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The Challenge

Serving Others Isn’t Always Easy

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Over the past six years, the Adventist community of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has partnered with local businesses to serve homeless veterans. Several of the local Adventist churches organize an annual event called "Veterans Stand Down" which takes place every fall. The group provides meals, dental work, clothes, foot washing, and several other veteran services. Last year, I volunteered to give haircuts. This reminded me of an experience I had in 1998 while I was in Columbia working with a group of volunteer college students. Our volunteer group was called “Pro Amor” (Pro Love), and our mission was to show Christ’s love to the local homeless population through acts of kindness. One of the many services we provided was fire hydrant access for showering, and we also gave out soap, lice shampoo, and haircuts. I was part of the hair-cutting team and, because of prevalent lice problem, I had been instructed to tell everyone who wanted a haircut to wash their hair first with lice shampoo. 

A woman desperately asked me, “Young man, can you please cut my hair?” Nervously, I answered, “You need to wash your hair first and then wait in line.” Many others had already followed those instructions and had been anxiously waiting their turn. Due to the lice, most individuals wanted their hair cut short. So, when the women who tried to cut in line sat down in my chair, I assumed she wanted a short cut, too. I took a hold of her hair and started chopping away. Angrily, she stood up, took a swing at me, and yelled, “I just wanted a trim!” 

Serving others can often be challenging. Whether it is serving that neighbor who is not interested in connecting, or someone who truly needs help, it is hard to take that first step because a lot of the time we fear rejection or expect our acts to be grand, not realizing that it is the small ones that count. It is also challenging because we do not see it as selfless service. We often think, "What will I get out of it?" or "Will this help me get this person to go to church?" 

We often forget that getting people to go to church is not our ultimate goal. When God gives us opportunities to serve, instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” we should do it without conditions or expectations. True service is reaching beyond the comfort of our pews and doing the selfless work Christ has called us to do. Jesus’ life was one of unselfish service to humanity. He did not die to serve his own interests; He died because He loves us.

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