Despite the overwhelming success of our backpack program this year, I felt a lack of satisfaction. A creeping sense of bitterness and cynicism linked to the effectivneness of what we’d done. Certainly, we accomplished a great work. We brought more partners on board than ever before; collected more donations than ever before and turned those donations and those willing hands into more backpacks than ever before.
But did our backpacks teach anything? Empower anyone? Change anything? These questions haunted me all summer because the answer was no.
This morning, in small group, we read John 6. It’s the familiar story of the loaves and fish miracle. Truly astounding, when you consider the number of people and limited resources. Of course, when Jesus is over portion control, it all works out and everybody gets fed. Beyond that first part, though, is the second part of the story. The next day, after the storm, after the crowd meets back up with Jesus the following conversation happens:
26Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
In that moment, something clicked. In that statement, I heard the same lack of satisfaction by Jesus in the feeding of the 5000 – it was not enough that they were fed. That wasn’t what it was about. He longed for them to realize what more he could offer; if they would just believe.
While I would not dare compare my hopes to the filling satisfaction that is salvation, certainly there is something to be said for modeling my work/ministry after this voiced desire of Jesus?
Yes, I believe there is a need to provide the backpacks; just as Jesus saw the need to feed the crowd. But the true ministry is NOT the tangible thing. It is the opportunity; the yearning to teach them something that lasts far longer than something like a nylon backpack, spiral notebooks or pencils.
I will take this next six weeks to pray and re-focus the heart of this ministry that is Partners in Education. And, hopefully, when I return to the District in October, I will have an inspired idea.
Now THAT is a satisfying feeling.