02 Nov Loving Our Neighbors Well
by Mandee Campos / Servant Teams Director
Servant Teams is a ten-month gap year program, designed to equip a diverse wave of missional leaders to answer God’s call into the work of loving service. But the first step is asking some really big questions.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
This scripture makes it very clear about where our priorities should be. We are to love God and love each other. I like to follow up by asking the question: How do I love well? This is a question that is not often thought about deeply, but as the Director of Servant Teams, it is a question I want every participant to explore.
How would you want to be loved? Personally, I want to be loved through relationships characterized by mutuality, trust, respect, communication, and understanding. Often, we can describe the elements of loving relationships, however, we don’t always consider how they apply to the ways we do missions or engage communities.
Our last Servant Team traveled to the city of Dodoma, Tanzania, to serve with Grace & Healing Ministry. We came eager to learn how God was already at work there, so we could join in. We saw that a group of young people from Lahash’s Stand With Students program were very active in service and leadership. They all grew up in the Sponsorship Program, and now as young adults they were helping to care for the younger kids. They assisted in translating letters to and from the kids’ sponsors, they helped in facilitating big events like the Christmas gift distribution and celebration, and they led Bible lessons on program days.
As a Servant Team, we connected really well with these young people. They were all working hard to prepare for higher education, so we got to come alongside them and help them toward those goals. But we also got to share meals, games, conversations, and even a hiking trip. We were so thankful to be a part of their lives at this key time of transition and growth.
Servant Teams is a program founded with relationships at the center of everything we do, because we believe that all people are made for relationships and made to flourish in community with one another. All people are made in the image of a triune God. Therefore, the perfect loving relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit is the image we were created to reflect and echo back into creation. The heart of being in community should never be task oriented, but rather, relationally generous.
After five months of building relationships with the Stand With Students group, Yevette Garcia reflected, “I saw how the Trinity can be exemplified in our relationships with one another, and it made me more aware of the relational poverty in my own life. It validated my eagerness to pursue true community, and seek to embrace the type of relational abundance I saw in the lives of these young people.”
A former Servant Teams participant, Megan Jackson, found that her whole perspective on the concept of “loving and serving the poor” became intertwined with the East African community that profoundly influenced her. She shared, “Now, when someone makes a remark about hungry kids in Africa, my mind instantly goes to the incredible kiddos and families I got to play soccer, color pictures, and sing in choir with. The ones who welcomed me into their church and homes. Those whose generosity and hospitality still leave me speechless. Those who shared everything when they had nothing. Loving and helping the poor now looks like loving and helping my friends and neighbors. The ones who taught me their language and how to do laundry in a bucket. Who taught me new songs and dances and invited me to sit with their family as they talked with God each night.”
When we don’t think about how we can love well, we go out into the world with good but ultimately misled intentions. We simplify things to problems and solutions and can forget about the people affected. We might end up simply giving handouts instead of working hand-in-hand; talking at people instead of talking with them in conversation. This version of love starts to look like a checklist of tasks to do. This is not how I want to be loved by my neighbor! We are not only called to love, but we are called to love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves.
As we love our neighbors well, we recognize that each community has its own unique story, and it’s not a story that begins when we enter into it. Our story enters into theirs, and theirs into ours, and we reflect God’s image together in ways that change us all for the better.
In the Servant Teams program, we ask big questions and we see scripture come alive in our experiences. As learners hungry to widen our perspective, we dive deep into biblical, theological, and practical hands-on training. Servant Teams welcomes people interested in missions or community development work, and those who want to nurture their faith so that their lives can bear good fruit. It’s a program for those who want to practice living out Jesus’ words from Mark 12, and love God and their neighbors well.
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