After visiting my grandparents (PaPa & NaNa) one day this summer, I left marveled at these two witnesses. PaPa is 92 and Nana is 87. They have lived long and fruitful lives. PaPa stationed throughout Europe during World War II. NaNa growing up on a farm in rural Hanover County. They raised three children, grandparented eight grandchildren and six plus great-grandchildren. With one more on the way.
As a kid, I’d watch my grandparents serve endlessly the church they had grown to love. For over 40 years they cleaned the church every week as her janitors. But more than that I watched them cook meals for those in need, care for neighbors and friends when they were sick. I watched as they rearranged their house (and their lives) to take in family members in times of need (including myself). I worked beside them as they cared for yards of others who were not able to do so.
And why did they do this?
A deep love for their Savior who taught to love others as he loves us.
There is no doubt that one of the ways in which I understand my call as a Christian, and as a deacon in the United Methodist Church, is from watching my grandparents live out theirs to this day. And they are not alone. I have met countless other people who have become adopted grandparents whose lives are so similar to NaNa and PaPa’s. Their devotion to the Kingdom work that God has called them to has left me marveled at what God can do through us when we answer, “Yes, Lord.”
I have participated in funerals for dear people that I have only known for a short time who are nothing short of being saints of the church. People who made it their business to make sure that those who lived in poorer areas than they had food to eat. People who stood up to racial injustice at a time in their community when it was the “wrong” thing to do. People whose lives were guided by a fight for justice and peace for all people. Story after story, I would long to have a lifetime to just sit at the feet of these saints. I longed to spend just one more day to hear from them how they did what they did, about what motivated them to do it, and so on. These were people who, in the eyes of others, took great risks to love other people. But in their eyes, they were simply living in and for the Kingdom.
They held a strong dedication to love others as Christ loves them. Their passion in sharing that love with young people was contagious. They were living for the Kingdom.
Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.
Living a life of faithfulness is not easy. In fact, Jesus never promised that it would be, only that he would be with us. The one thing I’ve learned from my grandparents, and all the other adopted grandparents in my life, is that the more we serve, the sweeter the relationship between us and Jesus becomes. With each day that we serve, we see Jesus in a whole new way. The more we serve, the more opportunities we have to grow in our faith and grow in Jesus.
There have been so many throughout my journey whose lives of service have left significant marks on my life. These examples of service have taught me that serving is more than just a food donation or the writing of a check, though it can be those things. Service is sacrificial. Service is taking risk. Service is stepping out when everyone else is clinging to what is comfortable.
I only hope that in some small way I can live up to their example.