Service-learning trip to Louisiana experiences servanthood

Photo courtesy service-learning center
Photo courtesy service-learning center

This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a service-learning trip to Chauvin, La. While there, I was struck by the resilient and selfless attitudes of a community that has been affected time and time again by storms, floods, poverty and segregation. Despite difficult circumstances in the area, I came across hundreds of willing hands, joyful hearts and bright minds that were ready to serve the Lord in any way they could.

One verse that was on my heart all week was Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT). The people of Chauvin displayed a strong willingness to emulate this verse by bringing peace and joy to their community; I believe this was God working through them.

I saw this happen through acts of servanthood. Members of the church and community took it upon themselves to provide delicious meals for us, lead us on a “‘gator gazing” walk and take the time just to talk with us.

We were able to listen to a former Houma Indian tribe chief talk about how she and her husband opened their home to the community after flooding wrecked several people’s homes, and I heard from another woman who takes the time to care for God’s creation in the area and, in doing so, reminds the community they matter and belong.

The church where we stayed — which went eight years without a pastor and had only 12 members when the current pastor of three years arrived — also strongly believes in reaching out to those who might not otherwise feel that they belong. Several people with disabilities or without jobs attend this church. The love we experienced from them was unmeasurable.

One member of the church, who works at the fabulous Pizza Express, made it a point to come join us for meals and help out whenever he could, despite his busy schedule. Junior Sarah Weiss was impacted by a woman in the congregation who sat next to her during church. While this woman could not read or write, she offered Sarah her notebook, and had her write down every Bible verse that was spoken before having her look up where it was in the Bible — even though she could not read. She also asked Sarah to pray for her, which Sarah was happy to do.

I had a similar experience while singing a hymn. The woman next to me could not speak more than a few words; however, I am positive that her humming along with the melody sounded just as glorious to our heavenly father as it did to me.

I was also touched by the humble attitudes of servanthood displayed in the 18 students and the Calvin faculty members that I worked alongside. Jesus was clearly present every day through someone quietly cleaning up the kitchen, gently encouraging others or being a listening ear. When I asked students to lead worship the first Sunday after a long car drive, several students eagerly volunteered to help, while others promptly went to lead Sunday School or took the time to know members of the congregation.

Service-learning trips bring awareness to the fact that God is present everywhere, that he is working in people to bring redemption to the creation that he adores and that his light and gospel are made known in mysterious ways.

My favorite lyrics by All Sons & Daughters say, “You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.” While brokenness is present in Chauvin, there is also an unperplexed hope that I found to be wildly encouraging. I walked away from southern Louisiana in awe of the visible truth that God is at work caring for all of his people and creation.