A Step Forward Into Grace: Looking Back on Serve Day

Greg Robson

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. - Galatians 5:13

There's always seasons in life when tasks appear insurmountable and we rely on the support of others to make it through. These supporters are often those we least expect and more often than not they offer guidance and wisdom in the form of laughter, conversation and unadulterated joy. It is in those moments that those once impossible tasks can reveal that we are far stronger than we ever realized.

Over the past year I've been blessed to serve as team lead on two Serve Day projects at Harvest Time International in Sanford. As a lifelong bookworm serving as a team leader in any capacity has never been something I've felt confident about nor particularly gifted for. And yet last March two weeks before Serve Day, a close friend e-mailed me and asked to me to serve as team lead for the Harvest Time International project. Though our friendship was new, he apparently called out a strength he saw in me that I wasn't certain I possessed. Naturally, he was right.

That first visit to Harvest Time remains one of the more indelible mornings I've spent at Northland in recent memory. The spirit-filled morning began before we even arrived at Harvest Time. One of the volunteers confided in me that she was not very good with directions and was not certain she'd able to get there. She ultimately was hoping she and he grandson could carpool with me. It was such a tender moment and the first of many that would dot the next few hours. During that 20-minute car ride, she related her story, one fraught with pain, heartbreak and crippling legal fees due to a horrific car accident. And then just as we were turning in towards Harvest Time, she mentioned that spending this morning with her grandson was going to be the highlight of her entire year.

Once inside, the Holy Spirit took over and the morning abounded with laughter, worship music and an array of radiant smiles. Nowhere was that more evident than on the half dozen or so children who sorted through linens with a youthful abandon that could melt even the hardest of hearts. In just two-and-a-half hours I heard people share their faith journeys, talk selflessly of their love for helping others and trade phone numbers in an effort to stay in touch. Though we might have  been serving others in need, the heart of it all might just be that we were also serving each other and providing that very tangible sense of community  that helps to bring heaven here on earth.

Fast forward to this past fall when that very same friend called on me once again to lead a team of volunteers to Harvest Time International. Whereas in March I felt fearful, unqualified and hesitant, this time around I was emboldened, eager and energized. Once again the Lord shepherded me into providing a ride to another volunteer who did not trust her sense of direction. Much like the first ride, this one was another one that detailed heartbreak and pain. But rather than the conversation taking a turn to the bittersweet, the dialogue resounded with conviction, affirmation and a deepening trust in our Heavenly Father. Sure enough, once inside the Harvest Time warehouse I saw more people sharing their faith journeys, talking about their favorite Northland sermons and a half-dozen children sorting linens with a zeal and exuberance that might be seen at Dave and Buster’s. In each instance, God showed up and revealed his very nature: compassionate, committed and life-affirming.

Looking back on it now, I’m still moved beyond measure at how deeply impacting less than three hours of fellowship can be. But Serve Day offers us a chance for exactly that. It allows all of us an opportunity to love humbly, walk boldly and be the church everywhere. If there’s anyone reading this who might hesitate at the idea of participating in Serve Day, let this testament be a beacon of encouragement to take that step forward and step into grace.