I feel a lot of guilt about my failure to get out and serve in the community more. Social missions are very important to me--namely, issues of poverty, hunger, homelessness, people's lack of access to affordable health care, etc. I try to put my money where my mouth is in supporting ministries focused on those causes, and politically, I vote and advocate in ways that I feel benefit those Jesus called the "least of these." But I feel negligent in not putting more of my time and physical energy toward those causes.
The lure of my family and home are so strong (and my free time so limited) that I have trouble committing to any regular volunteer schedule. Just as I try to give to those who beg from me on the street, I try to say "yes" when invited to serve somewhere for just one period of time, without signing away my precious two evening hours of "Kate-time" on any long term basis. (I have come to understand in recent years why the Apostle Paul and the Catholic Church even today advocate singlehood for the most devoted servants of God!) But I know I am called to do more. I just don't know what.
Several months ago, I begged God to lay a mission opportunity in my lap, and promised to say "yes." Soonafter that, I heard about an opportunity to serve at a Costa Rican orphanage for a week, and I immediately responded to express my interest. As the trip planning progressed, however, things just didn't feel right and I backed out. (That is not to imply there is anything untoward about the organizers of that trip; I just wasn't feeling comfortable about it.) Though my concerns felt reasonable, after my prayerful promise, I felt like I was explicitly refusing God's call and proving myself a fraud.
A few weeks later, my boss (who would soon be leaving for another position) called me into his office and asked me to take over a project he'd been shepherding--the Find Your Way Home prison tour. I wrote about it here, when I designed a benefit concert poster for the tour. The tour visits women's prisons around the country, delivering a message of hope from author and Episcopal priest Becca Stevens and graduates of the Magdalene program, which helps former prostitutes and addicts recover and live a healthy and whole life. (Becca Stevens is an Abingdon author, and we are sponsoring the tour along with the Cal Turner Family Foundation, so that's why my boss was so actively involved in this.) Their message shares with incarcerated women two principles: "love is the most powerful source for social change, and women can begin to create their own communities of healing wherever they are." (Those are Rev. Stevens' words.) I had been interested in and envious of the opportunity my boss had to travel with this group and be a part of this amazing ministry since the tour began in January. And now, for the final two stops of the tour, I get to be part of it as well.
The first of those two is this coming weekend--when I would have been on that mission trip to Costa Rica.
We'll be in Houston, where Rev. Stevens will speak at St. John's Downtown Church (a United Methodist congregation led by Rudy Rasmus) and then she and the Magdelene women will speak at a nearby women's prison the next day. I'm told it will be an amazing experience and I'm excited to be a part of it.
In Sunday school a couple weeks ago, we were talking about the death penalty, and someone said "You know, we can talk about these issues theoretically all we want, but Jesus said we should be out visiting those in prison." And I thought "wow--I actually get to do that." It's harder these days than it was in the days of Jesus or even John Wesley to go into a jail and visit with prisoners. There is a lot of security clearance, etc. But I have the opportunity to go into prisons and bring comfort and hope to troubled women. True, my role is more organizational--I won't be speaking myself--but I still feel honored to be a part of it.
This week, I got another e-mail about an international mission opportunity--a trip to Mexico to work on sustainable agriculture and combat hunger and poverty in rural Mexico. "Could I, should I, sign up for that?" I thought, always feeling like I need to do more and put my principles into practice. (And wow, that sounds like an amazing ministry!) I looked at my schedule, though, and wouldn't you know...?
It is the same week as the other prison tour visit I get to be a part of--to Los Angeles in September.
I still feel called to be more hands-on in serving the poor, and hope I can find the personal motivation to sacrifice some of that precious family-time. But this opportunity for prison ministry and the coincidence of the dates of those mission trips I heard about helps me to relax a bit and trust more that God will guide me to the places I should be serving.
What causes and ministries do you feel most called to?
How do you find (or make) time to serve others amidst the other responsibilites of daily life?