... in the young hands working at the soup kitchen in Aberdeen, WA
Becoming the Eyes, Hands, Feet, Heart and Voice of Jesus
A Young Adolescent Adventure in Christian Service
By Jocelyn Arida
The goal of the one week retreat seemed nice - to become the eyes, hands, feet, heart and voice of Jesus. We were all up to the challenge - and it seemed fun. But we never imagined it would became a life changing experience.
The Junior High youth from the Holy Family Parish in Auburn, WA - and the parish staff and the adult volounteers who accompanied them - all felt as if they were touched by God during this one week journey to the the town of Aberdeen, WA from July 30 to August 4, 2006.
Our mission was to help the poor people of Aberdeen, WA. Our group was to run the local soup kitchen for the entire week. We were to interact closely with the poor of the city - complete strangers who lived in a city that was very foreign to us.
Our faith journey started with a send off from our parish - led by our parish priest - right after Sunday Mass. Eight additional youths from two other parishes joined us in this one-week program of the Office of Youth and Young Adults Ministry of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
As we entered the city that we were about to explore, we were greeted by a city sign that read “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are.” No pretensions and yet quite welcoming.
Aberdeen, WA is not an affluent city. Many downtown buildings housed businesses that have shut down. Most of the residential houses were run down, many needed major makeovers. There was a sprinkling of adorable homes around, but it wasn't unusual to find a house in total
disrepair next to a nice one. This was clearly a low-income community where many underprivileged people lived.
SEEING WITH GOD'S EYES
During this one-week mission program, we were challenged to look at these poor people and "see" them with God’s Eyes. We did. And everything began to appear to us in a different
light. We began to see everything with love and compassion for the poor and their plight. Slowly, we learned to look beyond the stench and their dirty appearances. These were God's people.
We sat down and shared meals with them, the very same meals we had prepared. We got to know their individual personal life stories. It started to dawn on us that our acts of kindness were restoring some of the dignity these people had lost a long time ago. All it took in most
cases was a simple hello and warm smiles on our faces.
As soon as we started working, we noticed a change in the look on the faces of the people we were helping. The more profound change, however, was happening in the hearts of our youth. They readily stepped out of their comfort zones to lend a helping hand. They made friends with total strangers, people so destitute they wouldn't otherwise even merit a glance if they ran across each other in their home town.
WALKING IN GOD'S FEET
We were told to walk in God’s Feet too. Every morning, we hiked for about 15 to 20 minutes just to get to the soup kitchen site where we were to cook and serve food. In the beginning, it seemed like a long trek. But when you do it with a desire to work for God’s people, one forgets the distance and time goes by fast while walking.
It is tiring to walk to work and stand on your feet the whole day, cooking and preparing food. After serving meals, we would socialize with people and then clean the kitchen afterwards - all on our feet. By the afternoon, our legs and feet would be so sore. And then we had to make the trek back to the church that was housing us.
Amazingly, as tired as we were, we walked back every day with smiles on our faces and a tremendous feeling of happiness in our hearts. God’s Feet definitely took us to where we were
much needed. And God's Heart was filling up with the love our young people have been giving out.
WORKING WITH GOD'S HANDS
At the soup kitchen, God’s Hands were at work. He was working through these young people, many of who had never even prepared a single meal in their own homes. These are young
people who rarely washed dishes, nor mopped floors. But they ran that soup kitchen effectively for one week. They kept their young hands busy doing all the chores needed to accomplish our task.
We were told that our group was the first youth volunteers that had come over to run this soup kitchen. And our youth ran it well. Through our young people, Christ’s Hands happily prepared the food for the hungry and lovingly served it to them. We saw His hands through a handshake stretched out to a man who was a throat cancer survivor. We felt His Hands through a warm pat on someone’s back.
SPEAKING WITH GOD'S VOICE
These less fortunate people we met are all special in the eyes of God. And they need love and caring from all of us.
As were about to leave, we were all reminded that we could be Christ’s Voice that spreads the word to the world about the great work that needs to be done to help the poor. We were to be a voice for the voiceless. We were to be a voice of hope and encouragement - even to those people who are drastically different from us.
God’s Heart is big enough for all of us to share to share with everyone - specially the needy.
It was truly wonderful to see how one week can make a difference in our lives. Our parish youth were fortunate to be a part of this wonderful experience. And it is the change we all felt stirring in our own hearts that is the best reward. God's Heart was more full when we left the soup kitchen for the last time.
Lord, send me out today to leave heartprints. And if someone should say "I felt your touch and care," May that person sense Your gracious love touching them through Me.
~ Author Unknown
(Jocelyn Arida works at the Youth Office of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Auburn, WA.)
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