First, I'll tell you a little bit about Center for Student Missions (CSM). This is an inner-city mission organization with 10 locations around the country. I've worked with CSM in DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago as a youth at Trinity UMC. It is such an amazing organization that provides groups an opportunity to serve God and others in the city, as well as learn about the problems of the city and see it from a lot of different perspectives.
On our first day of service, we went to a shelter for homeless men. Our only job was to talk to the men and get to know them. The man who ran the shelter, Vince, told us at the beginning of our time there and our job was to learn and the homelessness could happen to any one of us. At the end of our time there, he got us together and had us ask any questions we had. While we were talking, he asked us why we were there, and one of the youth said it was part of his faith journey. I think this struck a chord with Vince (who is not a Christian), because after that he asked the youth if he thought he had made an impact. The youth didn't know how to answer, and after a little bit Vince said "No, you didn't."
This didn't sit well with any of us there, and we talked about it on the way home. We were a little taken aback because as Christians, we are called to serve others because that's what Jesus did. Yeah, a conversation on one night of someone's life doesn't necessarily mean they are going to change their life the next day, but maybe the person I talked to just needed to listen to someone that night. We discussed the definition of "impact" and how our presence at the shelter that night wasn't a waste of time because of the short-term effects we may have had on the men we met.
The next day, our city hosts Rachelle and Lauren read us some scripture and a poem that helped us deal with this.
by Mother Teresa
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
"Work hard and cheefully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Rember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ"
Colossians 3: 23-24
God doesn't call us to serve others to receive appreciation or praise from those people. He doesn't call us to serve others at all, really. He is calling us to serve HIM. It's not about what other people think about our service to God, only what He thinks! This poem and scripture verse really made me see what I was doing in Chicago and my purpose there. I was to be serving God by serving others, not just serving the people of the city. This experience and the discussions that followed really helped me learn what it means to be a servant of God.