Being Shaped While Serving
After graduating from University, I had the opportunity to participate in the two month Avance summer immersion program in Mexico City. Fast forward two years later and I was still in Mexico City, still enjoying the times of sobremesa with obligatory sweet bread and coffee, and also serving as staff on Avance. Honestly, I am so grateful that God kept me in Mexico City longer than I had initially intended. As I look back, I notice that these years with Avance undeniably worked to grow, challenge, and shape me and my understanding of our Father. I would like to share with you two thoughts, which are still developing as I continue to learn, but were big themes during my time in Mexico City.
- To the Mexicans I became as a Mexican
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
Being an immersion program, Avance emphasizes becoming as the people you are serving, so that the Gospel may be lived and shared in a meaningful manner. Learning from Paul’s lived example – who I suppose learned from the example of our Incarnate God – we hope to become all things to all people that some may be saved. So when in Mexico, I learned how to roll a tortilla properly when eating, to greet the room with a kiss, to navigate through the Virgin of Guadalupe topic, and to wait patiently for a Mexican minute. The most difficult and most rewarding moments of learning to become as a Mexican, were those moments when I submitted aspects of myself which I thought were crucial pieces of my identity. Every time when those pieces of me were pitted against my ultimate identity as Christ-follower and its implications, they did not hold. I learned to surrender them with the hope that by doing so, by becoming as a Mexican, by all means, some might be saved. I have noticed that people often appreciate and respond more openly to others who attempt to understand and adapt to their way of life. They are likelier to listen more intently to the words of someone who has taken the time to get to know them first. Moreover, as we become as the people we serve, we also act as a living illustration, albeit a very slight fraction, of what Jesus did when he shed all to become as man.
- Before Anyone Else
You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Like Jesus said to the Pharisee, loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind comes before anyone/thing else. While in Mexico with Avance, I learned that this was surprisingly easy for me to neglect. It crept up on me like a frog sitting in water gradually getting hotter. As things got busier and other such excuses came up, loving my neighbours and the ministry in which I was serving become my first priority. The love for my neighbours and my ministry were no longer a result of the love I had for our Father which was a response to His overwhelming love for me. Needless to say, I became sidetracked with the love of the task and forgot about loving the One for whom all this was for. I learned that there can be a great difference between committing to Christian service and committing my heart, soul, and mind to our Father. It is something I continue to strive for, that before anyone/thing else, I may love the Lord our God with my entire being.
By: Isabel Tang, Avance Mobilizer for LAM Canada