Justin Schrenk has just come back from South Africa, where he served on the HWW Singles Corps. It is so heartwarming to see young men share the compassionate heart of God!
Serving the poor internationally through HOPE worldwide has quickly become a major highlight in my 8.5 years since becoming a Christian. It is a program I have come to believe in, as I have seen the impact firsthand in Guatemala, Nepal, and most recently, South Africa. HOPE worldwide is truly shining as a light in these communities. It is bringing more than just financial means. They are bringing full hearts and faces the community has learned to love and trust.
As I woke up to travel to Haiti, for a mission trip with HOPE worldwide Singles Corps, I looked around at my room, my car, my family, my dogs, and everything I have. I took note of what I take for granted every day and knew it would only be a week away from all the comforts of living my life in the states.
This would be my second trip with HWW to Haiti. Haiti holds a special place in my heart. Many of my friends are from Haiti and what better way to show them how much they mean to me than by serving in their country. I was leaving my comfy bed, running water, hot showers, A/C, mosquito free home, and abundance of food for a hard bed covered by a mosquito net, a toilet that doesn’t flush without the assistance of water being dumped in it, cold bucket showers, heat in morning, noon, and night, and food served on other’s timing.
What do we really want out of serving others? Do we really do it for their sake or just to feel good about ourselves? The world is so vast and so many people need help; so how do you choose where, and when to go?
I wanted an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do work out of my direct vicinities. I wanted to be able to meet people from other cultures and share/help in the struggle they face. I wanted to be a vessel ready for God’s work. I chose Nepal, because I used to work for a Non-profit Organization that helped refugee children get adjusted in the US. A lot of the Children we worked with were Nepali/Bhutanese. I wanted a chance to see the country of these kids that had captured my heart. This trip made me realize that God will stretch us beyond what we think we could do.
I was sick and in pain for almost the entirety of the trip, which made it difficult for me to have a serving attitude. Nonetheless, God tugged at my heart to just look past the physical and mental pain and see the vast reach He has. Here I was surrounded by a group of people from all over the world, who individually responded to the call of God to go in a foreign land and minister to strangers and to other brothers and sisters.
The trip was adventurous; we started it with a trekking experience. This was one great icebreaker; I know many people connected through this experience. Along the same line, the great adventure of the trip was working at the HOPE worldwide School.
My Lord, What am I doing here? If you ever ask yourself the question, pause and look around. Amazingly, being there in Nepal despite what seemed unfavourable living conditions, etc., it was a small taste of what Heaven could be like. I was surrounded with people that share the same mind, and desire to serve. God used these people to remind me that it was not about me, that I was there for a work He had prepared ahead for me (as Ephesians 2:10 mentions). God wanted me to remember to share in the spirit with others, to value those that were less fortunate or even my peers, and share the blessings/gifts I have received.
Seeing people willing to let go of SELF, to focus on others, and take hold of the task at hand, created moments of awe for me. There are no real words to describe it, as I believe this is personal to each. I loved the devotionals in the morning before we headed out to help at the school. I loved hearing the kids sing when one of us taught the class. I loved seeing so many of us, volunteers, humbling into doing whatever work was asked of them. I liked the fact that we addressed the issues we saw as we worked and did not focus only on the original plan, but all were willing to go beyond to accomplish the work original designed and more.
I was profoundly stricken and humbled in my entitled behaviour by seeing how, even though we were there to serve, the Nepali people served us more; it was mind-boggling, delightful, and uncomfortable at the same time. This was truly the most personal touch for me. To see the contentment and unassuming attitude of these people, reminding me that I was gaining more from this experience than I was giving.
As I was thinking of where I was and what I was doing I realize how grateful I was that God had me in this community of believers and that we had a program such as HOPE worldwide that could help me go almost anywhere around the world to minister to people I may have never gotten a chance to see. Nepal, certainly kept a piece of me. I cannot imagine not having had this experience. Though it was hard to come back to the U.S.A. and tryimg to get back in my routine, I do not look at it as a negative side effect of my trip, but more as a continuous reminder to seek out where else God would like for me to use my serving gifts. So, as long as God allows it, I want to be able to go back to Nepal or to other places and serve and minister to those that meet my path.
They are many opportunities, many of them next door to you. We are, as believers, called to share our faith and through serving we have an opportunity to do that. Maybe you can’t do/afford HOPEww, maybe you need to budget, or fundraise… but if in fact there is something you could do to go, why wouldn’t you?
Luke 14v.12: “ Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. ”
When I think about giving to others without expecting anything in return, I think about the way Jesus gave his very life on the cross, knowing that nothing we could ever do would be able to repay that price. I love that for everything Jesus commands, he sets an example by doing it himself to a degree that we could never match. I can’t imagine having Jesus’ level of compassion or heart to give.
Being on the HOPE worldwide Singles Corps helped me to see his love in a new light. It was a convicting realization that of the all of the ways Jesus could have spent his time on earth, he spent it having face-to-face interactions with hurting and desperate people. Despite the fact that God knew us intimately even in the womb, he still sent his son to be face to face with us.
Since my return from the HOPE worldwide Singles Corps trip to Kathmandu, questions like, “How was Nepal, Jake?” and, “What was your favorite part?” are pretty much all I’ve heard. It’s nice to talk about how great my experience was and all of that, but I’m starting to wonder if my experience is what really matters.
The two weeks I spent in Nepal were maybe the best of my life. It’s not hard to believe that spending time with 30 incredible disciples would be life changing. Add in that we did nothing but serve the needy, share our lives, and discuss the Bible in one of the coolest and most beautiful cities in the world. So yeah – Nepal was pretty incredible.
However, I’m not the center of this narrative. Jesus is, and here’s the real story.
Our group of volunteers served at HOPE worldwide’s Asha Vidhyashram School, which offers free education and meals to impoverished children in Kathmandu, Nepal.
“The more I serve, the more aware I am that service is about my salvation.”
In James 1:27 Paul writes that the only “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” It is interesting how the world is in constant battle as to what “religion” is the truest. Even we, as disciples, can get wrapped up into what way is truly the “right way”, and what does God truly accept. This argument is the toiling of men as God has already answered the question.God says directly in this verse what He views as pure and true religion. He does not say whose religion is in question, whether it is the one serving, or the one being served. It is easy sometimes for me to consider the religion and salvation of those I serve, rather than looking at myself with sober judgment. In the Bible, God frequently calls for His children to serve the poor; however, whenever He speaks directly about the poor, He says that theirs is the Kingdom of God. We must, therefore, consider that serving is more about us keeping our salvation than providing it for someone else. This was the biggest lesson I was able to learn while serving on HOPE worldwide Singles Corps in Nepal.
Upon landing in Nepal, one could tell that the earthquake had left both the city and the people in shambles. As you walked around the beautiful city, there were buildings crumbled into rubble. It was difficult to look through the desolate foundation, and see a home where a family once lived. Once you connected to this thought, it was nearly overwhelming.