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September 11, 2013

ANDERSON: What it means to be a servant

— Vacation was wonderful this year. My husband and I traveled out west for a week. We had gone to drop a friend off at the top of the Arizona Trail and we came down the mountains over the week back to Phoenix. We met so many interesting people. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in Glendale, Utah, for three nights (The Smith Hotel), it was so peaceful. Every morning we had breakfast with people from Japan, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany, California and many other places. Inevitably we would talk about our professions. When I told them mine their reply was “So, you are a servant,” and you knew it was said from admiration.

It started a thought process that is still jumbling today. We look at things so differently in this country. Service here is usually for those who are church-affiliated and project-affiliated. Service to Europeans and others is a way of life. It is a respectful way of life. A psychologists from California had recently retired from his job as an engineer and was thinking of becoming a “volunteer.” He thought about opening a clinic, one of the men from France said: “To do that you would not be volunteering, when you volunteer you spend an hour or two and you go home, what you are doing is a full time job.” He explained further that in his opinion, the effort to open the clinic would be on the level of a servant leader.

I began to think of our local servants. It is one thing to volunteer but quite another to serve. Tracy and Bill Taylor, Lem Tervillion and the others who come to the shelter the first Monday of the month to celebrate the residents birthdays and to fix a meal and bring gifts are servants. They are in it for the long haul and feel as if they get far more than they give. That is the heart of a servant. They have brought others into that circle; the Jeffersonville Elks Club recently contributed money to buy an industrial washer and dryer for us; Little Flock Baptist Church feeds monthly and brings food while at the same time making needed repairs, and they too, have done this for years. Northside Christian Church is coming for a weekend to paint and clean; they too have come consistently.

The ladies at the Center for Lay Ministries come daily to distribute food, provide assistance and continue serving, as does Brett and Deb, both fairly new to the community but with an exciting zeal to help and to serve the poorest of the poor without judgment or discrimination. Perhaps that is the sign of a true servant too, one who sacrifices to do and does so with a glad heart and without judging others.

Gilt Edge Baptist Church has served over 30 years in this community as servants, first through the Martin Luther King Free Food Pantry then at the Lord’s Kitchen. Every month sending their donation but serving food to some of the most difficult people in the community with always the smiles and warmth of a mother happy to see her family. First Presbyterian is providing such service right now as well by preventing someone from becoming homeless. Pastor Donald Summerfield pulled a team of people together from Church, Haven House Services, and AIG, and what they have done as a team! The house, belonging to a 72-year-old woman with disabilities, had been condemned, the Pastor pulled a team together and the house is almost totally renovated. Roof to floor. The woman has lived outside her home for a while but will be able to move in soon to a fully refurbished home and very strong supports to keep her housed. It has been humbling working on the effort and it shows what happens when compassion and honesty are utilized to deal with an issue.

Perhaps the most prophetic statement made during the statements on servants was again made by the gentleman from France: “You know,” he said, “people who have the spirit of the servant are truly happy people and it shows in the essence of who they are. They exude a sense of confidence and completeness. A sense of contentment.” I can see that in those I serve and in those I serve with as well. Serving and being a servant is not an easy thing. You must be willing to champion, to humble yourself and to be humbled. It is to say you must look beyond who you are to whom you serve and work from there. I cannot imagine a life without service, but more importantly I cannot imagine not serving. Being allowed to touch the lives of people in a such a close and intimate way is indeed an honor.

— Barbara Anderson is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Jeffersonville

 

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