Over Christmas Break, I volunteered at a local elementary school where all children can receive a free lunch. My children came along. We helped with Christmas crafts and set up games for the families to play during the lunch hour.
There were many moms of all differing ages with children. We did not have volunteer shirts or name tags so I realized some of the moms thought I was there for the same purpose as them–getting a free lunch for my family (when in a way I was–my kids got a meal too). One mom tried to make conversation with me and asked if I enrolled my preschooler in Head Start or got on food stamps. I was very self-conscious. What if this mom found out I send my kids to a Lutheran school and I stay at home full-time because we can afford it? Would she still want to talk to me?
One of the other volunteers got out a box of Christmas gifts. I forewarned my children they might not get a gift. We were there to serve and we would let the other children pick first. That same mom who tried to make conversation with me took my oldest daughter by the hand and said, “Here, why don’t you pick out a gift?” My daughter glanced at me and I nodded. It was OK.
Serving is a two-way relationship. Last summer I wrote a news story about a youth group from New Mexico. Most of them live in the third poorest county in the United States. A group from a middle class suburban church here in Oregon did a mission trip to this area in New Mexico, formed relationships with the church, and invited the youth group to come to Oregon and serve in their church’s summer day camp. A partnership was established.
Often times we see the lower class as needy, useless, helpless, or without gifts. Yet many have willing hearts to serve. If we can lay aside our self-conscious feelings, racism, or judgements we can form a beautiful friendships. Our church is implementing this “mission partnership” with an inner city church in Philadelphia. I am thrilled to be a part of it and how God is going to use each of us in the process.