During the annual Community Service Day, May 17, 2019, more than 250 Eastern Mennonite School middle and high school students fanned across the community to share the gift of time and physical labor in support of various organization’s missions.
“Go and be the Body!” was the theme of Abby Stapleton’s opening reflections for the day. See excerpts from her talk below.
Booksavers of Virginia
Camp Brethren Woods
Community Mennonite Preschool
Eastern Mennonite School Dining Hall
Eastern Mennonite School drama department
Eastern Mennonite School Library
Eastern Mennonite School athletic fields and grounds
Eastern Mennonite University Early Learning Center
Gift and Thrift
Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
Lindale Child Care Center
Park View Mennonite Church
Roberta Webb Child Care Center
Ronald McDonald House
Spitzer Art Center
Valley Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center
Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community Farm at Willow Run
Virginia Mennonite Mission
Go be the Body! — Reflections by Abby Stapleton ’20
…if you haven’t already guessed, the topic of today’s chapel is service, which is actually the theme of the entire day-hence the name community SERVICE day. Today I want to not only share why we as Christians are commissioned to serve in our community, but also share a bit about my personal journey with service — starting from dreading this day every year, to finding joy in serving others.
Let’s start with the very basics-I will throw a piece of candy (not sure how accurate I can actually be) to the first three people who can raise their hands and give me an example of service.
If someone were to ask me this very same question when I was in middle school my first response would have been some sort of physical labor. Anything from pulling weeds to cleaning to mulching a flower bed. I wasn’t excited about service because for me, a) it didn’t seem fun in comparison to things such as hanging out with my friends or relaxing with Netflix and b) it didn’t seem to make any impact in the world. At the time, the only service that I felt I had done was physical labor like the activities that I mentioned earlier. And, to me, this didn’t feel like it had any impact on the lives of those we were serving. I felt like service should be some big grand project that changed people’s lives for the better, and I felt like just changing the life of one person was not enough to be considered service. I was wrong, and today I want to share with you the two major factors that changed my mind about service.
The first thing that I realized is that service can take many forms, but it is all God’s work here on Earth. 1st Peter Chapter 4 Verses 9 and 10 say, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”. Every single one of us has been blessed with a unique gift from God, and these gifts can be used in service of others to be good stewards of God’s grace. Because of these unique gifts, everyone’s service to others is going to look different. Maybe you are a gifted musician, your service could just be to share music with others, because that music could help bring them closer to God. I would say that my mother has the gift of cooking, and making delicious food. Because of this gift, her service to others is often providing a meal.
The second thing that I realized about service was that it wasn’t just about what you’re doing, but also who you’re doing it for and who you’re doing it with. Small actions, such as smiling at someone in the hallway or providing a listening ear and shoulder to cry on when someone needs it most, can have a huge impact on someone’s life. These little things, these small differences that we can all make in the world, these are services. One of my favorite things about service is the relationships that can be formed between you and the people that you serve with. In spreading Christ’s love with others you form a strong bond, different from other friendships, and that is always impactful for me. So how does all of this translate into the work we’re about to do today?
As you entered today, you saw pictures of previous EMS service days that scrolled as a song played. Some of you may be familiar with the song, but if not, let’s look at the words to the chorus. But if we are the body Why aren’t his arms reaching Why aren’t his hands healing Why aren’t his words teaching And if we are the body Why aren’t his feet going Why is his love not showing”
1st Corinthians Chapter 12 verse 27 says “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it”
Our mission today is to be the body and do exactly what this song is asking. It asks “Why aren’t his hands reaching…..” We have groups working today at Gift and Thrift and at Virginia Mennonite Missions. These students will effectively be reaching with their arms around the world as both of these organizations provide disaster relief both within the US and in other countries during times of devastation.
“Why aren’t his hands healing..” The girls soccer team will be working to prepare a meal for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Charlottesville. These families have children in the Children’s Hospital. Many of these children are preemie babies born too early to survive on their own. We will be providing nourishment while they stand by awaiting the healing of their child.
“Why aren’t his words teaching..” Some of you will be going to help at Community, Roberta Webb, or Lindale preschools. These are places where young children begin their learning experience. You will be contributing to the teaching of these children.
“Why aren’t his feet going….” Here’s where some of that manual labor might come into play. Some of you may feel like your feet are going too much when you are working hard at Highland Retreat or Brethren Woods. But your work is important in preparing for a summer that could literally change lives. These camps offer opportunities for faith formation that could last a lifetime.
“Why is his love not showing…:” One way that we show love is by placing value on the work of others. Spitzer art center provides a venue for local artists to display their work and allow the community to support them.
Some of you may recognize these words from another song. The artist asks “God, why don’t you do Something” and the response he hears is “I did, I created you!”
We are the hands, feet, arms, and heart of Jesus. Today, we will go and show this amazing love to our community through our work. So go and be the Body!
June 2019 note: excerpts from this message were included in an invitation to support EMS. If you’d like to make a gift, please go to the 2nd Century Annual Fund donation page. Thank you!