Freedom to Serve
Please take the time to read 1 Peter 2:11-17
One of the most profound mission trip experiences I’ve had in my 15 years as a youth ministry leader was in 2012. I was serving at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha and our group had the opportunity to share a bus with the youth from Sheridan Lutheran Church as we traveled to the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. On our way south, we stopped in Joplin, Missouri to serve with Lutheran Disaster Response as that community was still in the midst of debris clean-up and rebuilding from a devastating tornado in the spring of 2011.
Our two groups spent a day, in 100-degree heat, working on a farm just outside of town, cleaning and removing piles of debris remaining from the storm. The farmer had recently fallen ill and had been unable to clean up his acreage, which was mainly being used for cattle grazing. Together we moved dozens of large piles of debris and countless trees and branches to the adjacent field so that they could be burned in cooler weather. It was extremely hard work and overwhelming to see the destruction throughout the area, but the youth were excited to serve and did so with compassionate hearts.
It was moving to witness how youth from two different cities and two different churches came together to serve those in need in a community most had never been to on our way to another community (New Orleans) that was even more unknown to most of us. The work that day was difficult. And it was not easy at first for our group to come together when they don’t know each other. Add to that that we had all traveled to an unfamiliar place, and we were being challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nonetheless, just as Peter writes, we, as servants of God and followers of Jesus, have a responsibility to love, honor, and serve others, especially those in need. Indeed, the love of Jesus frees us to love deeply, grow spiritually, and share abundantly. Even when it is hard. When we are tired. Uncomfortable. In an unfamiliar place, and yes, even among “strangers”. Thanks be to God that we have been given this responsibility, both as people of faith and as caring citizens. May we embrace it at all times and in all places.
As 40 high school youth and 12 caring adult leaders from Sheridan prepare to embark upon this year’s mission trip to Atlanta, I am grateful to be a part of yet another mission experience and I take courage in the prophet Micah’s well-known words in verse 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” These words inspire us and equip us to build God’s kingdom. They are a blessing to us and show us how to be a blessing to others.
Good and gracious God, Thank you for calling us to love, honor, and serve others, both as people of faith and as caring citizens. Give us strength and patience when that work is hard, when we are tired or feel alone, or when we aren’t sure how. Help us to share your gifts of peace, justice, joy, and freedom with those around us. And may we always keep our focus on you instead of our own desires. Show us how to walk humbly with you each and every day. Amen
Written by Ian Hartfield
Ian Hartfield proudly serves as Youth Ministry Coordinator working with Sheridan’s middle school and high school youth. Ian is an avid history buff and also serves as the Archivist for the Nebraska Synod. Ian and his wife, Meeghan have two daughters, Alexa and Ella, who are also involved in the ministries of Sheridan. They enjoy spending time with friends and family as well as their two dogs, Luke and Leia.
Ian has a passion for youth ministry and loves mission trips and other opportunities to help youth grow in their faith.