On Sunday night I joined a group of volunteers from Aldersgate to prepare bologna sandwiches and serve dinner to the homeless in D.C. We packed up brown bag lunches, pasta, and hot tea before we headed north.
There are two locations in where dinner was served. At the second location a woman approached me and one of the youth who I was serving with, Anna. She handed us each a small clementine orange. Thinking nothing of it, I put the orange in my pocket and returned to distributing bagged lunches. The woman returned a few minutes later handing out cucumbers. I thought “ok, this is a little weird”. Then I looked over at Anna, we exchanged a smile and returned to our work.
Finally, the woman returned a third time and handed each of us, all of the volunteers, a Thanksgiving greeting card, and this is when I took a moment to pause.
I looked over at Anna and said, “did you ever think we would find the Gospel in a clementine, cucumber, Thanksgiving card, and bologna sandwich?” Anna responded with her signature smile and returned to dishing out pasta.
It is easy to say that we see the face of Christ, or experience the presence of God while serving a stranger. It is even easier when that stranger is homeless or lives in poverty. But what happens when the roles are reversed, when we lower our guard enough to allow ourselves to be served? This is exactly what Anna and I experienced on Sunday evening. The simple act of handing me a greeting card turned the tables, Anna and I went from being the ones serving to the one served.
Mark 10.45 says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. So in this instance, through the reversal of roles neither Anna nor I would not have predicted, we found Christ in the face of woman, a stranger, as well as a clementine, a cucumber, and greeting card.
Implications for Youth Ministry
There are certain things that can be taught in a classroom. We can teach the the foundations of Christian faith with relatively no problem. We can play games, enjoy fellowship, and pray with one another without ever leaving the confines of our churches or homes. But to experience Christ, to experience Christ through another person we have to get out of comfortable youth rooms. Anna and I would have never experienced this form of grace had we been hunkered down in our church.
To experience the world through the eyes of teens we have to be with them. Whether that is visiting a football game or serving alongside them. Here is where we have the ability to not only show them what the face of Christ looks like, but we also have the opportunity to experience it with one another.