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