This time of year, so much of our time and energy is focused on finding the “right” gift. Currently, countless websites list “The best gifts under $20”, “The most popular gifts on Amazon”, “Top toys of the year”, etc. All these lists have one thing in common; we spend money to buy something for someone else. Retailers are trying to get you to spend money on gifts in their store or on their website. Let’s talk for a minute about a different kind of gift.
Recently, Strong Tower Ministries held their annual Christmas outreach. We organized gifts, food, Santa, a short worship service, and good times spent in a community in Baja. This year we served in a small town WAY off the beaten path, up a few miles of very rutted dirt road and through a semi flooded riverbed. Many people in the town didn’t even speak Spanish. They spoke a different Indian dialect (not uncommon in many parts of Mexico). The pastor in this town kept thanking us and mentioning that they were the forgotten area. That although many groups are serving Baja, no one ever comes to their town. We made a point to invite everyone in the area, and we had translators for whatever language they spoke. It was a great day, but this is still not the gift I want us to consider.
Towards the end of the event, I was speaking with a man who came down to serve with the group. It had been years since he was involved in anything like this, and you could tell he was profoundly moved. After a few minutes, his wife joined us, and together they shared that this day would be the high point of their Christmas season. They wouldn’t leave with a traditional gift normally listed on a website or purchased at the mall, they would leave with something grander, deeper, and life-changing. They would leave having worked with others to change lives. They had been given the gift of service — the gift of touching and impacting other’s lives.
Around our orphanage, we talk about the impact of service a lot. That we need to be aware that whether people are joining us for a day or a week, their time here will be remembered for a very long time. Their time sharing with our children is beyond bringing gifts or a piñata, it’s a moment that will be remembered and talked about for years by the person visiting. When was the last time you talked about a gift for years? (unless of course it was a chia-pet, those are cool).
The gift I want us to consider is not the act of service to others; it is the gift of leading others into service.
Our orphanage hosts many short term groups. Some come in for just a day; some groups stay for a week or so. Although we are first and foremost here for our kids, we are aware it is a special privilege to do what we do. We get to lead people into life-changing moments. We get to see the joy on faces as people are being used to change lives, to reach others at a different level.
One of the many projects we run are home builds for needy families in our town. The focus is on the project and serving the families in our community. But we love to see the wonder in the people who’ve worked on the homes. We get to watch volunteer’s tears of joy as the families receive the keys to their new home. The families are given a home, but the groups are given the gift of service to others. Lives are changed for the better for all involved.
Every year I grow out my beard out and put on the fat suit to play Santa for our kids and events in our town. I love the joy in the eyes of everyone involved in the photo ops and the memories we’re creating. As much fun as the Santa gig is, it’s nothing compared to the joy of seeing others light up when they’ve touched someone’s life. The home builds, the community outreaches, and the time with the children in our home is a greater gift than anything Santa might put under the tree.
This year consider a different gift, the gift of leading others into service. This gift might be harder to wrap, but it will be a gift worth receiving. It is also a gift that might just be re-gifted over and over.
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