“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
Although Bob Dylan probably didn’t have Scripture in mind when he said this, he actually gives slight echoes of the apostle Paul:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal 5:13).
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has set us free and given us enormous and incredible freedom. Freedom that comes with responsibility to serve God by serving others. Fifteen-year-old Sloane Shuler recently returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua with dozens of other high school students where they did exactly that.
Sloane and the group stayed in a city called Chinandega, and every day they ventured out on bumpy dirt roads to serve the rural communities. The students’ days were filled with a variety of ministries at different sites ranging from intense manual labor, teaching Vacation Bible Schools, and visiting the most needy and forgotten.
Regardless of background or personality, once there the students functioned together as the body of Christ. “I’ve been on sports teams and things like that before,” reflected Sloane, “but it amazed me how nowhere else will you find complete strangers coming together for one purpose.”
There was often a language barrier on the work sites, but the trip’s coordination with Atlanta based Amigos for Christ allowed Sloane an opportunity to work closely with a Nicaraguan man named Oswaldo who spoke English well. When Oswaldo would translate, Sloane could tell the humble farmers he served how much of a privilege it was to be around them. And when they didn’t have a translator, Sloane and his group would dig trenches in the village to help lay pipes for clean drinking water—their sweat and labor spoke loud and clear.
Likewise, the group did not need to be fluent in Spanish to comprehend the staggering poverty that pervades much of Nicaragua. One moment that stands out in their memory was visiting a dump where an entire village had been relocated from a natural disaster. They watched people run after trucks for bits of scraps of metal and rummage around in trash for scraps of food. These dehumanizing conditions know no language barrier.
These pitiful conditions make the Nicaraguan people’s joyful spirit even more remarkable. “Some of the people down there are the most joyous people I think I’ve met in my life,” said Sloane. “I feel they’ve kind of rubbed off on me a little . . . you know I’m not like super gracious or anything but it’s kind of made me think it’s awesome to be alive for Christ.”
And although these profound experiences opened Sloane’s eyes while he was on the ground, he warns about how easy it is for all of us to slide into comfortable indifference. Weeks after returning from Nicaragua, he traveled to Kentucky for another mission trip and realized how quickly he had forgotten the lessons of Nicaragua and just returned to his “little life in America.”
May none of us be content with little lives of complacent comfort. May we all take Sloane’s words to heart and live grand lives of self-giving love with our freedom.
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