This post is based on a portion of a letter written to share with our home church congregation in Saskatoon, SK.
One general theme that has seemed prominent and relevant to me in these past months is the several ways in which we are learning about service – appropriate since our title with MCC is “service worker.” I am reminded of the passage from Mark 10:42-44 – in which Jesus teaches his disciples to not abuse the power they are given but instead to be a servant of all. During our MCC training time in Akron we talked much about the reality of the power we inherently may have due to our race, gender, economic background, opportunity for education, nationality etc. etc….and while we can do little to change this reality we can do much about how we use this power we possess. We do well to learn from the example of Jesus, as the gospel of Mark testifies, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10:45).
In some ways coming into Mexico with much Spanish to learn has been a natural way for me to learn about service as I have been more limited in my capacity to speak or to take a more assertive role in my work or other life situations. This reality has also forced me to more often sit and simply listen to others – here I really need to focus on understanding before I can speak! While admittedly frustrating at time, I’m realizing anew how important simply listening can be in developing a servant attitude. Again our MCC training time reminded us we are not here simply to be givers of our resources, as if we have no needs or things to learn ourselves. Instead, we are here to walk alongside others, to listen to their visions and dreams of peace and justice, and then perhaps offer our skills and abilities in ways that empower them to reach these goals.
While we can learn from positive examples we can also learn from negative examples of what it means serve. I am continuing to learn that Mexican/Latin American history is rich in stories of foreigners coming to this land, believing they have the answers and ability to develop/enrich/better the lives of the people already present. Whether that be Spanish conquistadors, some missionaries/development agencies, or foreign government intervention…all seem, at times, to disrespect the voice of the people, give little credence to listening/learning/serving and seem fixated instead on control, power and superiority. While some of these groups obviously do not have the aim to “help” the Mexican people. Often even those of us coming with good intentions struggle to get past our own agenda or ideas of how we may want to give (and receive), and if so, might fail to empower those we have come to serve.
Lastly, I am realizing that many of my MCC colleagues or co-workers come with much more experience or education in living cross-culturally, working in some type of peace, justice, or development work and speak more Spanish than I. So I find myself needing to be patient with myself, my abilities, and looking for meaningful ways I can contribute that more than often are not in a leadership role (not that leadership does or should negate being a servant). Yet, what I am called to is faithfulness in serving God, my family and my community as 1 Peter 4:10 says: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” While wanting to share some more of my experiences with you all, I also hope that my reflections on this aspect of my time here in Mexico can be an encouragement to you all as you continue to serve each other, in your families, in your church, in your work and in your communities.