Season offers several service opportunities

Verses like, “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year,” ring out among people during the holidays, but what if instead of simply wishing another would have a good time, people would make sure needs were met?

As winter approaches, students have the opportunity to serve and share what they have with others through many different venues.

A group of 30 students and eight adults will head to southeast Texas for another Hurricane Ike relief effort, Jan. 1-7. The trip, offered through the Baptist Student Ministry, is partnering with Nehemiah’s Division and locals for the reconstruction of the area.

“Last time we did ‘mudout,’ where we actually tear things out, and now we are going to put things back in the house,” said Tommy Wilson, one of the student leaders for the trip.

The team hopes to rebuild not only destroyed property but the hearts of those mourning their losses. Wilson said the mission trip will benefit the victims of Hurricane Ike by meeting needs and by investing in their lives.

“We are kind of hoping to come back to the same contacts we had last time to show them we are not just a one show kind of thing — that we are in it for the long haul, and ultimately that is how Christ is,” he said. “He doesn’t just save us and throw us to the four winds and says, ‘Figure it out. You’re in a relationship with me,’ he says, ‘I want to walk beside you to the completion.’”

In addition to affected residents, Wilson hopes the trip will aid in shaping missional lifestyles for participates.

“I want them to see service is much more than being a preacher or necessarily going on a mission trip where you go around evangelizing one on one. The biggest way we can do missions is to evangelize with our lifestyles and with the gifts and talents God has given us,” he said.

Although some have missed the ability to attend this trip, Wilson hopes they will understand missions are more than one time and one place.

He said, “Doing missions is not something you do. It is a lifestyle you live. I hope people understand that whether they are working on someone’s house wherever, they have the opportunity to live missional.”

As the team prepares to load up, another chance to participate in the Hurricane Ike relief is available. Cleanup efforts will be made in Galveston during spring break. Wilson said to contact the BSM for more information. If people still want to help, supplies for the trip are needed and can be left at the BSM.

The local food bank, Helping Hands, provides ways to assist.

Helping Hands Assistant Director, Kimberly Pointer, said the locally funded operation services 500 sacks to Belton residents each week, and, with only one paid staff member, it survives off volunteers’ consistent willingness to work. She welcomes students because of their energetic youth and quick ability to learn.

“We can always use the help even if students just want to pop in. Anytime anybody has extra time, we would love for you all to come.”

Volunteers can stock shelves, prepare bags, separate bulk items, sort clothing, clean and save recyclable things. Pointer said Helping Hands constantly needs more supplies, so buying items to put into the bags makes a difference, too.

Helping Hands is open Mondays and Tuesdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Thursdays 12 – 6 p.m. They also have a new building fund which is another way people can serve.

BSM Director Shawn Shannon devotes time at Helping Hands regularly and said this type of service is a great thing to make a lifestyle. She said another good place to begin serving others is people’s everyday circle.

“Why not take stock of the people you know who are widows, orphans or fatherless, and see if there are practical things to do —  to care for them, to clean their yard, to run an errand, to take someone who is afraid of crowds Christmas shopping,” she said, “and to do those things in the relationships God has given. To make sure that somebody who maybe is running low on family would … want to go to a Christmas Eve service with your family.”

She said caring for neighbors becomes a lifestyle thing and can be continued with those you know.
Shannon addressed practical other ways to serve during the holidays.

She said students should be intentional about sharing — have a plan and be prepared to give, compliment those in service industries, remembering those who will spend their first Christmas without someone, notice needs and fill them.

Shannon said people’s relationships and tending to others are a good combination of service to focus on.

She said, “So in the midst of being kind to strangers, which is supposed to be our normal mood of living anyway, I think it is a very good season to pay attention to the web of relationships God has placed us in.”

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