Albert Lawundeh, TSE photographer

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Servanthood & Thoughts about Sierra Leone….(the state of affairs on 2/23 at 6:15 p.m.)

by Mary Marshall, guest blogger

First of all, a bit of background on me: I’m a completely self-centered traveler. So, you may ask, why exactly are you going as a member of a team on a mission trip to work with a bunch of kids? Indeed, that is an excellent question. I love to travel and have been loads of really interesting places, but I always have an agenda (although part of my agenda is to schedule time not to have an agenda) and it’s usually (okay, always) about fulfilling my own desires. Point being, in traveling to Sierra Leone in this particular fashion, I’m out of my element.

How did I end up in this state of affairs? Well, after hearing about my good friend Laura’s experiences and at her request (seeing as she’s team leader this time), I applied for this trip. Somewhat to my dismay, I was accepted! Immediately, my thoughts turned to me (surprise, surprise): What if people snore? I wonder if they have Diet Coke? Will I be able to take naps? Will there be time to read my novel? What touristy activities can I do while I’m there? Can I get away with not wearing a name-tag? Are we going to have to stick together in the airport? How can I avoid being labeled as a loud American if I’m with this group?

After confessing my issues to a pastor friend, I suggested that really it’s a total joke that I would even pretend to be a missions-minded individual interested in bettering the welfare of those who are less privileged than myself. Vicki, in turn, suggested that maybe there is nothing wrong with part of my motivation being just wanting to go to Sierra Leone and that, in fact, I might find that I was getting blessed rather than being the one to do the blessing. And, after all, who do I think I am to consider myself more privileged than another? (Although Vicki didn’t actually say this last part, she probably should have).

As the weeks have gone by and I now find myself a week and a half away from departure, I grow increasingly excited. I was recently challenged by listening to a presentation by Pastor Tom Berlin in which he touched on servanthood and what it might mean to be a “servant” in Sierra Leone. He suggested that rather than thinking I was bestowing some sort of knowledge or gift to the people with whom I come in contact, I look on it as a reciprocal relationship – we spend time together just being ourselves. And we will be in the presence of the Lord because He is there and His Holy Spirit dwells within me.

I then thought of Jesus’ commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. He says that there are no other commandments greater than these (Mark 12: 13). If I am after God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, then I long to be in His presence and I choose to seek Him in all the minutes of my day. That means I look for Him and enjoy Him in Sierra Leone – in my interactions, in the conversations that take place, in the events that unfold, in the beauty of natural surroundings, in the quiet moments that I take to be alone with Him. I serve Him in glorying in His presence and inviting others to come into that space with me. By making room, I love them as I love myself. It’s not about slaving for hours in the broiling sun doing a construction project (although that might be part of the agenda) or not getting any sleep for 10 days (although there is that possibility as well). In other words, it’s not about performing certain hardship acts. Instead, it’s about consciously carving space for the work of Jesus and then getting out of the way so there’s room for Him. A true servant prepares for the presence of the master and yields to his desires – and a true master knows his servant’s skills and uses his servant to her best capacity. So I can trust that this trip has been ordained by God for my good and His glory – I will bless and be blessed because He put together this group for such a time as this before time even began. Talk about mind-boggling! But that’s a tangent for another day. Enough for now…

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