From our Admin Lead, Jenny Bossio
Serving others as an expression of my faith has been part of my “spiritual DNA” for about 10 years. Although I’ve been a Christian about 25 years, serving outside my church wasn’t on my radar in the beginning of my faith journey. I volunteered inside the church early on for things like Sunday School, greeting, or VBS. It wasn’t until I watched a new (to me) pastor and his wife live out their faith in front of me, that I experienced a shift in my relationship with Jesus.
It first began one summer, with a visit to the Mexican migrant families in Mt Vernon, Washington. There are “camps” up North where the families of the migrant workforce live during the spring/summer fruit harvest season. You know how once you see something, you can’t unsee it?
Well, this happened to me with this group of kids. While the parents spent the day in the fields, the kids were left alone to take care of each other back at the camp. It was dirt, chaos, uncomfortable and quite intimidating at first. We began weekly trips up to Mt Vernon to show the kids God’s love with food, songs, crafts and a bible lesson. Quickly, it just became dirt, chaos and friendship! (There’s another story here about how this ministry changed the trajectory of my oldest daughter’s life. I’ll tell you about it over coffee sometime if you’re interested!!)
While learning to serve the migrant community, I experienced a growth in my faith, a closeness and dependence on Jesus that I hadn’t experienced before. I also formed deep bonds with the other volunteers and the migrant kids. After our church closed in 2009, there were fewer opportunities to go to Mt Vernon. I continued to look for other ways to serve in a stretching, relational way. There are many ways to serve, but for me, it’s all about relationship. Giving money and donating food, for example, are types of service and important ones, but I grow the most when I interact with people – especially those different from me. We all are suffering from brokenness and somehow, interacting with people who appear to be “broken” on the outside, makes it clear to me how broken I am in God’s eyes and how much I need Him for forgiveness and wholeness. It’s usually a challenge to get out of my comfort zone but always a place where God sustains and strengthens me. Darren preached recently on obedience saying that we need to have the heart of obedience while also having a dependency on the power of the Spirit to obey. This dependency is very evident in the mission field!
I recently returned from a mission trip to Reynosa, Mexico. This is the second year I’ve partnered with another church group (from Illinois) and worked for 1 week in a poor neighborhood of a border town, doing maintenance work and participating in “escuela biblica”, or Bible School. The Illinois church has been sending folks to this “colonia” or neighborhood for over 15 years. The relationships that have developed are deep and mutual. I’m so thankful to be able to work with both the Americans and the Mexicans. We work with one of the churches in the colonia where the pastor works tirelessly to be a light in his community. He shares his church space with the community, gives hope to the people and communicates Jesus’ love for everyone.
Our home base while in Reynosa is a camp about 20 minutes from the colonia called “Piedra Angular” (Cornerstone) and is a Christian based partnership between an American couple and Mexican Christians. (www.vamonos.org) Our typical day starts at 7am with breakfast at the camp. The morning is spent working on projects and getting ready for Bible School at 2:30. Bible School is about 1 ½ hours. We head back to the camp about 5:00, have dinner at 6:00 and a debriefing/worship time at 7:00.
The time in Reynosa is filled with serving opportunities but also filled with relationships with the local people. We visit with local shop owners, chat with people as they stroll by the church, walk around the neighborhood, looking for kids to invite to the Bible School. There are not a lot of Americans in this part of Mexico, so we make quite the show. I was nervous about walking around at first but found very friendly people, quite willing to engage in conversation.
The chance to watch God work in us, through us, and sometimes despite us, is something I never get tired of. It can feel like developing new muscles. Once you’ve had a chance to use this muscle, you want to keep using it as a way to bring attention to Jesus and draw closer Jesus. On this recent trip, we watched one American woman from Illinois transform in front of our eyes from a fearful, “I don’t really want to be here” person to a Spirit filled “I don’t want to leave” person. Only God could have changed her heart so dramatically, so quickly. We watched young men in the colonia come inside the church to help us paint or set up or just hang out. The Mexican pastor has been inviting them to come inside for a long time and we got to witness their changed attitudes and behavior.
It’s a surreal time of spending so much time focused on God’s work – the tangible of assisting the Mexican church and relationship building and the intangible of personal growth, dependence on God, awareness of His grace and mercy. The challenge for me is to keep this dependence and awareness when I return to “normal” life. It’s so easy to let God slip in my daily priority list. I find that continuing to find ways to serve others helps keep my eyes on Him. A friend on this trip told our group, “If you’re a Christian, you’ll go to heaven whether you serve or not. However, by saying no to service, you miss out on incredible opportunities.” I’m thankful I’ve said yes and I hope to encourage you to say yes too!