of connections with students who desperately need people to pour into their lives. Many students don’t have aspirations for their future; some of them think they can’t be anything other than mediocre. God gave us the opportunity to truly talk and encourage a lot of the students with these issues.
We have had multiple opportunities to participate in this practice, whether it be church services, helping serve the poor, or just through helping different local organizations in the community. I am reminded of Matthew 22: 36-40 when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was in the law. There were over 600 laws to choose from, but Jesus summed all of them up with only two.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus was telling them that loving God is great and you should, however in this we must also remember to love people. We serve because it’s what we Jesus said to do, but it is also an overflow of the love we have for God. How often do we let our routines or busy schedules get in the way of serving people? How often do we ignore the opportunities we have to help guide and lead others?
In Abante, we don’t just do ministry from a stage or events that we plan, we intentionally go out of our way to learn people’s names and stories. It is in this that we truly learn that “people matter most” and it is in this that we find God speaks to us in others stories.