Families in mission
May 19, 2020 / By Don and Glenda Schuessler, Gouverneur First UMC
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the Advocate. The theme of this issue is “Being the hands and feet of Jesus.” Click here to read the issue.
When I was five years old, I began helping my grandmother return books to the Christian Science Reading Room in Silver Spring, Maryland. I would ride in the front seat of her car—five-year-olds could do that back then. We’d hop out to knock on doors to receive books from home after home, and then carry them into the Reading Room. I was so proud of my role! Grandma trusted me; I saved her from having to get in and out of her car; and it was important work
I grew up with the understanding that I was very blessed. Oh, we didn’t have much money. But we did have love and family and opportunity. And along with all those things came a responsibility to share and contribute and serve. My parents always expected us to be at the head of the line volunteering to help. I remember spending hours picking up rocks off new baseball fields to make them playable. I remember going door-to-door selling donuts to raise money for camping equipment for my Boy Scout troop. I remember raking leaves, shoveling snow, carrying groceries, opening doors, and helping out whenever it was needed.
As our children arrived, Glenda and I wanted them, too, to recognize what a privilege and opportunity it was to give and serve. We wanted them to learn how serving could enrich their lives and help bring about the Kingdom of God … for them and others … right then and there. And so, right from the get-go, we began to include and nurture our kids in a life of mission.
Betsy traveled with us as a one-year-old to serve for a month in the Delta Region of Mississippi. We participated in work projects around our church and our community … with the kids. We traveled to Aldersgate for workdays and summer camp and Family Life Weekends. At church, we made apple pies to support camping scholarships, helped with VBS, sang in choirs, helped lead worship, and organized community outreach. We traveled with the youth group to Washington, DC and Boston to serve the homeless and addicted and otherwise downtrodden. We helped with Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis Weekends.
We also began international mission work. We flew with grandparents to the Dominican Republic to serve there through the Sisters of Schoenstatt. Betsy and mom organized the pharmacy; Dad cared for sick children; Grandma and Grandpa sorted eyeglasses and worked on their gardens; Don and Katie walked into town to feed children off the street and nine-year-old Joe served as the nun’s “Boy Friday” for a week. His favorite job was burning wastepaper! As the kids were growing up, we actively sought out places where we could serve with the kids. For all of us, being in mission wasn’t something we did apart from the rest of our lives; it was central to our living out of our understanding of the truth of God's love for each one of us. The work the kids did was important work.
Our kids are now grown, and they hear God call to their hearts to serve in their own churches and communities. We continue to listen for God's summons and have had the opportunity to provide medical and dental care, eyeglasses, medications, limb prostheses, and the love of Jesus in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America … as well as into the state prison in Gouverneur, NY. And our “kids” still sometimes go with us, not because their parents are bringing them, but because they want to be part of the effort. We’re now looking forward to including our grandchildren in upcoming mission work.
When we respond to the love of Jesus by living a life of mission, we experience the reality Jesus wanted for us, of finding that in the challenges of being in mission His burden is light. And we find joy. Joy in the journey. Joy in serving. Joy in sensing our God's pleasure at our saying, “Yes” when called. Joy in recognizing that the God of the Universe, of all that is, has ever been, and ever will be, wants to work with and through me. Wow!
Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 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,” Matthew 25:34-36.
Go for it. Do it now. Make being in mission part of the life of your family and look to see your kids becoming the sheep God wants them to be. There’s important work for them to do.