By Kevin Tran
When I was in college, I went on a week long missions trip to Mexico. I was an idealistic college student, eager to improve the lives of the people we met there. I was part of a team that worked on a small schoolhouse. Our group spent our week helping a local worker with his tasks: fixing a roof, painting some walls, erecting a fence, and building an outhouse. In the afternoons, we taught the local children Bible lessons.
As the week came to an end, I thought about our time in Mexico. What had we really accomplished? We made small repairs to a ramshackle building that might make it a little more inviting. We played with some kids for a bit. How long would any of what we did there last?
And that is when I realized that the greatest gift we can give is the love of Christ. All of our efforts to help the needy and fight poverty are small things. They are still good things, and of course we should strive to find longer term solutions for these problems. But if we give people the Gospel and the hope of Christ, we are giving them something that lasts forever. Of course we can’t expect to bring someone to Christ in a week, but maybe those small acts of love we exhibited will be one small push in the right direction. Having that opportunity to show the love of Christ is what made our time worth it.
Now, years later, I find myself tutoring children as part of our church’s ESL program. I help the children of ESL students and the Rockspring neighborhood locals with their homework for one night a week. Again, I find myself asking the same questions. What can I really accomplish in ninety minutes a week? I’m not going to be able to teach a child, who recently immigrated from Vietnam, English in such a small amount of time, and I don’t know how much these children’s grades will improve from having a little help with their math homework.
And again, the answer is the same. Sam Young, the head of the ESL ministry, always reminds us that we are there to show people the love of Christ through our words and our actions. Of course we want the adults to learn English and the children to do better in school, and we put in great efforts towards that end. But these programs are worthwhile just because they give us a chance to demonstrate the kind of compassion that Christ teaches us. We probably will not bring converts by the droves to the churches through some lessons for a couple hours two nights a week, but we can show our students what the church is about. Our efforts may not be an end in and of themselves, but they are certainly a worthy start.