By Haley Scharf

When I read the gospels I am struck by Jesus’ compassion to those who long for hope. He was moved by the suffering he saw and did not turn away from those who came to him for healing. This is at once a great comfort (because we can know he is not unfeeling towards our own brokenness) and a great challenge to those who want to be his disciples (because we must leave our own comfort zones and get involved in hard things). For those who are parents there is an added challenge of trying to raise children who will abandon self-centeredness and love to help others. Those character traits need to be prayerfully and intentionally nurtured because, sadly, they don’t always come naturally to us human beings.

One of the ways that our family is trying to instill in our children a Christlike concern for the poor, sick, and oppressed is through service projects. They aren’t complicated, but thankfully they don’t need to be! The important thing, we’re finding, is to simply give our kids a chance on a regular basis to demonstrate care for others. Our small household with two busy parents and three young children cannot end war or cure disease, but we can pass on the love of Jesus to hurting individuals in tangible ways

So far, our kids have purchased clothes for Syrian refugee children, held a bake sale and donated the proceeds, and joined together with friends to made fleece blankets for seriously ill children through the Linus Project. There are lots of opportunities to show love to hurting friends and neighbors in daily life as well. In the new year we plan to make more fleece blankets to donate to Arrive Ministries (formerly World Relief Minnesota) and pack “mercy bags” of snacks, socks, and personal items to give to homeless people that we see along the road. Thanks to the missions team’s Go Forth initiative we will be able to make more blankets and mercy bags than we otherwise would have, and our kids are thrilled that their efforts are being supported by the church!

Lately I’ve been reading Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place, and even in the first 50 pages her family’s example of compassion and servanthood is incredible. Truly, we do not need to have much to be able to share meaningfully with those who are in need. To respond well when we’re confronted with need we must only have open hearts and hands willing to help. It seems to me that the witness of the Ten Booms is that doing so in small ways over and over again will build in us the strength and willingness to do so in big ways when that time comes.

This new year, may our natural impulse be to reach out in love rather than to shrink back or turn a blind eye. May we all grow to be more like the One from whom all love flows.