“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home” (Jesus, Matthew 25:35, NLT)
“The best portion of a good man’s life – his little nameless acts of kindness,
unremembered acts of kindness” (William Wordsworth, poet)
One of the comments people most commonly make after a major disaster has hit a community is how it brought people together to help and comfort each other. More often than not, when I read and talk to people who are going through some difficulties and ask them if there is anyone nearby to whom they can turn for support, they cannot think of anyone they know well enough to ask. Admittedly, I only do and join few social community projects in Sarawak, but I understand that this phenomenon is not exclusive to large, city areas only. The need for social community projects is vast and very demanding, especially, today.
Few years ago, I joined FES Malaysia, a student ministry organization, 2-weeks program called S.W.E.E.P. (Social Work Exposure & Embracement Program) and my life changed! Since then, my view on Christian faith broadened and my perspective of the Gospel enlarged. Getting involve in social community projects (definitely not the only means out there!) give joy to me because I get a chance to practise my faith, witnessing Christ both through my work and words, and it is an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives together – even with the students and my non-Christian friends. Offering to volunteer to help with or initiate a community project has been, for me, the most satisfying ways to love God and people.
In my experience, it pays to think and plan before rushing in to help with the first project you encounter or are requested to help with. In order to obtain the best return in terms of helping the community, while at the same time it helps you in your relationship with God and others, you will need to bear several things in mind prayerfully:
Do Personal Research and Respect Local Needs
You can do this by asking neighbours and meeting leaders of local organizations or churches. It also helps to spend time reading the local newspaper, campus or community bulletins, and listening to any local radio station. Do some research before you get involve. Don’t assume needs but offer helps only in the area of needs (not whatever you wants).
Try to Match a Local Need or Interest to One of Your Talents
If you are good organizer, you could offer to put on trips for residents’ association, or be on the committee of a charity group. If your talent is writing, you could perhaps, offer to start a newsletter or write something like this article in your blog or any social medias. Give encouragements, update needs and be the voice for the voiceless. If you have driving license, offer your help in transportation. If you’re good in English or math, be a volunteer teacher. “If… be…” There are lots of opportunities and ways you can be involve. What are your God-given gifts or talents? Remember this: Playing to your strengths will be much more satisfying for you and make your involvement much more effective.
Under- Rather than Over-Commit
This is much easier said than done (over-commitment is one of my weaknesses. vise versa). Every community and charitable project is never ending and is constantly thirsty for help. It is particularly hard to say “No!” in crises, but remember – these are inevitable and frequent in this world. Don’t overcommitted that you lost your personal, quiet and alone time with Jesus along the way. Jesus is our priority, not men. That’s why the first commandment is the first, not second. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8). So you have to be clear about the commitment you can give, and stick within your capability boundaries with super-assertiveness. Remind yourself that over-commitment leads to resentfulness, bitterness and burnout – none of which will benefit anyone if you do.
“[Whether] you eat or drink, or whatever you do (that include social community work),
do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, bracket mine)
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.