I'll never forget the opening chapel service of my college career. I was a wide-eyed, green-as-a-spring-leaf freshman who had nothing but optimism about the future. College was the next great adventure for me, a chance to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. That hot September evening, the campus pastor challenged us to do a lot of things to make our first year of school great. There were the usual items: read your Bible, pray, make new friends, study, etc. But there was one thing that gave me pause.
"You need to join a Christian service," he said. "Down at the administration building tonight, there will be booths where you can sign up for service opportunities organized by your fellow students. Everyone should go. You will be blessed."
Even though I grew up in church, I was never really involved in anything that might be called Christian service. I helped my mother with our city's Life Chain every year and I sang in children's choir, but that was about it. When the pastor told us to sign up for a Christian service my first thought was, No, I don't have any experience in that. I can't be a help. I’m an introvert. I can’t talk to people I don’t know.
Yet the more I thought about it, the more I felt God was impressing on my heart to follow the pastor’s advice.
The Least Popular Booth
That night, I walked down to the Admin building with everyone else and perused the booths. There were groups that taught kids Bible lessons off campus. There were groups that ministered to young people in the local Juvenile Detention Center. And there were teams that did door-to-door evangelism.
Then I noticed a table few people visited. The sign on it said "Crippled Children's Home." As I approached the girls behind the table, their faces lit up with excitement at a visitor. They explained that every Sunday afternoon for two hours they would sing and visit with crippled kids at a local caring facility. Sounded simple enough. I knew how to sing. They were also in need of drivers and I had a car.
The Least Popular People
The following Sunday we made our first visit and I'll never forget the experience. The "children" were not really children. They ranged in age from 20-60 and were all mentally and physically handicapped. If you haven't met people like those at the home we visited, it can be a bit of a shock. Many of them had conditions I never learned the name of. Few of them spoke and when they did, it was like talking to a child. The leaders explained that they called their ministry Crippled Children's Home because they were basically children physically and mentally. I remember sitting next to a girl who I was told was in her 20s. She looked at me in utter wonder at meeting a new person and she grasped my hand tightly in hers. As we sang songs for all of them, she smiled and laughed. She loved it! I'll admit that I cried a lot during that first visit.
Going to visit the Crippled Children's Home on Sunday afternoons became a highlight of my week. Even as my college career progressed and I had days when I needed to study or wanted to nap, going and singing for those kids was always a blessing. It reminded me of how blessed I was and how even the simplest things can mean the world to others.
The Least Popular Impact
As time went on and I made it to my junior year, the girl who led the Christian service asked me if I would take over after she graduated. Soon I was the person behind the booth, longing for people to join and I soon realized why those girls had been so desperate for people to sign up.
This Christian service wasn't the popular one. Going to the Crippled Children's Home was not very glamorous. The "home" was basically a nursing home. It smelled bad at times. The residents sometimes drooled and weren't as clean as they should be. As I said, they were like children. Plus singing was pretty basic, not much to brag about in ways of ministry skill. I heard other students talk about the Bible lesson they were preparing for their "Christian Service" or of all the people they led to the Lord in their door-to-door ministry.
Don’t get me wrong, those ministries certainly made an immense impact. But I can tell you that singing to those kids at the Crippled Children’s Home was just as powerful.
It's hard to explain, but I could sometimes see it in their faces. One particular young man usually bobbed his head to the singing and laughed, yet one day he broke down and cried. Not because of sadness, but for joy. I'll never forget that and just writing about it makes my eyes misty. Our simple act of being there meant more to him than anything in the world.
Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as upside down. How the weak are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10), the poor are heirs of a kingdom (Matthew 5:3), the last are first (Matthew 20:16), those who save their lives will lose it and those who lose their life will save it (Matthew 16:25). When I think about all those Sunday afternoons singing to those kids, I’m reminded that the world’s default way of thinking doesn’t apply to followers of Christ, especially when it comes to service.
We may not all make what others would observe as huge impacts. What God has called us to do may not be glamorous, but that doesn’t make it is any less valuable. We should strive to please God and not man. We must follow where He leads. It’s surprising how much of an impact we can make, even in the least popular ways.