Reflecting on San Antonio 2011
by Austen Houts, a junior attending Bethany MB Church, Fresno, Calif.
Editor’s note: Congregations were invited to select one student to serve as a CL student reporter for SA2011. Thanks to the 11 youth leaders who recruited student writers and to these students for their honest and inspiring reflections.
For our Monday service project, Bethany and a group from South Dakota rode the city bus for 45 minutes until we reached a small, low income community. We donned neon construction vests and headed off to paint over graffiti. Our group worked incredibly efficiently and we had finished the job within an hour. As a thank you, we were provided with lunch, a water bottle and an orange reusable bag.
After we ate, we broke off into small groups of three or four people to conduct a prayer walk throughout the neighborhood. As my group strolled down the street, a woman passing us in her car thanked us for our work. She explained that she was on her way to visit her mother who lives in the neighborhood we were praying for. The woman blessed us as we parted ways.
I believe that God placed that woman there to assure us that no matter how small or seemingly insignificant our acts of service are, his heart is blessed every time we act in selfless love to further his kingdom on earth. I was not expecting any type of thank you for my work (which is actually preferable to me) but I was encouraged that a complete stranger had taken the time and effort to express her appreciation.
As the other church prepared to take the return bus trip, one of my friends suggested we use the bags we were given to pick up trash around the area we painted. We spent the next 45 minutes collecting trash and filled almost 10 bags. It was rewarding to see something like our complementary bags (which I appreciated but probably would not have actually used) be utilized for a greater purpose. I saw God working through us in many small ways, which reminded me that nothing we do for God is ever worthless.
When I was initially informed that Shane Claiborne would be speaking, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I had heard him referred to as a “controversial” and “radical” speaker, so I was half anticipating myself disagreeing with some of his ideas; however to my pleasant surprise this was absolutely not the case. Shane is an inspiring man of God and I was tremendously encouraged to joyfully give more of my material possessions to people who are in much greater need than I am. He was an excellent example of being God’s hands and feet to those who need him.
Paula’s message about forgiveness challenged me to examine my own life and I am working on ameliorating areas of bitterness. I definitely grew closer to Jesus through Shane and Paula’s speaking and the worship music.
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