May 19, 2012

serve the city

this morning, our church participated in 'serve the city.' it's a day where local churches take on a variety of projects to bless our community. this year, the college group did something a little different. the project was called 'suds & serve.' our pastor's goal was simply to go to a laundromat with rolls of quarters and bless people by paying for their laundry. it sounds totally different from your usual church outreach, right? when he first told our group about the project, i'll admit that i was definitely a little hesitant. who's really going to accept our money? won't we look silly just asking people to pay for their laundry? thoughts and doubts like that raced through my mind, and i instinctively wanted to serve in a different way - maybe a beach clean-up, or helping at the rescue mission, or something else task-oriented. nope, T put his foot down and said we'd be serving with the college group.

so, this morning i dragged myself out of bed, rolled up to church, and had no idea what to expect. we prayed for boldness and opportunities, and then carpooled out to 2 laundromats. still, i had no idea what to do. it's moments like these that i am extremely grateful for T and the ways he challenges me. our group of 5 college students went to the coin laundry, with quarters in our pockets and our bags. almost immediately, T started marching up to people asking them if they wanted change - some accepted, the first few refused, telling us to give it to someone more...(they didn't finish their sentences). we sat down in front, and after a while, we started intercepting anyone headed toward the change machine. i think people thought we were just giving them change, but when we started refusing the $5, $10, and $20 bills they were handing us, they were shocked. no, we said, we want to bless you today by paying for your laundry. please, just take it. and they did, with faces in shock. after an hour, we started feeling pretty comfortable, and readily approached people saying hi, we're from a local church and we were wondering if we could bless you by paying for your laundry today? the responses were amazing.

some people shouted for joy, some hugged us, others just came over and started chatting with us while their loads were washing. a few people stopped and looked up, searching for cameras. no, we're not punking you, we said. the idea that people were just giving away quarters was absolutely dumbfounding to them. what a great idea! some said. we encouraged those who reluctantly accepted the change to pay it forward and to give the bills they saved to someone else they thought may need it. the last family we ran into just moved and was looking for a church. 10:45 on sunday morning! i said. even inviting someone to church is something i rarely do, but i wish i would more often. people left the coin laundry with either a God bless  or a thank you. no, thank YOU i wanted to say back. once again, i was reminded of how awesome it is to serve people and to give, without expecting anything in return.

maybe that's why God places such importance on living out our faith, not just talking about it. yes, it's uncomfortable and different, but it has always been so rewarding to me in the end.

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