35 Days of Favorites: Serving Together as a Family

During the years when Ben was a youth pastor, we often took our youth group to different service opportunities, like sorting potatoes at Winnipeg Harvest, or “Bible-stuffing”, which involved stuffing a pamphlet into Bibles to be given away.

Those kinds of opportunities often make me feel dread ahead of time – like I’m going to hate doing it, but they always turn out to be amazing. It’s as though Satan tries to keep us away from the very thing we should be doing, and tries to convince us that it will be awful, but if we overcome, and do it anyway, it turns out awesome.

It had been a long time since Ben and I had sorted potatoes or stuffed Bibles, so this last winter, when we had the opportunity to go to Winnipeg Harvest to help out as a family, we were excited about the idea of doing it together with our girls.

We really want to be that kind of family. But actually going out and volunteering, and truly being that kind of family is another thing.

The old feeling of dread and not really wanting to go came back nice and strong, even though there was a part of me that truly wanted to go and help out.

I wrestled through it, we went to Winnipeg Harvest, and it was awesome, in so many different ways. I loved doing that kind of thing with our girls. I loved seeing how much even Kaylia could help out. I loved the idea of our girls getting used to serving in different kinds of ways, at a young age.


A few months later, we had the chance to go help out at a soup kitchen downtown. And guess what? Even though helping at Winnipeg Harvest had been amazing, I was still dreading the soup kitchen! The night before, I wanted to cancel in the worst way. I knew we couldn’t, but I really, really wanted to.

But we went, and….guess what?! It was amazing!

We all had a great time. Kaylia and I made spaghetti and meat sauce for 60 people. I didn’t know I could do that. There was someone there to tell me what to do when, just to get the timing right, and there was another family working with us, so everybody else was busy with making garlic bread, getting the food onto plates, serving coffee, and talking with people.

It was out of my comfort zone, but it was good. I want to do it again.

But I don’t.

But I do.

And we will. Because this conflict within me will only go away if we keep doing this kind of thing. And I’m curious – if we do it as a family often enough, will our girls grow up so used to it that they don’t feel this same dread inside of them when they’re older?

Right now, they’re excited, up for anything, and feed off of my emotions a lot. If I act excited, they get excited.

So the other day, I saw this picture on Facebook of an empty shelf at Winnipeg Harvest:

Winnipeg Harvest

I called Anika over to show it to her, and she was horrified. We followed the link to the list of suggested food items to donate, and she got out a piece of paper to copy it all down for the next time we went shopping.

I want her to care about that kind of thing. I want her to learn to act on it, because it’s so easy to think, “That’s a great idea! Let’s do something!” And then not do anything. I do that all the time.

So we are practicing doing something about it. We’re writing letters to our sponsor child, and we’re memorizing items on the food list so we know what to grab when we go to the store. We’ll go back to the soup kitchen in fall.

The selfish, lazy part of me doesn’t always want to make time for these things, but that part is getting quieter all the time.

Lots of people ask me where we find these opportunities. It’s easier for us, because we’re part of homeschool groups that organize these things for anyone who’s interested. Our schedule is really flexible, because we can go during the day, when other kids are in school, and that’s when a lot of the opportunities happen.

But if you want to help out with your family, make it happen! Find out what you can do. Anyone can get a sponsor child, or go to the store to buy some extra food. Pack up the baby clothes and equipment you’re storing up in your basement, and let me know if you’d like to donate everything to a new ministry I’m starting to get involved with called “Baby Blessings”.

There are so, so many ways to help. Sometimes it’s hard to choose. I used to sit around waiting for some kind of miraculous sign, some great passion for a specific opportunity.

But then my friend Sarah came to me and said, “Want to help with Baby Blessings?”

At first I said no, because I was too busy, and I just didn’t feel passionate about it. But finally, I agreed to help her out over this summer, and I went on my first delivery a few weeks ago. We drove around downtown, bringing bags of clothes, diapers, toys and a crib to three different women who were expecting or already had a new baby.

Same old dread, totally didn’t want to do it, but it was fantastic! And as we were driving around, the verse stuck in my head was from James – “Care for orphans and widows.”

Not because you have a specific passion for it. Not because you have certain gifts and abilities. Just because we’re all commanded to.

And if you find yourself not really wanting to, just do it anyway! And if you can do it together with your family, even better!

Any opportunities you’ve had to serve together with your family, or some other group of people? Do you find it difficult to know where to start? Anyone else dread it beforehand, and then have an amazing experience?

The Poor With You This Christmas

Our family spent a lot of time with a bunch of potatoes on Wednesday.

It was a new experience for us. We volunteered at Winnipeg Harvest as a family.

Ben and I have worked there a number of times before, when we were leading a youth group. We’d take the whole group out to Winnipeg Harvest for an evening, and sort potatoes or package non-perishables.

As a couple, we’ve often talked about “someday” when we would volunteer at different organizations as a family, but the thought didn’t occur to me that it could start now already, even though Kaylia is only three.

But last year, I came across this blog, which is written by a couple who spent a year traveling around the United States with their kids, volunteering at a wide variety of places. They have two young girls, one who is the same age as Kaylia.

As I read about their adventures, it became clear to me that little kids can be part of a whole lot more than what I had originally thought.

So we went to Winnipeg Harvest this week.

And it was great! Peak of the Market had donated hundreds of pounds of potatoes to Winnipeg Harvest, and our job was to sort through them, filling boxes to bring to the different food banks around Winnipeg. Anika and Kaylia stood on crates, and were legitimately helpful in filling the boxes with good potatoes, and throwing out the rotten ones.

In two weeks, Anika and I are going to help package food and toys for the Christmas Cheer Board, and we would love to visit Winnipeg Harvest again in January.

These things are on my mind this Christmas for a few reasons.

1) Our uncomfortable Sunday School class.

We doing a study called “Justice for the Poor”, and it’s making me squirm. But it’s really good, and making me feel like getting out there and doing something.

Sorting potatoes will not solve world hunger, but if we all do a little bit, it will make a difference.

We have so much. We sit in our comfortable house, eat our plentiful food, and plan for our bountiful Christmas. Sorting some potatoes is the least we can do.

 2) My trip to Ottawa this summer.

As my sister was driving me around, giving me a tour of the city, she explained to me how Ottawa has chosen to spread the low-income housing throughout the city. The politicians’ mansions are a few blocks away from the rundown homes of the less-influential citizens of Ottawa.

By spreading out these pockets of poverty, Ottawa has managed to keep the crime rate low. No specific area of the city is overwhelmingly filled with poverty and desperation. It keeps trouble from brewing.

But it means that when you drive to the mall, you’ll have to pass by a bunch of homes which remind you how much you already have, and how blessed you are.

It reminds you that whatever you are going to buy at the mall, you probably don’t NEED, in light of what some people have.

It serves as an excellent visual reminder of how out-of-balance life is.

In the Bible, there’s a verse which talks about how “…the poor you will always have with you…”

Except that we don’t.

They are far away, and easy to forget about. Conveniently out of sight, and therefore out of mind.

I would like to get the poor back into my mind.

I would like the poor to be in my girls’ minds, as well.

I would like us to remember that we have done absolutely nothing to deserve this life we enjoy. We are no better than those who have nothing.

We do not have our extra money to spend on ourselves. We have it to share, and to pass on to those who are in need.

The other night, I came across this passage:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gather little did not have too little.'” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

We are nowhere near reaching equality. My comforts are still at the forefront of my thoughts. I need to learn to share (as was made clear by my scarf experience!)

I have a long way to go, but we’ll start with potatoes this Christmas!