Mission Commitment: Stewardship
by Rebecca Pappas
When I was asked to speak to our community on stewardship, my initial reaction was this: What could I, a poor college student have to tell our congregation about stewardship? However, the more I thought about this, the more I realized how this very community has challenged me to understand stewardship more fully through the many opportunities to serve others.
In James Chapter 1, verse 17, God reveals to us this: "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." I see this verse as reflecting perfectly the role of stewardship that we must aspire to. In order to be a good steward, I must acknowledge that God is the source and giver of all things and nothing I am able to do is without God's help. Only then can I begin to understand stewardship in its fullest sense, as a responsibility I have to give back to God a fraction of what God has blessed me with.
My first real contribution to the stewardship of this community, aside from the occasional 1 to 2 dollars I put in the trays on a semi-regular basis growing up, was my first mission trip with a Project Mexico team, eight years ago when I was thirteen. This experience taught me the importance of helping those in need and the blessing of seeing God at work in so many different ways. Participating with a group of others, who have given up a week of their summer vacation to build a home for a family who otherwise would not have one was miraculous. It was incredible to see God at work, building an entire home through a group of people who have little or no experience in construction. I have also traveled to the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala as a member of various mission teams and as a long missionary. It was only by the grace of God and the incredible generosity of those who financially and spiritually supported me that I have been able to take these mission trips. I will always thank God for my experiences in the mission field because they have influenced my life tremendously. The most basic stewardship lesson I have learned through these trips is that by serving others, we are actually serving God himself. As I believe that God dwells within each of us, I challenge myself on a regular basis to find that good within each person I encounter.
These mission trips have ignited my passion for missions and drove me to join the Mission and Outreach Committee here at our church. Although I like to think that I have contributed just a little bit to this important ministry, I know that I have gained so much more from this group of people. Some of you may not be familiar with this committee, but they are in charge of directing this church's funds to philanthropic organizations and causes. However, they do much more than that. They give of their time to learn about pressing needs, both right here in our community of the Twin Cities and all over the world. They serve food at homeless shelters. They organize a program for our church to participate in hosting homeless families for two weeklong sessions every year. They even provide our church and visitors with a Welcome and Information Table every Sunday. These are just some of the good ministries being done right here within our community. It is a privilege to be part of this group of people who offer stewardship by working to serve God and others in such a variety of ways.
Discovering our God-given talents is the first step of good stewardship. When we are aware of our talents, we are able to implement them in ways that carry out the purpose for which we are created: that is to serve and glorify God. I believe opportunity and a fervent desire to serve others, especially those in need, are two gifts God has given to me. With these gifts comes the responsibility to use them as a good steward, offering them in service. I hope that we all begin to realize the many gifts we have been given so that we might offer ourselves to God more fully by serving others.
In talking about stewardship, I am reminded of a wonderful book from my childhood. It tells the story of an old shoemaker, Martin, in a tiny village in Russia. One night Martin dreams Jesus is telling him that he will be coming to visit. As Martin waits for Jesus the next day, he feeds a hungry man who comes to his door. Then he gives a cold mother and her baby clothes to keep them warm. Just as Martin begins to lament that Jesus has not come to visit him, he hears a woman outside yelling to a boy who has just stolen one of her apples. Martin runs out to reprimand the boy and offers to pay for the apple. The boy ends up apologizing, and the boy and woman walk away together, laughing. That night Martin dreams of Jesus again and Jesus says tells him that he enjoyed being his guest. Martin is puzzled and says that he waited all day, but did not see him. Then each of the people Martin helped throughout the day appear in the dream, and they each tell him that Jesus was with them when he helped them. Matthew Chapter 25, verse 40 says, "I tell you, whenever you did this for the least of my brethren, you did it for me." When we offer help to others, God works through us, just as He did through Martin. Martin was a good steward.
As you can tell, the majority of my stewardship has not come from my checkbook. I like to think that we all contribute to the stewardship of this community in the ways we are able. I thank God for the abilities He has given to me and the experiences that have taught me how much we have to gain by giving back to God. To me, stewardship has become more than just an action-it has become a way of life.
Rebecca Pappas is an undergraduate student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she is studying social work and religion. Most recently, Rebecca spent six months in Guatemala studying Spanish and doing mission work at the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage. She plans to pursue graduate studies before entering the social work field.