I work at a local restaurant in my small town in Missouri. I just recently took off a week of work to go on a service trip with a youth group that I’ve been with for seven years. A man at the bar heard me talking to my boss about taking a week off and asked where I was going. I began to explain to him that I was going to Little Rock, Arkansas to help some people there that are less fortunate than us. His immediate response was, “Well that sure doesn’t sound like a vacation to me.” It’s not a vacation. It’s not just a week off of work. It’s not more service hours to record on my resume. It’s not an excuse to go on a trip to a different state.
It’s about being a witness, a witness for Christ. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) We are called to live for others, just as Christ did for us when He was on earth. He preached, He served, and He loved every person that He walked by, even when they were less fortunate than Him.
How Am I A Witness For Christ?
Personally, I have a few stories of how I strive to let Christ’s light shine through me. I’d like to focus on the service trips that I’ve been going on for the past few years.
My youth group puts on an annual mission trip each summer and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to go on five throughout my high school/college career. I got involved with the Vincentian Marian Youth organization when I began high school and my first service trip was before my junior year. Now, I am a soon-to-be junior in college, and I’m still able to be a witness to Christ’s compassion through this service.
Service: More Than Just Manual Labor
“We came to work,” they said. “We came to build a house,” they said. “We came to better the community,” they said. All of these statements are correct. We did go on this trip to work, to build a house, to better the community. The work is hard. This year I was on a work site where we had to take off an old roof and put on a new one. 90 degree weather on a roof with no shade – now that was hard work. All of the other work sites that I’ve worked on in previous years were just as difficult: totally making over a house only with the material we had, scraping and painting ceilings, cleaning up weeds and poison ivy from a yard, emptying out an old building that had to be renovated, or working in a soup kitchen. All of these jobs came with manual burdens.
But did that stop us from getting the job done? Did Moses give up when Pharaoh told him no? Did early Christians stop worshiping the Lord even when they were being persecuted? Of course not!
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
There was so much more to these mission trips than manual labor. In addition to our work, we participated in formation each night. We were able to share our faith with each other through talks and small groups. This formation allowed us to go out the next day on our work sites and really work for the Lord. We were each individually called to be witnesses of Christ. We were called to be examples of Christ’s light for others. God is victorious, and it’s our job to be His instruments. We are called to turn away from our burdens and needs and live for others. Through these service trips, the Lord allowed me and my peers to serve people with broken houses, broken families, and broken hearts. And what an amazing gift that was. Let us all deny ourselves and put others first – all to glorify the Lord.
How Can YOU Be a Witness for Christ?
“But what can I do? I’m just one person. Whatever I do won’t actually matter. Someone else can do it.” I find myself thinking and saying this kind of stuff all the time. But sometimes you need to just step back from your doubts and see what you actually can do in your community. I’ve come up with a list of ten easy ways to serve others. If you wanted the answers to your doubts about what you can do for others, then here they are:
- Work at a local soup kitchen.
- Invite a friend or two to pray outside of an abortion clinic with you.
- Work at your local St. Vincent de Paul Society – they always need help organizing food.
- Go through your closet and donate some of your clothes to Goodwill.
- Get involved in a local youth group and see if they offer any service trips.
- Post about your faith on social media – be a witness! Proclaim your faith!
- Volunteer to help at your parish.
- Work at Vacation Bible School – show our younger generation how you glorify Christ.
- Offer up a Rosary for someone who is homeless, for an unborn child, for someone doubting their faith, or for someone who is ill.
- Let go of yourself and let God work through you; be His instrument.
“Lord, Your summons echoes true when You but call my name. Let me turn and follow You and never be the same. In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show. Thus I’ll move and live and grow in You and You in me.” (“The Summons,” by John L. Bell)