God Helps Us, Help Others

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In this article, I would like to focus attention on the idea that people can and have a responsibility to help other people to live better (people helping people).

And there are many examples of this calling throughout history.  For examples, in 1844, George Williams, a shop assistant living in London, England and some of his friends organized the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), to give young men an alternative to life on the streets.  Seven years later we get the YWCA.

During the American Civil War, women volunteered their time to sew supplies for the soldiers. Clara Barton, who became know as the Angel of the Battlefield, and a team of volunteers began providing aid to servicemen.

Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and began mobilizing volunteers for disaster relief operations.

On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 that officially started the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps sent volunteers overseas to promote peace and friendship; they also provided professional help where it was needed..

Today, the human community, like yesterday, needs people to step up and volunteer in service to other human beings.

Let me take a few seconds and read a quote form the Bible.

Matthew: 20:26-28 says, “Not so with you.  Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first among you must be your slave.  Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his live as a ransom for many.”

How do we achieve this greatness?  How do we become this servant?

It begins at home, Proverbs 1:8, “Listen my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Here in Proverbs, King Solomon, the man who asked God for the wisdom to govern his people tells sons and daughters to receive and follow the instructions of their parents.

Then, in Proverbs 22:6 he tells Mothers and Fathers to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

We get the idea from these Bible verses that home is were it all begins.  It’s as though God is giving structure to the home; and the home gives structure to our lives.

God creates the Father and Mother, and then provides them with children to mold, teach, direct and guide as they mature into adults.

Let me read from Isaiah 49:1-6, “Listen to me, you islands: hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me, he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.  He said to me, You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.  But I said, I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain, and for nothing; yet, what is do me is in the Lord’s hand,  and my reward is with God.  And now the Lord says, he who formed me in the womb, be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord  and my God has been my strength—-he says: it is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

When Jesus says, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his live as a ransom for many.”  He echos the message Isaiah draws attention to.

This word servant is the theme in both these text.  Jesus calls us to serve one another 750 years after the Lord God called Isaiah his servant.

Isaiah says, “before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”

Now, I am no expert when it comes to being a parent or raising children, but I believe God is an expert, and that we are born into a world of structure and order. God has provided a path for us to to travel.  Our parents prepare us, and get us ready for the trip.  All we have to do is get in the car, put it in drive and begin our journey.

As we travel life’s highway’s we can experience a sense of fulfillment.  Fulfillment is realized when our lives are bursting with joy, kindness, generosity, love and truth.

These attributes compel us to assert ourselves as it relates to serving others, and in some cases serving those not as fortunate as we are. Service does not lead to fulfillment, service is itself the truest and highest fulfillment.

When Jesus says, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Jesus is saying that greatness is service.

It is in the home that we learn our first lessons.  The lessons we learn should facilitate the development of out gifts.  And as we discover our gifts, it is with these gifts that we can serve God, our families, neighbors, communities, etc.

The service being spoke about here denotes love in action for our families and communities, for the world we live in.  We grow into life knowing that our gifts are derived from divine love. 

Our gifts serve us, our families and communities; In addition, we should allow our gifts to enter into service for God.

This is what gives birth to the  koinonia—— the birth of fellowship.

When we give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, give clothing the naked, or visiting the sick and imprisoned.  It is divine fellowship, fellowship called into service by Jesus Christ.

Take for example, William Booth who founder the Salvation Army.  He was called to be a servant of Jesus Christ.  Not in the sense of the planting a church and preaching from the pulpit. No, his gift was walking the streets of London, preaching to the poor, homeless, hungry, and destitute.

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards received Jesus Christ.  Some of these converts to Christianity became living testimonies to the power of God.

In 1878, when William Booth read a pre-production proof of the “Christian Mission”  an annual report, he noticed the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” Crossing out the words “volunteer army,” he penned in “Salvation Army.”

Today thousands of people volunteer and work for the Salvation Army; it is one of the oldest and largest organizations working for disadvantaged people in the world today. The Salvation Army is at work as we speak, spreading the message of God’s healing and hope in more than 100 countries.

To history William Booth is a great man.  But if he told the story, he would say he was a servant, a servant of Jesus Christ.  In his service to others, he was a slave in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and in the kingdom of Jesus Christ his service was his greatness.

Know Our Place

Knowing that slavery is a modern day reality, I walk humbly before the Lord God, my Savior.  For where there is slavery, there is the master. And the master usually has unlimited power over the slave, and the slave is required to be obedient to their master. 

I have been, and see people everyday who are slaves; slaves to sin (hate, racism, drugs, alcohol, lust, etc). The apostle Paul in Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you know when you offer yourself to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, whether you are a slave to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness.”

Jesus Christ preserves and delivers us from being slaves to sin, in his death on the cross.  Having been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.  Righteousness that is rooted in love; love that causes righteousness to come to life. Love becomes something that we can see and feel; it affects our lives, it makes our lives better. 

Jesus said “I came not to be served, but to be served.” We get the full understanding of what it means to volunteer, to be a servant in the Gospels.

John 10:17-18 says, “the reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life —- only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

Jesus also said, in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”

I think it’s clear that Jesus freely laid down his life and died to redeem us from sin and death.  Jesus volunteered his life, and he did it for me and you and generations to come.  It says he gave his live as a ransom for many.

Not black, brown, or white.  Not American, Russian, African, Mexican.  Not fat, skinny; not short or tall.  He volunteered his life for his friends, his brothers and sisters; God’s sons and daughters.  For those who are the heirs to the Kingdom of God.

Now, with the way society is structured today, we go to school, get a job and retire; and there is a lot that goes on in between that leaves a lasting impact on the structure and evolution of society and culture.

Looking at the United States, there are 108.7 million folks age 50-plus here in the United States. This includes 76.4 million boomers (born 1946-64). The Baby Boomers are responsible for the idea that to live the American Dream, requires Work, Work, and more Work.

The Baby boomers are responsible the Women’s Movement (women were no longer content with staying home having babies), Television, Credit Cards, and Consumerism.  And so, the Baby Boomers made contributions to society and culture. Their contributions contribute to the foundation of life as we know it today.  Their contributions affect the lives or their children and their children.

Then there are 49 million Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old).  Generation X, laid the political, intellectual, social, creative and personal ground upon which the Millennials walk, talk and text.

There are 82 million Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)  : Millennials are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population.  Millennials have been shaped by technology.  Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work.

Millennials have invested in human capital (that is, education) more than previous generations.

More Millennials have a college degree than any other generation of young adults. In 2013, 47 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds had some college credits, or received an associates, bachelor’s, or graduate degree.

And an additional 18 percent had completed some master degree or better.

Millennials are also more likely to attend graduate school than previous generations. Among 18 to 34 year-olds, college enrollment stood at 19 percent in 2010, up from 15 percent in 1995. Graduate school enrollment for the same age group has increased at an even faster rate, jumping from 2.8 percent in 1995 to 3.8 percent in 2010 – a 35 percent increase. With so many Millennials enrolling in college, there has been an unprecedented expansion of higher education to lower-income and underrepresented minority students.

Since 1995, enrollment for blacks ages 18 to 24 increased 9 percentage points and enrollment for Hispanics ages 18 to 24 increased 17 percentage points. These represent larger increases, in percentage terms, for blacks and Hispanics than for whites.  Enrollment of students from low-income families is higher among Millennials than previous generations.

Now, just because the Boomer population is aging doesn’t mean they’re necessarily slowing down. Boomers are expected to influence the world for decades to come.

I believe their influence as something to do with Generation X, and the Millennials being their children and grandchildren.

Every act of kindness, every lesson taught; indeed, every act of service, everything we volunteered/gave in the work of raising our children is what makes us great, and causes our voices to be heard.

“Listen my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” 

Working together with our children and grandchildren there is no limit to what we can accomplish.  Leadership is needed more now that ever before.  There is no time limit to a father giving instruction, and a mother’s teaching.

And who better to provide leadership than those who have skills, trades, and time.  The average retirement age is 62, but 64% of Americans say goodbye to the workplace between the ages of 55 and 65.  Retirement is the perfect time to begin augmenting one’s service to God, family, neighbors, community, country and the world we live in.

Let me quickly talk about a few things we as people should be concerned about.

  • Climate change/destruction of nature
  • Lack of economic opportunity and employment
  • Safety / security / wellbeing
  • Lack of education
  • Food and water security
  • Government accountability, transparency / corruption
  • Religious conflicts
  • Poverty.

Let me read a short piece written by, Aesop:

So serve in the situation and opportunity your creator has given you already. Then be open and vigilant to the opportunities that pervade your own community. In this way we may gracefully expand into the void that begs to be filled by love and care and then without fail, the act exponentially multiplies and causes a ripple effect.

How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment: we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make a contribution toward introducing justice straight away.

And as we begin giving to causes near and far, we must also be open to receiving the blessings that will be poured out on our lives.”

Giving of ourselves freely is a response to a divine calling.  When we respond to God’s divine call, windows open in heaven and pour blessings into our lives. These blessings we can use to bless others.

Free will is a gift from God, and we are free to make choices.  Any time we volunteer, it is an act of free will, and when we give of ourselves freely in the cause of helping others to live better, we experience a sense of fulfillment, and in this we know that we have not lived our lives in vain.

When we allow the love of God to flow through our acts of service to one another, we experience the fruits of the spirit at work in our lives. 

The fruits of the spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As the gifts of the spirit flow through us we experience what it’s like to be citizens in the kingdom of heaven.

Anne Frank:

“It is pure pleasure to know that we work with fellow volunteers and in our own way, foster greater Love, Peace and Joy in the human spirit; to encourage and be encouraged. Remain steadfast and please don’t let the task-oriented, hard-wiring of our society make you forget why you do what you do. Volunteering is way beyond a job, so don’t make it one. Take the time to smell the roses you are planting through your positive energy and desire to serve. In this way, we journey together to one day become more fully human.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Jesus gave his life as ransom for many.  

“The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many.” The Greek word here (lutron) means: a payment to release someone from some kind of bondage: prisoners of war, slavery, debt. So the implication is that Jesus sees his death as a ransom to release many from bondage. He is paying what we cannot pay so that we may go free. He is substituting himself for us. And at the cost of his life, we get freedom.

The ransom is what frees us and empowers us to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Now having been set free from sin and death, we can live and enjoy the fruit of the spirit.

Remember, Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”

As we look to the world we live in, our families, neighbors, communities, cities, states and countries we can make them better by following the example of Jesus Christ. 

Every act of kindness, no matter how small it may seem is an act of love. And that kind of love equals service.  Indeed we have been created to love and serve one another.

Below is a short list of volunteer organizations:

1. Homeboy Industries

Homeboy Industries serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with free services and programs, and operates several social enterprises that serve as job-training sites. Documentary buffs may have seen this organization in the documentary by Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock: G-Dog the Movie. Supporting their social enterprise is a great way to give back. Keep in mind Homeboy Foods makes their food available at several Farmer Markets and at the Homegirl Café.

2. Midnight Mission

Midnight Mission is celebrating its 100th year offering a bridge to self-sufficiency for homeless people through counseling, education, training and job placement.  Volunteer opportunities include meal service prep, clothing sorting, tutoring, plus professional services such as tax preparation and legal services. You can volunteer anywhere from once a year to weekly.

3. Los Angeles Rescue Mission

The Los Angeles Mission has existed for 75 years providing help, hope and opportunity to men, women and children in need. The Mission hosts the annual Thanksgiving Feast, which attracts several celebrity volunteers. Volunteer opportunities include decorating, graphic design, cooking grant writing and photography. Commitment levels range from one time to weekly.  The Los Angeles Mission also has a boutique on eBay that you can support.

4. LAMP Community

Lamp achieves one of the highest success rates in the nation for ending homelessness. In addition to emergency housing, LAMP Community offers supportive housing permanent supportive housing HIV/AIDS support groups and transgender support groups.  To put the advantages of supportive housing in perspective: A night in a Los Angeles jail costs $64, a night in a mental hospital costs $607, and a night in a general hospital costs $1,474. A night in supportive housing costs just $30.  One of their popular programs The Art Project, seeks volunteers to lead workshops in drawing, painting, photography, and other media.

5. Downtown Women’s Center

DWC is exclusively dedicated to serving the unique needs of homeless and very low-income women in downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row community. They provide supportive housing and an onsite health clinic providing health screenings and workshops.  In addition to their supportive housing, DWC has a Day Center that offers clean private bathrooms, showers, meals, laundry facilities and fresh clothing.  Their social enterprise MADE is a unique boutique selling items created by DWC residents.

6. The Giving Spirit

The Giving Spirit volunteers assemble and personally distributing survival kits to the children, women and families living on the street. The kits contain over 70 individual items. The Giving Spirit has distributed over 29,000 kits on Skid Row and the greater Los Angeles area.  This organization is unique since they have two outreach events each year, during the holiday season and summer. For those with limited time commitment this could be a great opportunity to help!

7. San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission

Sadly, their original Mission burned down in May so they are specifically in need of help rebuilding. The SFV Rescue Mission serves homeless families in addition to individuals. Families make up a very large portion of the homeless population so organization like SFV Rescue Mission are especially critical to help the unique needs of the families facing homelessness.

Volunteer to Help Kids

Children are the future of our city, country and world. Herbert Hoover, our 31st President said “Children are our most valuable resource.” Child poverty in L.A. is at its highest in 20 years. This puts children at risk for injuries and pre mature death. If you have an interest in making a difference in a child’s life, these organizations might be for you.

8. 826LA

826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to help teachers inspire their students to write. Volunteers work one-on-one with students in after school programs at either a Mar Vista, or Echo Park Location. They also have a Time Travel Mart store where you can make purchases that benefit the foundation.

9. School on Wheels

School on Wheels provides a unique opportunity to meet a homeless student at a public location once a week for one hour. School on Wheels strives to improve subject knowledge, increase self -esteem and self- confidence, as well as being a positive role model in the life of the student in need. In fact, the OWN Network did a feature on School on Wheels.

10. Big Brother Big Sisters of America

Big Brothers Big Sisters staff members work with their partners in the education and juvenile justice communities to find children facing adversity and assess how their programs can have the greatest impact. Big Brothers Big Sisters targets the children who need the most help, including those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty and coping with parental incarceration.  Getting together doesn’t require a special occasion or expensive activity—just a few hours every month doing things the Little and Big already enjoy such as playing catch, reading books, going to a museum, or providing advice and inspiration Some Bigs meet their Littles on the weekends. Others get together with their Littles in the evenings. Each Little and Big can develop a schedule that works for them.

11. Reading to Kids

Reading to kids is a grassroots organization dedicated to inspiring children with a love of reading. Reading is proven to enrich the lives of children and increase their opportunities for success.  At the monthly reading club, pairs of volunteers read aloud to small groups of children, while their parents receive training on how to encourage their children to read at home. Kids, parents, teachers, and school libraries receive book donations at the end of the reading clubs. These are important donations, as 60 percent of low-income homes do not have age-appropriate reading materials for children.

12. The Richstone Family Center

The Richstone Family Center is an organization dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse, strengthening families, and preventing violence in families, schools & communities. Specifically, they have a Kid’s Club program where volunteers can lead projects to teach children photography, cooking, sports, and more. The center also provides academic assistance to children either through individual sessions or in small group settings.

Volunteer to Work With Animals

It is often said that dog is man’s best friend, yet there thousands of dogs and other animals are abused, neglected and killed in shelters. After all, Mahatma Gandhi said “you can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals.” If you have a love for animals, and want to make this city a better place for our furry and not so furry friends, here are some ideas for you.

13. NKLA

NKLA is an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society, bringing together passionate individuals, city shelters and an entire coalition of animal welfare organizations to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets in city shelters in Los Angeles, by the year 2017.  They provide spay/neuter services so fewer animals go into shelters, and increase adoptions so that more animals are placed into new homes. NKLA has a beautiful Pet Adoption Center located in the heart of West Los Angeles.  One of their popular volunteer events is the NKLA Adoption Weekend which brings together many of the NKLA partners. The last event helped 500 animals find forever homes!

14. Rescue from the Hart

Annie Hart and her husband – James Hart, started their own rescue after years of supporting animal advocacy for many years.  They provide medical and emotional care through vets, trainers and foster homes. They also share rescue stories, called Rescue Tails, to further demonstrate the need for animal advocacy. Rescue from the Hart hopes to inspire others to change the lives of animals in need.

15.  Hope for Paws

Hope for Paws was started by Audrey and Eldad Hagar. They have been featured in the Huffington Post numerous times. Their YouTube videos get millions of hits from around the world, and they are based right here in Los Angeles.  Many people abandon their pets and dump them in the streets. The animals are then put at risk of starvation, abuse and death. “These valuable creatures help us whether it is assisting the blind or finding people under the rubble from an earthquake. They help us in times of war and during human catastrophes. We want to help both humans and animals alike live harmonious and fulfilling lives together” – Hope For Paws

16. The Mutt Scouts

The Mutt Scouts in addition to rescuing animals focuses on helping animal with special needs. Basically, they rescue disabled animals that others are not able to rescue. In fact, The Mutt Scouts recently rescued a paralyzed dog in Mexico and managed to get it across the border!!  The Queen Latifah Show recently featured this amazing organization. The animal rescue world is a small one, Hope for Paws also appeared on the show and works together with The Mutt Scouts to help Los Angeles animals in need.