by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Three months ago, just as the calendar tipped into the new year, I began serving with Word Made Flesh – a movement called and committed to serving Jesus amongst the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. Word Made Flesh is an international movement that has been serving for over 20 years in South Asia, Eastern Europe, West Africa and Latin America with and amongst men, women and children made poor in each of these places.
I first ran into members of the movement back in 2005, when I was leading a trip to Kolkata, India with FreeChurch Toronto. I’ll be ever grateful for the support of the community and leadership of FreeChurch, who accompanied me through an incredibly transformative time in my own life.
It was during that summer of service alongside Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity that the words of Matthew’s gospel lept off the page and into real life for the first time:
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
That summer, I was disarmed by being asked not simply to do, but to be. Be present. Listen. Respond in love. Moment by moment, day after day in the courtyard of Prem Dan, feeling insignificant, feeling deeply loved in alternating moments of gladness and despair.
Meeting Liz in Kolkata, Liz who had just met my friends Esther and Lisa, and who was finishing up her time on a four-month Word Made Flesh Servant Team. Sharing her stories, sharing her experience of service with this incarnational community, bearing witness to hope in places abandoned by the halls and structures of power we value so deeply in the west.
That summer marked my life. It marked me in a way that I may never truly know. It marked me in ways that I’m still struggling to figure out, to discern the imprint of God’s call, and what it means for me to be faithful in response to the Jesus I met that summer in the faces of the men and women of Kolkata.
The beauty of it all, is that I now get to serve alongside Liz and hundreds of others as a part of this global movement as we stumble and struggle to live into our vocation. Frederick Buechner is quoted as saying about our vocation:
The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet
I may just have found that place. I pray that whatever that place is for you, you stumble upon it too.