Words by Ayisha Jackson
The CityLove team, that I’ve been a part of over the past year, has achieved some pretty notable accomplishments. We organized a number of community events in Providence such as: the Trinity Square Block Party, the iconic Festival of Light (a walk-through art installation that drew almost a thousand people into our church), and the Easter CityLove Initiative.
When sharing the things we did in CityLove, I usually mention these big flashy projects; itʼs easiest to demonstrate our impact through them. God has used us in very powerful ways.
But what I donʼt usually talk about is the time spent transporting chairs, setting up tables, moving furniture, washing dishes, and performing other menial tasks. At face value, this work didnʼt necessarily feel super spiritual and missional—even though we knew it was. The dishes we washed were for dinners with Young Voices, and the church equipment and space we lent were for Refugee Dream Center’s annual gala.
It may not be the kind of work that comes to mind when you think about being “out on the mission field,” and it wasnʼt the work that I jumped at the opportunity to talk about. But looking back, these were the tasks that were most formative in building the deep relationships of trust and respect that we currently have with a lot of the non-profits weʼve worked with. These moments have been the most missional aspect of the year.
This work taught me a lot about how leadership is supposed to work in the Kingdom of God: Christ-like leadership is servanthood, and unglamorous servanthood at that. Itʼs all about uplifting the other and lowering the self. And the least glamorous CityLove tasks felt like the most fundamental training tools for this important ethos of the faith.
Christ-like leadership is servanthood, and unglamorous servanthood at that. Itʼs all about uplifting the other and lowering the self.
In the gospels, Jesus models this by washing His disciplesʼ feet, an act customarily performed by slaves or servants. I love the part in John 13 when Peter objects to his Lord serving him in this way, and Jesus responds, saying, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” This powerfully speaks to the communion we find in serving our brothers and sisters.
He goes on to say, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anotherʼs feet.”
Jesusʼs example really puts things into perspective. The chairs and tables we moved in and out of the sanctuary and forks and knives we laid out on plastic tables are just as much examples of servanthood as the big Christmas installation and neighborhood beautification initiatives. These are the present-day equivalents of washing your guestsʼ feet.
These small tasks of servanthood have been most effective in fostering a servant’s heart in me this year.
Now I notice that whenever Iʼm in a room where there are tables and chairs to be laid out, or a floor to be swept, or dishes to be washed, I almost instinctively join in on getting the work done. I see so much more value in it now. Iʼve learned to view those tasks as revolutionary acts of love and profound demonstrations of our faith, because they communicate the heart of Christ.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. -Matthew 20:25-28
Ayisha was born in Georgetown, Guyana and raised in the boroughs of New York City, and was brought to Providence through school at Brown University. She felt the call to missions in her senior year after learning about the importance of service and community in the faith.