The shift from wanting to serve in the community to helping others find a place to serve was subtle, yet significant. A few short years ago, I met Andy Gibson and Cody Wright at The LOT Project (David Moore joined the team a year ago). The idea was simple, just show up and lend a hand.
Change can happen in a flash. A mere spark is often found to be the culprit for a fire that scorches hundreds of acres, but the spark is only a catalyst. We may talk about mitigating sparks and controlling open flames, as we should, but the forest wouldn’t have burned so quickly if it weren’t for the slow change over time. The imperceptible move from a rich and luscious grove of trees to a dry and barren environment ripe for destruction often goes unnoticed.
The opposite is true, as well. I like to say that I’m a “recovering Pharisee,” meaning that I once was the one who took pride in studying the Bible, attending all church events, praying before meals, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities except the part about pride. I didn’t notice. The people around me didn’t notice either because they were all drinking from the same fountain.
Here’s the catch: there wasn’t an “aha” moment. There wasn’t a particular time when it was clear I was on one side of the line or the other. Honestly, it’s not really a line; instead, it’s more like moving from dark gray to light gray. However, when I look back at the time I began to serve at The LOT Project, the change is now evident.
I’ve always been one who is drawn to serve others. Serving is part of my DNA. From the time I was a young child, we served in a local church and the community. I love the fact that churches, in general, promote serving the community. But if the motive for serving is only to spend some uncomfortable time around others who need to be served, we’ve missed the point of the lesson.
Peter sums up the idea beautifully here:
Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:7-10
Verse 10 captures the whole notion of serving at The LOT Project, use whatever gift you have received.
When you first serve on a Tuesday or Thursday night, you’ll hear a consistent message from Cody or whoever speaks as we circle up just before opening the doors. We’re here to provide free clothing, hygiene products, shoes, and a meal, but more than anything, we’re here to remind those we serve that they are God’s amazing creation. Each and everyone is a beautiful work of art handcrafted by the Master that created the entire universe. Take time to get to know some of the friends we serve.
The sign painted on the wall outside by a group of Middle School students, led by Josh Powell, captures the essence of this reminder: worthy, hope, and love.
As you look at this photo, reread Peter’s words. What a beautiful scene! These are faithful students. With each stroke of the brush, the wall beneath becomes a testimony to love and beauty. The cracks disappear, and the imperfections absorbed as your eye is now drawn to the giant letters that proclaim WORTHY. I’m thankful for Josh and his class, but they’re not the only ones.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, a faithful few show up to sort through donations and prepare the room for guests on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each week the process is repeated. Drip, drip. Slowly, the bucket fills with water until its overflowing.
Kindness is contagious.
The core of The LOT Project is love for each and every person the way the perfect Father loves his child. You’re bound to change when you surround yourself with people with hearts set on loving the least of these, just like the most of these.
And that’s the point of this entire story.
Week after week, I moved from feeling awkward about sitting and talking to someone I’d never met to looking forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays to check in on Chris, Emmanuel, William, Kristi, Felicia, on and on. Suddenly, it’s normal to say, “I love you” to people a year ago I never knew.
Your experience serving at The LOT Project will be different than mine, or at least I hope it will. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything more encouraging. It would be incredibly boring if we were all alike! What I know is I’ve been able to experience the joy of not just serving others, but loving people from all walks of life and on both sides of the serving line!
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
One last thought as I wrap up this post: get in the game. Go and serve as Peter reminds us all. Serve with joyful hearts. Look inside your heart for a place to be Jesus to someone that needs to hear the assurance that the Creator loves them. There is no more excellent form of evangelism, no stronger discipleship than serving others with the eyes and heart of Jesus Christ.
Go. Serve. Love.
And for goodness sake, smile!