“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me to your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25: 35-36
Last month, I participated in my first ever-medical mission trip. Until then, I admit that I allowed school, raising children, and never-ending work to get in the way of service. Well, that has all ended. My husband, who is an ordained minister, organized a trip for 13 volunteers to go to Kumasi, Ghana on a medical mission and education trip. We were two physicians and one dentist, two educators, one journalist and seven other missionaries. Our ages ranged from 14 to 70! We brought along 19 boxes and duffel bags full of medical and dental supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shoes, clothes, and Bibles. It was a wonderful experience, and mind boggling to the two teenagers with us. To meet smiling, happy, and welcoming youth in the midst of unbelievable poverty surprised them. The kids their age did not have cell phones, laptops, cars to drive or the latest new sneakers. They lived with no electricity or running water and no school cafeteria. Yet, they were smart, eager to learn, and they appreciated what little they had. Our teenagers were inspired and came back home also more appreciative of what they have.
The mission trip affirmed what has been instilled in me by my parents since childhood, which is to be of service to others in whatever way you can. When I grew up, the basement of my family’s home in Copenhagen was always occupied by a newly arrived immigrant, a refugee, or a friend of a friend who was in need of housing. My dad was always in the kitchen cooking scrumptious Ghanaian food for everyone and anyone who needed a good meal. As a recent retiree, my mother moved to Katmandu, Nepal for 18 months to work as a pediatrician in a hospital in a very poor village. She returned 15 years later, close to 80 years of age, with a substantial donation to the hospital that she raised through friends and colleagues.
Janet Jackson sings in one of her songs, “What have you done for me lately?” She clearly does not feel any love because the object of her affection didn’t show love through action. He was all talk and no walk. We should also be careful to make sure we both talk the talk and walk the walk. Caring for and loving others takes compassion and commitment, time and money. Thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. Loving our neighbor and serving our neighbor go hand in hand. So, I encourage all of us to show our love in service to others by any means possible. We should be both intentional and creative about how we can be of service to others – whether that means opening our home to a stranger, or going out of our way to give of our time, talents, and treasure to those in need.