To serve God means to serve where God has placed me and to see my circumstances as his direction for me. Many times I think I have orchestrated my own steps but in reality God has done so and his purposes are always many-fold.
I have had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador over the past several years and have experienced how ENLACE purposes to bring economic and spiritual renewal to communities through the presence and work of the local Church. The foundation of which comes through the cultivation of relationships that are based on the love of our neighbor as ourselves.
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If you have had the opportunity to serve on a short term mission trip you may have experienced the wonderful excitement of helping build a home or a stove, or of bringing the gospel message to someone who has never heard. But you may also have experienced another phenomenon: the ease of loving the far-off neighbor compared to the struggle to reach out to the near neighbor you see every day.
This past summer our church held a community bike give-away. As the day of the event was approaching I began to give myself excuses for not participating. It was a Saturday, my only “day to myself.” The weather was beautiful, and I wanted to sit outside to read and relax. I chose to go ahead and go. Where was the excitement I had during the many mission trips to El Salvador? Why was this such a chore, while busting up rocks on a road of a small village in El Salvador was not?
The answers to these questions are complex and probably different for different people. But as the event played out it was evident to me that God’s desire to bring people near to him is ever present. And that his desire to draw others to himself is equal to his desire to draw me to himself. I experienced that day something I may not have experienced thousands of miles away. I felt his presence in me to love my near neighbor. I entered into God’s love for the people I saw that day. And because it was not something that originated in me, I also experienced it toward me.
We had some wonderful interactions with people in our community that day. And as an added bonus, I met two young men who worked at a local restaurant; one from Guatemala and the other from El Salvador. They had recently arrived in the U.S. and were in need of bikes to get to and from work. I was able to converse with them in Spanish about our church and our involvement with ENLACE. Later when we went to the restaurant where they worked I gave them a Spanish-English Bible.
God changes the course of the lives around us as well as the course of our own soul. I love that he is a God who never changes but never wants us to remain the same.
Opportunities to love my far neighbor are few and far between, albeit precious and inspirational. But when I struggle to love my near neighbor, he still loves through me…and he also loves me.
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