One cool Saturday morning in early fall, a group of eager college students munched on bagels as they listened to the different volunteer opportunities during the Third Saturday of Service. When given a choice, they decided to pick vegetables from the garden and package them to be distributed to the people in the community on a prayer walk. As they picked the vegetables, a noticeable uneasiness about meeting people so culturally different, was palpable. As they loaded the bags of vegetables on the cart they became increasingly quiet. They stopped to pray that God would lead them to the right people and that He would give them an opportunity to encourage the people they met.
As they pushed the cart, loaded down with produce, noisily across the uneven pavement, the rumbling of the cart made people peer curiously out of their doors. One woman thrust opened her front door and shouted, “Hey! What’s all this racket about?” One college student stammered out their task and nervously handed her the freshly picked produce. She sheepishly invited them to chat on her front porch. As they listened to her talk, they noticed the faded tan paint peeling off the exterior walls, missing shutters, and a patchwork of warped boards lining her porch that told the story of many years of makeshift repairs. This house had a rich history, but so did this elderly woman. She asked the students to introduce themselves to her. When they told her their majors at ECU, she told them that she had graduated from ECU when it was still very uncommon for women to go to college. She related how she met her husband, and of their many travels around the globe. She pointed through the window in her front door to a model of a sailboat sitting on the coffee table. She told of how her husband had loved sailing and built that model five years before he died. As they were getting ready to leave they asked her if there was anything they could pray for. She said for health and peace and for God to work in our country. As the students stood in a circle and held hands praying, their growing love for this woman was obvious. When they stepped off her porch she encouraged them to stay in college and to never forget their love for Jesus.
Over the next hour the college students passed out produce and prayed for many people just like this elderly woman: people who have rich histories, exciting stories, and a lot of wisdom to share. When they returned to the education center, they were bubbling over with stories of how people so culturally different, are all created in God’s image (Gen 1:27), how each person they met is a clear picture of individuals who are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), and of how they gained more from visiting these people then they gave away. They did encourage the people they met that day, but the also left encouraged with a new sense of how God loves and values people of many different cultures.