Rachel Estes is Director of Outreach and Missions at Canterbury United Methodist. Rachel wrote this personal reflection about service in Birmingham for the Women’s City Prayer Breakfast in Birmingham on September 29th, 2017. We hope you are encouraged, blessed and inspired by her story.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

This is a cautionary tale of serving others.  Last week I found myself right next to, as in inches away from a man with gold teeth, a diamond earring, dressed in gym shorts and a tank top with an 8 inch knife blade sticking out of his sock—blade out and glinting off the light…and about five minutes after seeing the blade and doing a double take…I was told to close my eyes…

I’m pausing there…on purpose.

I’m not sure exactly when I would say that my “have –tos” and my “get-tos” merged along my journey and I realized just how cliché it is getting ready to sound…but like any other muscle memory – at some point our muscles and body turn from on purpose to auto-pilot… from intentional to involuntary…an odd word to connect with service IN-VOLUNTARY…but think about the things your body does involuntarily…breathes, pumps, flows…on it’s own..without direction or decision making…Some people—the crazies as I would like to say – tell me that when they run- a sense of muscle memory kicks in and it feels involuntary—like your body is doing what it knows to do and your spirit and energy are just along for the ride—mind you..I said all these people are in fact crazy—who runs so much for fun?!?! ..their body goes on auto pilot…YIKES…but my point is that there are things in our lives that when woven into a habit or as a part of our daily rhythm that make it easier and easier each time.

So for me, I’ve already confessed to ya’ll that I don’t run…but I am active in connecting with communities through service in ways that feel like they are just part of the journey I’m on anyway.  God has led me to some odd places…I’ve found I really like serving with little kids for SHORT bursts of time—through Girl Scouts particularly; I love going to Donaldson- a maximum security prison in West Jefferson County and swapping stories with the guys there; I’m NOT great with senior ministries and I’m not drawn to serving with animals except my own sweet puppy!  ALL of THAT is to say that whatever is breaking YOUR heart…THAT is where God is calling you to serve…to serve and to be and to relate so much that you suddenly realize that you are involuntarily finding yourself alongside communities of people who serve you as much as you think you are serving them.  And it is amazing.

So I told you this was a cautionary tale…about where serving others can lead you.  I left you hanging with my eyes closed, next to a potentially unstable man at a local shelter with an 8 inch blade literally inches from my body.  I was at a prayer meditation and yoga circle with the men and women from the streets of downtown Birmingham…we had just used essential oils to soothe our souls- oils named in the Bible…and a minister’s wife was leading us through yoga and meditation as we breathed and prayed our way to a place where we could hear God’s call in our lives and where our next steps might take us.  The man’s gnarled hand was opened as much as it could to receive the Holy spirit that was shared in and around us…I have no doubt that there was reason for that blade—the streets are not kind. I also have no doubt that I was as safe and protected in that moment in holiness with a man I didn’t know –with my eyes closed and in community prayer.

When you serve, you are served and you end up in the most amazing spaces, trusting and believing in others and meeting people who you might otherwise miss..…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We hope you can join us at our next City Prayer Gathering at Vulcan on October 25th at noon. Kevin Moore, Executive Director of Mission Birmingham, will lead us. Come join us; come as you are!

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