For a number of years, I was privileged to travel with a group of pilgrims to Honduras for an annual August mission trip. We traveled to work on one of several clinics run by a holy ministry called Siempre Unidos. This Episcopal effort aids people with AIDS in a country where the stigma is strong, treatment is rare, diagnosis is devastating. We learned a lot. We received more than we gave. But that’s how the gospel works. The members of our motley group had many gifts, but construction skills were not at the top of the list, in most cases. So we honored the Hippocratic Oath and pledged to do no harm. We worked hard. We tried to leave the place better than we found it. We also knew that the Honduran workmen laboring alongside of us would repair (or redo) the work we did each night after we left. We realized through a translator that they regarded our fumbling work with both mystery and mirth. They taught us about grace.
Our mission group made our best offering, despite limited skills. We traveled in the name of Jesus. We began each day with Morning Prayer. And because we went the same week each year, we remembered a series of saints who show up in this particular week in mid-August. Year after year, the same saints would teach us about the spiritual growth that comes with service. So even though I am on hiatus from these Honduran adventures (They will resume!), I think of our group of pilgrims when mid-August rolls around. (You know who you are!) And I think of the following saints, another motley group whose feast days appear in the week ending today. They include:
- Laurence the Deacon, who was martyred on August 10, 258. As archdeacon of the church, he was ordered by persecuting authorities to hand over the treasures of the church. He pointed to the poor and needy served by the church. He said that they were the treasure of the church. That didn’t sit so well with the emperor, who in short order had him killed.
- Clare of Assisi died on August 11, 1253. At age 18, she heard St. Francis preach and asked him to help her live out the gospel. She renounced the resources of her wealthy family and established a monastic order, devoting her life to holy service to the poor.
- Florence Nightingale was a nurse and social reformer who died on August 13, 1910. She was an Anglican who saw the gospel as a healing ministry, who took that healing ministry to care for soldiers in the Crimean War and then returned to England to establish the profession of nursing.
- Jonathan Myrick Daniels was a young seminarian who left Boston and headed south to serve in the civil rights movement. He was martyred exactly fifty years ago on August 14, 1965 as he took a stand between a young black woman and the angry white man who had aimed a shotgun at her.
These saints helped guide us in the work we did in Honduras. They come from different times and places. They embraced varied ministries that addressed the needs they encountered. They used the gifts, the resources they’d been given. They did it because in some way they each knew and followed Jesus.
On this mid-August Monday morning, look for opportunities to be of service. How will you respond to the needs you encounter? Thank God for the models of servanthood you’ve been given. Who are those people? Then think of how you can be a model of service for those around you, because saints serve.
– Jay Sidebotham
So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ – Mark 10
Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.