For this week’s post, I am re-posting a guest post that was published on the Wellspring Living blog this week, which I wrote. It contains a few thoughts on service that I was taught by the amazing people at Word Made Flesh Moldova, as well as some of my experiences at Wellspring. The goal of this blog (Steps to Change the World) is to inspire people to change the world and encourage people that are already doing so. Hopefully, the following post will do that.
Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities for people with mental disabilities, once wrote “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” As I was reading one of his books, this truth struck me. Being an academic mentor at Wellspring’s Empowered Living Program has shown me this statement’s practical truth in a way that I have not experienced before.
Jesus’ ministry was not one of reaching down to pull people up to a higher level; it was one of meeting people where they are at and walking with them in friendship. It had a mutuality to it that is easy to overlook. As an academic mentor, it is easy for me to pretend that I am someone who has it together; who is therefore trying to help someone who has suffered at the hand of another pull it together. When it comes to women who have been trafficked, it is easy to have this perspective because it hurts less. When you are someone reaching down to pull them up, you feel good, maybe you do some good, and then you move on with your life. But, when you see yourself as a broken person and the woman you are walking alongside as a broken person, things get messy. All of the sudden, it is your friend that has been hurt. However, through this relationship, Jesus’ love can shine through. Additionally, having mutuality in service to others affirms both of your dignities and both of your brokenness. I believe that acknowledging these two qualities, dignity and brokenness, is necessary to be healed. In my opinion, this mutual friendship-based type of service is the best and most humanizing way to serve. The Wellspring Empowered Living Program seems to follow that model well. The staff members are consistently affirming the dignity of the program participants, which leaves freedom for them to work through the brokenness.
Recently, I was moved by the way in which the relationship I have with one of the girls showed me how this type of service can also affirm my own dignity and brokenness. A couple of weeks ago, on my way to the ELP, I was a mess. I was tired and my feet were soaking wet because my umbrella proved less than useful on my walk to the train station that morning. In more ways than one, I was broken. My friend, who I have the privilege of helping prepare for her GED test, immediately served me. She brought me a pair of her own socks to put on my feet. She insisted that I use the ELP dryers to dry my own dripping socks, and brought me coffee. After the session, it took all of the stubborn arguing skills I have in order to convince my host to let me return the socks, and she was not about to let me wash my coffee mug. She did it for me. My friend at the ELP is one of my most hospitable and loving friends, reminding me how much Jesus can work through our brokenness to reveal the dignity of our humanity.