Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My recent lesson

Last Saturday, we at Casas went to Juarez to serve a Christmas meal to all the families whom we've built for in one colonia on the south side of town.  To be honest, earlier in the day, I didn't want to go.  I wanted to be selfish.  I wanted to stay in my house with Jason and just be lazy with him.  But, I work at Casas, and ministry is not a 9-5 job.  And frankly, it didn't matter what I wanted to do!  All the same, I wasn't looking forward to going.

Driving over there that day, I thought back to Christmas as a child.  I loved it!  I still do. I love the lights, the gifts, the songs, and the tree.  I love the food and the celebration.  I love that for a little while each year, people are encouraged to reach out.  I love that ultimately, we celebrate this season because the greatest gift any of us will ever receive was born!  My mom loved this too.  During Christmas time with her, we would make all sorts of holiday goodies and fill boxes with food items she'd collected, and we'd deliver them to the widows in our little town who my mom knew from her childhood.  She helped these ladies all year long, but she liked to make it extra special at Christmas time....who doesn't want this time of year to feel special?  I know it was my mom's spirit of giving that instilled a love of giving in me.  Truthfully, one of the top 3 greatest joys in my life is getting to give people in need something for free and letting them know Jesus loves them.  (In case you're wondering, the other 2 are:  knowing and experiencing real, unconditional love and....finding crazy low clearance deals!)

But what good is giving one meal to a family for one afternoon?  Is that REALLY helping them in the big picture?  Was there something better we could do?  I kept thinking this too as I was driving.  All the time at Christmas, people are in the giving spirit, and then forget about it for the other 11 months of the year.  Sometimes that irks me.  We should be pouring out all the time!  So, by serving this meal, are we falling into the same trap of just giving during one season?  It wasn't making me any more excited to be there.

We served chicken, rice, and menudo.  For those of you who don't know, menudo is a special Mexican soup that is made with hominy and tripe.  Yes...tripe.  That would be cow guts.  It doesn't look good....and it smells even worse.  If you're Mexican though, this is a very special meal.  In most restaurants, it's only served on Sunday and often on special occasions.  When the people started arriving, I was on menudo duty.

I ladled close to 500 bowls of this...enough to make my wrist ache.  At least I was used to the smell by this point! The people were pouring in at a very steady rate, and I realized that my internal criticism of whether or not we should be just serving one meal was overtaken by joy of getting to give something to someone in need.  I was so happy to see so many smiling faces that day.  I was humbled to know that all those people we served had received a home from Casas por Cristo.

When we got back that afternoon, I was ready to start putting together our annual bags of Christmas gifts for the families Jason and I have built for through the year.  I was ready to start baking treats to send to them, and to our neighbors on our street, and for my friends here at the office.  I simply love to give.  I'm not saying that because I want accolades but because it is just part of who I am.

Then earlier this week, I read someone's status on facebook asking "if we give and give and it a hand-up, or a hand-out?"  hhmmm.....I've been asked this often about working for Casas.  "Isn't it just a hand-out to give them a house?"  And I believe that it isn't.  Casas uses a house to ultimately share God's love.  The gift of Christ is completely free...we cannot earn it.  We just accept it, and in turn, we are changed by it.  We give the house to proclaim this message.  The house is free.  Accept it.  Hopefully it will help change the status of the families' lives, but more importantly, we want each family to know that God LOVES them enough to even give them a here, and one in Heaven.  What they do with the gift of the home...that isn't for us to control.  God gave us Christ, and He gives us the decision about what to do with that gift too.

Why am I writing this blog?  Because the nagging doubt I oftentimes get about just being used by people who want things from me has somehow been calmed over these last few days.  I realized that it does not matter if someone abuses a gift from me.  I am called to give.  We all are.  Christians especially are called to reach out to others with the same love that we ourselves have received from Christ.  Will one meal change someone's life?  Probably not.  It didn't stop Jesus from feeding thousands from a few loaves and some fish.  A hand-out or a hand-up?  I don't know.  I simply know that when I'm called to give in some capacity, I will.  It simply doesn't matter if I think I will be used just matters that I answer that call because God can use the gift any way He sees fit.  It doesn't hurt me to give....but how much would it hurt if later I find that by not giving, I denied God an opportunity to move.  I don't even know if I'm making any sense on here!

So, today at the gas station, when a man approached Jason and asked him for some help with his gas, my gut reaction was to think, "he's just using us."  But, as I did a double take and thought of my recent lesson, I smiled. And then I heard Jason tell him, "sure, no problem." 


Heidi said...

What I needed to hear. Thanks

Briana said...

I agree with Heidi!! Really made me think about my life and what I should be doing and how I should be willing to answer God's call and not question it!! Thanks Janette, it was very uplifting this morning!!! Have a very Merry Christmas!! ~Bri~

Aubrie said...

I love this and I totally agree.

I will always remember being in Spain and a woman walked up to me and asked if she could have the rest of my spaghetti because she hadn't eaten for a while. My professor wouldn't let me give it to her because it was a "hand-out." And I was so angry!

I agree we have been called to give no matter what. Thanks Janette!! Merry Christmas and hope I get to see you guys in a couple weeks.

Lorena said...

Your story is such a great gift to me this Christmas time. It is so good to be reminded that we are blessed (truly blessed) in order to be a blessing to others. It doesn't matter whether it is a hand out or a hand up - all that matters is that we pass our blessings on to others. We certainly didn't deserve our hand out from Jesus and only we can accept it and turn it into a hand up!