Learning through Serving: Blessing Others and Your Kids
- Dena Wood Contributing Writer
- 2008 25 Sep
Do you love me? One can only imagine the number of times this question, as old as time itself, has passed over human lips. Even Jesus asked His disciple Peter three times in succession: “Do you love me? Do you truly love me?” Unlike the men, women, boys, and girls who ask this question today, Jesus did not seek affirmation of His own desirability, worthiness, safety, or security. When assured of Peter’s love, Jesus responded by requesting him to “feed my lambs . . . take care of my sheep . . . feed my sheep.” Our love for Christ is exemplified when we care for those who cannot care for themselves. The act of serving others is an act of worship and loving our Lord.
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is its flexibility. Not only do we have the benefit of teaching within our own time frame, but we also can teach (and learn) using a variety of methods. I prefer “Real Life” learning whenever possible, and service is an ideal example of that.
Last year, my seventeen-year-old son and I were blessed to participate in a weeklong mission trip to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico. Our group of about thirty individuals from several area churches consisted of adults and youths, approximately half youths, half adults. There were many parent/child teams (it was especially fun to see four of the men sharing the experience with their seventeen- and eighteen-year-old daughters), as well as a few youths and adults traveling independently.
Our main objective was to build a home for a young family. While we might consider an 11 x 22 cement-block structure to be nothing more than a bare-bones garage or storage shed, this humble abode would greatly enhance the living conditions of the family we served. We also were gifted with opportunities to work in a volunteer preschool and help with Bible studies and food delivery for local women and children, mainly Oaxaca Indians.
While we relished the experience of serving others in accordance with Jesus’ admonition, I think almost everyone in our group would agree that we were the ones who experienced the greatest benefit. Serving others, whether across the street, across town, or across the globe is a powerful and meaningful way to acquire life-changing knowledge and growth. In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I believe the word travel in the above quote could simply mean “moving out of one’s own comfortable station in life and into that of another.” Better yet, I think travel could be replaced with the word service and apply equally well. Below are just a few of the benefits of service.
Service helps clarify our value in the Body of Christ
In serving others, everyone is equal, and all are needed. I think it is important that our children realize that there is no age requirement for serving God, nor does a person’s age limit his impact. Even more importantly, youth does not exempt them from being an active part of the Body. Recognizing your place as an integral part of the Body of Christ is a powerful thing. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)
Service builds life skills
It’s hard to serve without doing something useful! Whether cooking, cleaning, teaching, building, sewing, or counseling, you’re bound to learn something. On this trip, both my son and I gained a good deal of knowledge about construction. My husband is quite pleased that we now know how to replace the crumbling brick wall in our basement! We also learned a bit about geography and agriculture in Mexico, experienced Mexican culture, and picked up a good deal of Spanish to boot.
Service builds relationships
A main highlight for my son was the time spent working, often one on one, with the other men on the trip. He was able to learn from, and work with, several godly men. Seldom in day-to-day life are there opportunities for sharing with one another the way we could share with one another during our time of service in Mexico. Sharing this experience with my son has deepened our relationship and our understanding of one another. After arriving home, a teenage girl commented how much she’d enjoyed getting to know her dentist. Though he’d been her dentist from the time she was a young child, she now knew him as a brother in Christ. Serving together brings unity and strength to the family and church.
Service offers us a changing perception of those who are “different”
Whether others are from a different country, a different social status, or a different family background, we learn to better understand how they think and live as we minister to them. We also recognize that while there are many differences between us, many needs are universal. We all have hopes, dreams, and fears, as well as basic physical needs. This understanding allows us to set aside fear and judgment and minister with love.
Service creates an appreciation of the blessings God has bestowed upon us
I must admit to experiencing some frustration over the fact that our dining room/living room floor has consisted only of sub-flooring for a number of years now. Living in a large fixer-upper, projects are completed based on priority. While I dream of lovely flooring (well, any flooring, really!), there always seems to be a more pressing need when money is available. However, after returning from Mexico, to my extremely large home complete with heat, refrigeration, and running water, I wouldn’t dream of complaining about my lack of flooring.
Service increases our desire for outreach and vision for missions
For years, our family has helped provide education and nutrition for children: one child through World Vision and another through Compassion International. While I appreciated the necessity for these children to receive an education, my level of understanding was greatly increased by working in the volunteer preschool at Casa Hogar. Attendance at the public schools entails costs of $300–$400 a year for books, uniforms, and supplies. Most of the children I worked with will likely be unable to attend school, since their parents make only about $10/day. When there are several children in the household, it is impossible for parents to send them to school; thus, their options in life are greatly limited.
The missionaries at Casa Hogar (www.welcomehomeoutreach.org) are in the process of setting up a sponsorship program to insure that their preschoolers can continue their education. In response, I feel compelled to visit churches and share their story, in hopes of finding sponsors or groups that are willing to support these children. As I picture the faces of the children I worked with, I am filled with a desire to do more than simply send a check. Each member of our group was touched by different experiences and different needs, but I’m sure we all came home wanting to be a more active part of the solution.
Service provides life-changing experiences for our families
Prior to making this trip, I was largely unaware of the ample opportunity for family missions, having heard only of excursions by either adults or youth groups. I was delighted, therefore, to realize that places like Casa Hogar are open to anyone wishing to serve, whether individuals, families, or groups. In fact, when interviewing our hosts for this article (see sidebar) they mentioned that they felt homeschooling families were especially well suited to serve in their program and had been praying about how to make themselves known to the homeschooling community. I anticipate returning to Casa Hogar in a few years, this time with my husband and three youngest children. I can’t think of a better homeschool vacation than sharing such a meaningful, potentially life-altering experience together!
Christ has called us to serve one another as an expression of our love for Him, and travel is not a requirement. Spend time serving alongside your children. Serve in your church, serve in a homeless shelter, serve in a nursing home, or serve in your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter where—just serve, and serve together.
Dena Wood (who, since this writing, has an actual floor in her home!) is a mother of five and homeschools with her husband, John, in eastern Washington state. Dena is a partner in Trigger Memory Systems, creators of Times Tales and the Clean N’ Flip. You can visit their website at http://www.TriggerMemorySystem.com, or email Dena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2008 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLc
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC
Reprinted with permission from the publisher